3 Ways to Keep Your Friendships Healthy

By Diana Vaden

Photo by Janelle Pol

Photo by Janelle Pol

Friendship. Everyone wants it. It’s vital. It’s part of how we survive and thrive in New York City. It makes life more fun and full. I think it’s safe to say that if you are a woman in the city, you’d like to know you have a handful of cool, like-minded ladies you can call on to celebrate and commiserate with over coffee, wine, or an episode of Big Little Lies. Or all three! 

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d admit that sometimes we struggle with issues we don’t want to talk about. Questions like:

— Is this group of friends going to make me look important?

— Is this group of friends going to help me achieve my goals?

— How will I manipulate these connections to make my life easier and more convenient?

These questions make authentic and healthy friendship challenging. They are a reminder that selfish ambition is a threat to true connection and community. Our friendships are threatened when we have a self-centered focus on making our connections profitable or convenient for us — our timetable, our needs, and our point of view.

So how do we effectively change our attitudes? How do we protect the atmosphere of our friendships from selfish ambition, manipulation, and posturing that can cripple and ruin healthy community? 

RECOGNIZE UNHEALTHY HABITS 

Identify what selfish ambition might look like when it’s in your friendships. Here are a few ways I consider if the problem exists: 

— I resent one friend always initiating get-togethers (and maybe I am that friend).

— I am only willing to meet up when it’s convenient for me.

— When I disagree with the group on something, I am made to feel like an outcast.

3 WAYS TO CHANGE FOR THE BETTER

Our friendship circles are made of diverse women, and not clones of ourselves, so we must learn how to let go of selfishness and honor the various schedules, needs, and points of view of the women we love. 

A large group of friends from history — the first Christians— has taught me three ways to protect our friendships. 

BE GENEROUS

If you notice yourself leaning away from friendships because you’re wondering what’s in it for you, choose to be generous instead. Do something for a friend that isn’t about you. Next time you meet up with your friends, offer to pick up the check, or choose a location or time that is more convenient for them. The first Christians made sure everyone’s needs were met.

BE COMMITTED 

If you notice disagreements in the group causing tension, don’t back away slowly and ghost your gals. And resist the temptation to make someone an outcast and leave her out of the loop just because some things got bumpy. Instead, stay committed. Look for ways to resolve conflict. Don’t let too much time pass after an awkward moment to reach out. The first Christians aimed for harmony.

BE PASSIONATE

Perhaps you are asking “How is this group of friends going to help achieve my goals?” Remind yourself and the group why your friendship formed in the first place. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” At the heart of every friendship is a moment when each person realizes that everyone in the circle shares the same passion for something. The first Christians were passionate about following Jesus.

Fight for the health of your friendships. Friends are your safe place to land, so be generous, committed, and passionate about making sure they thrive! 

Where have you noticed selfishness or ambition causing tension in your friendships? How can you be more generous, committed, or passionate?