Authentic friendships

3 May, 2012, by Seema Bhatnagar

friends sitting near lake
"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow." ~ William Shakespeare

Friends and friendships are forever to cherish. Throughout our life, we make friends, some friends stays with us forever and some leave us too soon. What is that quality which keeps us bonded with some of the friends for the whole life?

During childhood when we start pre-nursery the very first person other than family member, we seek support from is our first childhood friend. From that point onwards we start learning how to share our tiffin, pencils, crayons and tiny and big assignment problems with somebody who is not a family member. This lays the foundation of reliable external support system other than home and family.

Why do we need friends?

We humans are social animals and have a basic need to socialise to share our emotions and life. There are certain moments in our life when we feel emotionally low, depressed, helpless, vulnerable and weak. In all those moments, we seek somebody to confide in who can actually understand our emotional state and provide unconditional emotional support, understanding and encouragement. Even on having the best of relationship with spouse, siblings and parents, sometimes, it feels as if there is nobody who can understand your emotional state and dilemmas which you are going through. In all those times you seek a person who can really understand and support you.

" A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away." - Arabian Proverb

A friend is a person who knows you inside out, with whom you can simply unveil your vulnerability, helplessness, weak and dark side of yours, who would not call you crazy on sharing your idiosyncrasies. In plain and simple words, authentic friendships touch your heart and you feel one with another person.

Truly said,

"What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies." ? Aristotle

But the dilemma is how many such authentic friendships you develop in life. If you have such one, then I must congratulate you for being such a fortunate person.

The first step towards developing an authentic friendship is to become a good friend first. You must possess the required qualities of becoming a good friend. Think about all those qualities which you would like to have in your friend. If you already have those qualities in you then developing friendship would be easier for you.

You may have hi/bye friends, bus friends, and office friends and there could be n number of types of friends, but to how many of them you really feel connected and can apply the definition of friendship. It is a plain fact, that we enjoy only those friendships where we have a liberty to share the depths of emotions without feeling any insecurity of being judged or ridiculed and rest are simply contacts or acquaintances. Interestingly, people who share authentic friendships experience low levels of stress and in general are happier individuals.

My Friendships

Recently, I was experiencing some emotional lows and was looking for somebody who can genuinely understand me and can lend an ear without judging and criticising me. When I was going through my contact list, which is indeed a long one, I could not zero in even a single number which can help me in my purpose.

In the sea of friends sometimes it feels there is nobody whom I can simply call and babble out. On pondering, I realized that all those friends with whom I was a friend, were relevant to that particular context and stage of life, now, since that particular context is over and so is the bonding. Even if I contact them and share my current stage of life they would hardly understand me and instead of experiencing positivity it might turn out as a negative experience for me. Sometimes, I want to discuss, my business plans, vision and marketing strategy for my blog but I do not find any of my friends who can really understand me and contribute in some way.

Over the period of time I have lost interest in my old time friendships. People drifted away due to careers, marriage and jobs due to which there was hardly any communication and that created a big gap.

Personally, I am a reserved person and take my own sweet time to open up but when I share, I am deadly honest. As a friend, I always try my best to extend my maximum support in every possible way to my friends. Many a times, I experienced bitter experiences also when my friend acted in self interest and took my advantage. But, that's alright, I simply moved on from that point considering their limitations of maturity and character. There are also people who believe in developing friendship for personal interest, to explore some business opportunity and in some worst cases to show off or to take revenge.

I had a very good friendship with one of my friends. We used to exchange lot of thoughts on different topics and problems, though we used to enjoy each other's company but on many occasions I found him never leaving a chance of criticising me or making fun of me in front of others. His actions did not let me go ahead in friendship and slowly we parted our ways and in today's date I am not in touch with him. I later on realized that our friendship was very shallow and we never connected deeply.

With another friend, I used to enjoy a lot whenever we were together but of late, during our conversations I experienced some differences in our beliefs to which she reacted quite harshly and inconsiderately. Due to our differences we could not connect very well. She felt bad about our overall exchange and never responded even when I tried to contact her. I simply respected her decision and moved on thinking that we both are at a different maturity levels and that difference is not bridgeable at the moment.

Occasionally, I go out with friends for parties but somewhere I do not feel connected and finally it feels as if it was another way of killing time. In fact, I attempted many times to go out and meet my friends to develop friendships but I always ended up with a shallow entertainment, exchange of slapstick jokes, weather talks or exchanging general information rather than sharing deep connection.

As we grow and mature, we get more experience and exposure which changes our emotions and behaviours. I have experienced that friends we make at different stages of life are corresponding to our maturity and conscious level. If you have better maturity level you would make more mature friends. Probably, that is a reason that we stop enjoying our childhood friendships in our adulthood. For a close and true friend, a deep emotional connection and sharing of life experiences are basic essentials.

I am not complaining about any of my friends, the point I want to drive home is, that people have different personal core values and maturity levels and they act according to that. Due to this difference, problem of disconnect arise. Nobody is perfect, that too especially in matters of emotions, we all are at different levels of emotional states depending upon our exposures and experiences in life and based only on that we act and choose friends and partners in life.

Social Networking and Friendships

The meaning of authentic friendship is probably changing with time. Social networking sites are the new phenomenon for building friendship these days. If you see your friends list, you probably have friends count in three digits. I too have many friends on FB counting in 3 digits number. But the question sometime haunts me is, do I really mean friendship when I send or receive the friend request.

I receive many friend requests on FB regularly but I do not accept all of them as there are people whom I do not even know remotely and there is nothing common and interesting to share on their profiles. Sometimes, I receive weird messages with a request for accepting friend request. My feeble reasoning does not help me to understand, how accepting a request and adding a name in a contact list will make somebody my friend.

My intention is not to hurt anybody's sentiments, but when I call somebody my friend I attach some meaning to it. On Facebook, getting my named inserted in somebody's friend's list means that I am reachable to that person from communication perspective and that absolutely does not mean that I have become his/her friend forever.

I am not here to question the existence of FB but my objective is to understand and respect friendship in its true sense. I am far from any intention of offending any of my friends on the Facebook. The only idea is to revisit the concept of friendship and to make it a more joyful experience to have friends and sharing life experiences.

Facebook is indeed a creative solution and an excellent platform to bring people together for connecting with each other for sharing knowledge and interests with like minded people. I would suggest, Facebook should have two options, friends list and Face List so that one can understand the difference very well. Have shared this idea with Facebook team already.

close friends enjoying sea

How to develop authentic friendships?

Nurturing any friendship takes great amount of energy, emotions and time. One should be wise enough to make this investment and should also know when to end the dead friendship and when it is a time to move on. It is better to end the friendship which is not going anywhere than sapping your energy over it.

"In order to have friends, you must first be one." ~ Elbert Hubbard

The first step towards developing an authentic friendship is to become a good friend first. You must possess the required qualities of becoming a good friend. Think about all those qualities which you would like to have in your friend. If you already have those qualities in you then developing friendship would be easier for you.

To make it simpler, think of all those friends with whom you felt good and had better than hi/bye friendships. What were those qualities which you liked about them. Probably s/he was always supportive, available and encouraging, list out all those qualities which you liked about him/her. Slowly you would feel that developing authentic friendship is like developing your own character.

Following are tips to help you in developing authentic friendships that you can really cherish for the rest of your life.

  1. Choose your friends
  2. Developing and maintaining good friendship demands energy and time on your part so be conscious while choosing your friends. It is more meaningful to choose friends who match your core values, intellectual and emotional level. Doing this will motivate you to interact and share more with your friends. Imagine, if you are a reserved person and try to establish a friendship with a party person, your efforts are least likely to bring you blossoming friendship. Personally, I do not find myself get along very well with people who are manipulative and overly impatient, find more solace in friends who are honest and calm in conduct.

  3. Share emotions
  4. Honesty and trust are the basics of any friendship. Open up yourself and share your deep seated emotions and encourage him/her also to do the same. When it becomes both ways, you would be able to connect better.

  5. Extend your unconditional support
  6. In times of need, when your friend is going through any emotional low, extend your unconditional support which means understanding him/her without judging or criticising. Even if you had a negative past, try to override it and extend your support.

  7. Keep in touch
  8. A regular communication is essential to know each other. Simply exchanging messages or email will not bring that understanding and emotional bonding as compare to meeting in person; of course, this is possible if you live in a same geography. If possible, go out together, join some activity together may be a gym or any sports.

  9. Be genuine
  10. Be genuinely interested in your friendships. In any friendship, there is no place of formality and artificiality. If you are genuinely interested in him/her, then only you would feel the depth of emotional bonding and closeness.

  11. Respond to responder
  12. Pursue your friendship with friends who really respond to your efforts and genuine interest. You must not impose yourself and pressurise him/her to respond. If you feel your genuine efforts are not being responded that means you and your friend are not in the same emotional states and it will be better to leave your friendship where it is.

Authentic friendships

“A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire” ~François de la Rochefoucauld

It seems we all are living with a false notion that we have so many friends but when it really comes to real and authentic friendship, I guess, you will find even less than 1% of authentic friendships in your life. Friendship is a continuous work of making emotional bonds stronger and stronger. Irrespective of gender, strong and long lasting friendships are based on sharing deep connection rather than on physical traits.

If you are married or in a relationship, the basics of authentic friendship remains unchanged, for example, your spouse could be your authentic friend or your girlfriend/boyfriend could be your authentic friend. In whatever relationship you are, attempt your best to bring a deep connection of sharing and be genuinely interested in each other. Authentic relationships are those treasures of life which you can relish and cherish forever and can make you richer and richer.

If you genuinely feel that this post could help somebody to develop an authentic friendships in life, then please feel free to share it with your friends, relatives and acquaintances.

Do not miss this opportunity to share this post with your most authentic friend, let him/her know how much you value your friendship.

Related Posts
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Seema Bhatnagar
, Blogger, Writer, Life Coach and Founder of Abundance Thinkers, site for personal growth and development. Empowering people in achieving and living the best of personal potential.

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