No one is an island – we all need friends. We need them as temporary refuges from problems in other relationships. We discuss solutions and other ideas with them to get feedback on how realistic they are. Real friends are not ‘yes-men’, telling you only what you want to hear. They will disagree with you, argue their point and sometimes try to stop you from making a fool of yourself. We can choose to listen to them or not.
It is good to have friends who advise you, but you must filter their advice and use it only as part of your thinking about a problem. Sometimes our intuition about a solution is correct, and some times we ignore correct advice and fall flat on our face. If we do get it wrong, a good friend will not gloat about being right but will pick us up and get us on our feet again. Love may be blind – friendship simply closes its eyes.
I have been a doctor long enough not to be shocked by human behaviour. Despite this I still raise my eyebrows whenever a patient tells me they have discovered their ‘best friend’ has been sleeping with their partner. My eyebrows creep up even more when I ask what is going to happen next and they say, ‘What can I do? They’re my best friend.’
Call me old-fashioned, but that is not my idea of a good friend’s behaviour. A real friend is someone you could phone in the dead of night with an urgent problem, who would not think twice about helping you. Real friends are there to help out in a crisis, to give your self-confidence a boost when you are feeling low. Having someone who knows you, who gives you a mental lift or sees you through difficult times, is one of the best ways to reduce your stress.
We choose our friends according to a number of different criteria:
- How supportive the person is in times of trouble.
- Whether you share common interests.
- How much you can confide in them, and whether they can keep a secret.
Physical attractiveness, wealth and humour are other desirable attributes, but good friends always have that key attribute of being a supportive confidant when you need them to be.
Bring perspective to your problems by discussing concerns or fears with people you trust. But don’t whinge non-stop, and do remember to filter advice.