Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Being a Good Friend

I find being a good friend to be a struggle sometimes.  It seems like it should be so easy, but all relationships take work.  Personally, I am terrible at two things: (a) communicating that I care about the other person and (b) communicating when I am upset about something. 

When I say I am bad at communicating that I care about the other person, I mean - I am bad at asking somebody what is new with them. I'm terrible at asking anyone (even my husband) how their day was.  I have a tendency to hog conversations.  I have a tendency to identify with people by comparing their experiences to my own, which means I come across as a story-topper and seem like I'm making everything about me.  Being aware of this tendency and how irritating I find it in other people makes me try to do it less, or just offer that I've had a similar experience and wait for them to ask. 

When I say I am bad at communicating when I am upset, I mean, I am a huge avoid-er of confrontation.  When I first had to tell opposing counsel that we weren't going to consent to what they wanted and we wanted them to give us money, I felt sick over it for two days and put it off as long as I could.  Whenever a friend upsets me, I stew and rant about it, but I don't say to them, "when you did x, you hurt my feelings."  Which means that the issue doesn't get resolved, and I'm likely to turn to gossiping behind somebody's back to say that I'm upset. I'm also likely to simply sit there and take it when somebody is lashing out at me, which probably isn't healthy, but I don't know how to diffuse a person and point out logically that they are being irrational (since I hate it when my husband does this to me.)

What's funny is that I have these same problems in my marriage, but once I realized our relationship was strong enough, I began to be able to be angry at my husband and tell him that I am angry at him.  I began to realize that my response to him asking how my day was needs to be "eh, okay" or "great" or "terrible" followed by, "how was your day?"  Usually, then he will say, "pretty good. What went wrong for you?"  Then I get to talk, but I have also made it clear that I care about his day.  I try to apply this strategy to friends.  When I realize I haven't taken a breath in awhile, I stop pretty randomly and say, "enough about me. How are you?"  Then I try not to hijack the conversation.  It's not cohesive, but it's not selfish either.  I still don't know how to confront my friends when they do things that hurt my feelings or make me angry.  I'm not confident enough in my friendships that they will weather any storm, the way I am about my marriage. 

What do you find the most challenging about being a good friend?  What advice do you have me for confronting somebody when they have hurt my feelings? 

1 comment:

  1. I feel just the same way with regard to point (a). It seems to be a problem in two ways - not just that I may come across as a conversation hog, but that afterwards I feel icky, like I gave away too much and the other person is thinking that I'm weird for having overshared.

    I'm sorry that I don't have any advice for point (b). I can be overly-sensitive, and so I tend to err on the side of self-protection when friends do something that hurts me and just back away. It means I have few, but very precious good friends.