We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible.
To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple,
obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.
—Thomas Moore, PhD
Ways to form authentic friendships:
Learn to say no. Sometimes it takes an authentic no (to something you don’t want to do) to say an authentic yes (to something you long to do). Unless you’re the clown or the balloon maker, does it really matter if you don’t go to the party? If you see it as an obligation, bow out lovingly and stay home and rest—ah, rest!—instead.
Also, learn to say yes when your heart guides you to. Be flexible and fun. So what if you “should” (there’s that word again!) stay home and clean? When a good friend invites you to dinner on the spur of the moment, drop everything and go. We rarely regret heart-inspired action!
Gently tell the truth. Of course you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but don’t withhold crucial insights to spare them, either. (“I think you have a drinking problem” may hurt her feelings, but if you believe the words are in her best interests, don’t you have to say them?)
Be vulnerable. Show your insecurities. Admit that your house is a wreck, or your marriage is struggling, or you don’t know how to roast the turkey. People will be more willing to open up and be authentic with you because they’ll see that you’re human.
Allow your friends to be vulnerable, too. Let them feel their feelings. When you argue with them or try to “fix” it for them, you deny the authenticity of their experience.
If it makes you uncomfortable, say so. If your friends never bring money to dinner and you always end up paying the tab, confront them (lovingly) with the truth.
Be sensitive to what is convenient to the other person. Sometimes what’s convenient for you doesn’t work so well for them. (If a busy working mother lets you borrow a hundred dollars in cash, pay her back in cash—don’t write a check. When is she going to have time to get to the bank?)
Practice and expect reciprocity. We’re all in different cycles at different times, so this should be measured in terms of years, not weeks or months. However, if you find that a friend seems to only take, limit the time you spend with her.
It’s okay not to be “nice.” Real friends would rather you speak your truth than pretend or deny or try to please and impress. Little girls are not sugar and spice and everything nice…and neither are grown women.
Surround yourself with authentic friends. If you don’t have any, set an intention to find your tribe. Join a reading circle or a knitting group or a hiking club or a food co-op. Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about. Be open to the people you meet. Likeminded people will find you as if by magic.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known each other. If the friendship isn’t meeting your needs, move on.
Lighten the load for someone else when you can.
Seize every opportunity to say, “I love you.” One day it will be your last chance.