4 Lessons That Saved My Friendships

And helped me make new, real ones

I used to have no filter. I’d say what comes to my mind with no care about the circumstances of the person either in front of me or on the other end of the screen. Had I understood and practiced the basic tweaks I know now, I believe I would have been a better person a long time ago.

I don’t also think I am very dependable. I forget easily and I get distracted a lot. So, the number of people whose confidential conversations I could recall with detail was very skewed. These unkept engagements stole a lot of valuable relationships. It made me look bad. And I did feel bad.

It was worse because I wasn’t conscious of these actions which led to these failures. Imagine then how I was in amorous ventures. Disgusting, I know. :)

Here, in no particular order, are the ways I have radically improved my friendships and other relationships in my life. They have worked for me. And they’ve even helped me forge scintillating new ones.

1. Thou Shalt not lie

Sounds obvious doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. I do it all the time, and I don’t even know it. When you engage in a conversation you don’t want to, you’re lying. When someone asks: “How are you?” and your response is: “I’m fine” when you’re not, you’re lying. When you walk up to someone and say “Nice to meet you” when you don’t mean it, you’re lying. I know. Because I do it all the time.

I can hear the voices clamouring: does this mean I should carry my problems on my sleeve? Does this mean I should bother everyone I meet with my worries?

No.

Here’s what I have noticed: people are really good at noticing nonverbal cues. A fake smile is “fake” for a reason. And when someone asks you a genuine question( here’s the catch, the question could also be a lie), you should give a genuine answer. Which to me is: the most polite, least pity seeking version of the truth.

You may not be dying. You may not have cancer, but your landlord is messing your day. Guess what? “ I’m not doing so good. Some housing issues” works too!

The idea is to be truthful. People do care. And most want to help. But if the vibe reeks dishonesty, people notice. Then mistrust. Then disgust ( how dare you lie to my face you human!). Then abhorrence.

Et Veritas Liberaris Vos.

2. Thou Shalt Listen

This, has cost me so much. I really, really wish you don’t make this mistake. Sometimes…most times actually, people will ask for your advice WHEN they need it. Not before. However, because we want to help so badly( or if you’re like me, you just want to show-off how smart you are…ugh) you jump in, and provide unsolicited advice. That, my friend, hurts.

Listen. And listen with your heart. That sounds so corny, I know…but it works.

The only reason I get to remember details of conversations now, is because I am INSIDE the conversation. I am curious. I want to know. I don’t check my phone, I don’t get distracted by my own thoughts. I focus on following whatever the person is saying. My eyes, ears, everything is on him or her for that moment.

Attention is priceless. If you give it generously, freely ( to those who deserve it), you will get true, valuable relationships. Online and offline.

The reason why this particular point hurts me so much, is because I get misunderstood a lot. You see, I speak two languages. And I think in English. Which means that when I speak in French, my translation overlaps ( in my head at least) and I say things that may actually MEAN something else. And this, had caused me pain with people I care about.

A lot of misunderstandings would be avoided if we listened with our hearts. If we listened because we wanted to get the other person’s point of view. Not waiting to talk. Waiting for our friend to share.

Communication comes form the latin Communis- to share. Feedback is the key. If you want to be understood, don’t be like me, speak clearly. Understand the medium that works best ( writing for me…) and reduce noise to a minimum.

If you want to be a friend, learn to shut the hell up and listen.

With your heart.

3. Thou shalt be ready to hurt feelings…for the greater good

If you don’t lie, and you listen with your heart, you may come to a point where you know what to say. Where you know the words that your friend needs to hear. And where you know those words will hurt.

Don’t be me- don’t “be nice” for the sake of friendship.

A true friendship (or most relationships for that matter) hang on truth and authenticity.

You can be truthful without being rude. You can be honest without being brutal.

Radical Positive Honesty- (by AJ Jacobs) suggests that you be as honest as possible in your dealings with people. Such that if I don’t want to talk to you because I don’t enjoy our talks, I can find a polite way to let you know how much I value our time spent together, but especially in small doses.

If you form bonds, a time will come when your opinion could break them. My friendships have suffered these and I am blessed to have been able to comeback from that pit of despair. Not as much as I’d have loved to.

I find it hard to make friends in the real world. It was a really trying time for me. But now, I am so glad I could speak my truth, face the fight and emerge stronger. Knowing I can call his bullshit and he can call mine. And that this opinion comes from a place of love, not one of destruction.

Other people have a different vantage points from ours. Friends can see who we are, who we are becoming. And sometimes, we’re not our best versions. We should be ready to face that truth. I’m never ready. But at the back of my mind, I know that someone who cares will be bold enough to tell me what’s wrong with my lifestyle or choices. I may lash out ( more often than not) but I will definitely respect him/her and be grateful for their honesty.

4. Sometimes, nothing is everything.

I love my time spent by myself reading and writing. I love being in my head. Or maybe watching a movie. But I have come to appreciate the value of an earnest conversation. How refreshing it can be to share those parts of you that you’ve kept alone for so long with someone you trust, knowing that there is an unspoken law that states that this information is extremely confidential and stays between you two.

Sometimes, even after being authentic, saying the truth and being polite, there are times there is nothing you can say. A friend loses a parent. Or fails an exam she’s been dying to pass. Or a deal he’d hoped would make his business falls through. There are these moments in time, when saying nothing- just a hug, holding hands or a hand on a shoulder, is all the comfort needed.

Silence has its role in a conversation.

Think of that short time after a really long hard laugh. When you said that joke and landed that perfect hook. When he almost choked. When she laughed her eyes out. That short period when you’re both taking your breath and savouring a rare moment of pure bliss. When no one is trying to say anything. When you both know you will remember this moment forever.

Sweet, is it not?

Today, a friend celebrated her birthday. I don’t even know if I should call her a friend. We’re more like “frenemies”. My other friends were worried I’d act out( yeaup, I am such an old baby) but I told them I’d be there. That it was her birthday. And that I know how “evil” I am, but that I would of course make an exception.

If someone had told me a few months ago that I would look back at my actions towards her and weigh the value of our time together on something more than misunderstandings, I would have shrieked in horror.

But that is exactly what I did. We had a great time. I completely enjoyed myself.

I love my friends. And I am happy with the state of our relationship right now. Things, of course, do change. And there are many other unexplored segments of relationships I have intentionally avoided. But these four “commandments” brought me to this happy point today.

I hope they help you too. Cheers.

Did you like this post? I’d be sweet for you to hit the green heart. ;)

I blog, host a podcast and take some pretty ugly pictures on Instagram. I just returned from a forced holiday and I’ll be getting everything back online in a couple of days. In the meantime, I would love your comments. I dig banter! What did you think? How do you keep your relationships? What lessons have you learned?

Written by

Cameroonian writer and video creator. Featured in LEVEL and P.S. I Love You. I write about building relationships and personal transformation.

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