Can friends make you happy?
Most of the people that you consider friends do not make you happy. Surprised? Because, really, there are two kinds of friends. The wrong ones and the good ones. Unfortunately, most of your friends are the wrong ones. What! Yes, read on…
Do this exercise. Count your friends. Not on Facebook, Myspace or LinkedIn. Not your followers on Twitter either. Just count your friends on your fingers. Or on a piece of paper. Use your brain and emotions to list out your friends. My bet is that you will list only a few. Countably few. As it turns out, most of the other folks in your social circle, digital as well as in real life, are merely your acquaintances that you meet often enough to consider them your friends. Most of these acquaintances are the wrong kind of friends. Opportunistic, judgmental, pretentious, competitive “friends”. Seems ironic, doesn’t it. But that is the reality of the modern friendship. Let’s elaborate in this section of the Happiness Course.
Friends that keep you from being happy
Some friendships are better not to be had. Distance yourself from people that are detrimental to your own well-being. Here are some examples of unwanted friendships.
Boasters and show-offs
A lot of people fall into this category. These people flaunt all their purchases, achievements, honors, and travels. They will flash their newest purchases like this, this and that. These may seem like trivial, inexpensive purchases, but they are extremely happy to show them off. Note, there is nothing wrong with purchasing useful stuff. There is nothing wrong in achievement, travel or honors. In fact, it is noble and enjoyable to strive for all those aspects. The key idea is the ostentatious display associated with these things. When they travel, it will mostly be empty trips with lots of selfies for the sake of proving that they did all of the destinations. Purchases made not for their real value, but for the pure sake of demonstrating higher net worth. All their honors and achievements pale in the absence of humility. Such friends only provide a continuous envious environment leading to an unhappier you.
These, possibly well-meaning friends, consider themselves worldy wise and will provide unsolicited suggestions. “You look fat, get on this new diet”. “How come you are not married yet?”. “You should now really start thinking about having kids”. You know what friends I am talking about. Even if all the suggestions were arguably for your own good, who are they to tell you how to lead your lives? You are already trying to live your life to the fullest of your means, aspirations, and abilities. You do not really have the time to implement, let alone discuss other person’s quick schemes.
Disinterested (in you) chatterboxes
These friends never get tired harping about their own life, good or bad. In any social setting, they just keep chattering till they are out of breath. They do not have any time to listen to you. You do not get to talk in their company. Friendship is a two-way street. If you want a good friend, you need a good listener, not just a chatterbug. These friends can easily decimate your interest in friendships and the wonderful benefits it provides. Moreover, such chat easily and quickly turns into gossip and gossip is detrimental to happiness. These folks also end up rumor mongering and spreading the lies, intentional or otherwise. Life is too short to indulge in gossip. Chatter is good, as long as you get equal opportunities to be an equal participant.
Dissimilar priorities and principles
You have your own priorities in life. You have your ambitions and goals in life. You will come across a lot of friends who have other priorities. Nothing wrong with having friends with dissimilar interests. Its OK if you have friends who enjoy fiction when you enjoy non-fiction. Each of you has something to learn from the other. However, priorities and principles are a whole different thing. You are fitness freak and the others are fast-food junkies. Either they have to change their game or you have to adopt the unhealthy lifestyle. Definitely a lose-lose situation and not good for either one’s well-being. You would like to raise open-minded, liberal and hard-working kids. Your friend wants to raise conservative and narrow-minded sloths with an army of servants. Not a good match. For you, and for raising your kids. Again, interests might differ, but do not adapt or bend on priorities and principles that define you.
Eternal pessimists, cynics and paranoids
You definitely do not want friends that view the world with a negatively colored lens. Everybody seems like rotten scoundrel to them. Everyhing seems to be downhill. The world is full of motives and everyone is trying to sabotage their lives. Nothing happy can come out such friendships. By definition, the world is morose and a bad place. How can someone be happy when they are constantly being bombarded with negativity of such sort. Stay away.
Some friends do not have any regard for their lives. They will do the illegal and drag you down with them. They get an adrenaline rush out of beating the system. They will vandalize, steal, threaten, and be violent just to get a kick. Sometimes they will get away. Other times, they wont. And when they do get caught on the wrong side of the society, you do not want to be associated with them. Avoid such friendships at all costs. Life is too short to waste it on these friends.
Opportunistic and conniving politicos
These friends were reading the books on politics and diplomacy in-utero. They became or stayed your friends for the sole reason of extracting some benefit from that friendship. As soon as that opportunity is taken care of they will seek their way out. As soon as your are useless to them, they will go incommunicado. There is nothing as saddening as being taken advantage of. Being made use of against someone’s will. If you value yourself, stay away from these politicians in the friend’s garb.
It’s a popular saying “keep you friends close, and enemies closer”. Unfortunately, some people become friends for the sole reason of being closer to their enemies — you. They are constantly judging and one-upping you. They are most happy when you are going down. They are the most cheerful when you face failure. They constantly scheme on one-upping you. It is better to not have friends than to have competition in the guise of friendship.
Step away from such friends at the earliest signs of the symptoms listed above. Yes, you should maintain social contact, but do not spend too much time. It is not good for you.
Now that we know the kind of friends to avoid, let us see what makes a good friend. Remember that you are a friend too to someone. This is what you should aspire to be, to be considered a true friend.
Friendships that provide happiness
We saw earlier the opportunists, boasters, chatterboxes, and competitors. They were with you for a reason. A reason that served their personal interests, not yours. True friends are with you just to be with you. There is no hidden motive or agenda. They just like the moments spent with you. Their company is equally enjoyable irrespective of the setting or situation. At home or an exotic location. They are just what they are. Friends. Such gems are a rarity. Treasure these friends.
You need optimism if you are to sail through the intricacies of life effortlessly. Optimists build that world around you. They let you see the world, people, and situations in a positive light. They will give a positive spin to most unfortunate events in your life. In their company, there is no sadness and the outlook is never bleak. You look forward to every moment as it comes. You are not fearful of the future. Just better prepared. A word of caution: Do not mistake the positive outlook for naivete. Use your judgment, but let these friends give you the positive perspective. Be prepared for the worst, but always have a positive outlook.
Cheerleaders and well-wishers
Everyone needs a cheerleader. The right kind of friends can be the perfect cheerleaders, as long as the idolization is genuine. They should cheer you in your toughest challenges, but also play the well-wishing coach every now and then as needed. Not the unsolicited adviser type that we saw earlier. Rather, your go to person for discussions and debates.
Friends accept you as you are. To be with them, you do not have to pretend. They do not pretend to like you either. It is just unconditional. They will be with you no matter what. Your lowest lows and your highest highs. Your life will go through a roller-coaster, but the constancy of their friendship will always lift the spirits. Just the knowledge that there is a friend who will listen to you, with no judgment, is the biggest solace you can have in bad times.
Keeping friendships alive
Now that you know that certain friendships are to be treasured, how do you go about retaining friends? Well, easy. By being a good friend yourself! I know. It is easier said than done, but that is the key. How do you wish your friend to be? Just be like that. And you will attract and keep the right kind of friends. Not the wrong kind, but only the ones that match your expectations. If you really need a crash course on how to acquire and keep friends, please refer this very useful classic.
Book recommendations on Friendship
To continue your understanding of friendships, well-being and happiness, please read these books that I have hand-picked for you.
What is your opinion?
I have shared my perspective on friendship and happiness. What do you think? I would love to know your thoughts on the matter. Look forward to your comments below.