Friendships reviewed

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Yes, I said it.  I used the “F” word, but it is not what you think. The word I am referring to is “friends”.  What is a Friend?  Why are we so quick to throw the word around as though everyone fits the bill. When we all know that not everyone we talk to is our friend.  Every relationship that you have can be classified into one of the undermentioned categories.  To be someone’s friend is a choice. 

A friend to me is someone you can trust;  someone who would be honest with you;  someone who would not judge you;  someone who would listen and spend time with you and someone who you feel comfortable being yourself around.

Most of us would agree that there are different degrees of ‘friendships‘. I believe that friendships could be broken down into four main categories: steel friendships, concrete  friendship, stick friendships and straw friendships with the steel friendships being the strongest and the straw friendships being the weakest.   All of these relationships have their purpose in our lives.  It is important to see these relationships for what they are so that we have the proper expectations, if any, for the people that exist within them.

Straw friendships are the weakest of the friendships.  These people do not exist in your typical circle of friends.  You do not socialize with each other and if you do see each other out in public you would probably only say “Hi” if, eye contact was made.  You have not spent any real-time getting to know each other and probably know each other through  a one-off event or through a mutual friend.   You probably would not remember his or her name. There is typically no physical contact with these interactions.  You know of each other but don’t know each other.  They are what I would call an ‘encounter.

Stick friendships tend to lend themselves to familiarity and thus are a little stronger than straw friendships.  These people have spent some time interacting with you and thus you would most likely say “Hello” and chat briefly when out in public.  They can be anyone you have positive frequent interactions with such as neighbours, favourite food vendors, etc.  In friendships like this, it is possible to build good rapport with each other and not know each others names. Facial recognition usually is enough to initiate a smile or a hello.  However, once you have learnt their names it is unlikely that you would forget it.  They are what I would call an ‘acquaintance.

Concrete friendship as the name suggest are strong relationships. They have known you for many years.  You have shared many secrets and have lots of stories to share.  Time, age and life circumstances have reduced the frequency of the time shared with each other.  You probably don’t talk as much as you used to but should you see each other in public there would most likely be a public display of affection – a warm embrace or kiss on the cheek.  If and when you do meet up for drinks, it is like old times again as you try to catch up on all the chapters of each others lives that you’ve missed. These are ‘friends’.

Steel friendship are the strongest of these friendships. They consists of those people who have chosen to stay apart of your life.  They have been there for the ups and downs in your life.   They have been in your life for many years.  You communicate regularly.  You support, encourage, console, counsel and trust each other with various aspects of your lives. When you meet up there is a public display of affection.  These people stand up for you and defend you  especially when aren’t there to defend yourself.  To the outside world, there is NO question about where their loyalty lies.  These people play crucial roles in your life and thus their well-being is important to you as much as yours is to them.  They are typically a family member, a childhood friend or someone who has known you at least five  years or more.  They are your ‘best friends’.

How significant a person’s role is in your life is determined by YOU.   The level of contribution they make in your life however, is up to THEM.    We meet people everyday but very few come in our lives to stay.   So if you have a friend or two that’s true, don’t be afraid to say, “I love and appreciate you.”

We Criticize because…

via Daily Prompt: Criticize

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We criticize because WE CAN!    We often do it more than we should and for some, this is a pass time that never gets old.  For many, it is just a matter of sharing their opinions on what is wrong with the world today.  For others, they are hopeful that their insight would be the catalyst for change and betterment.

To criticize is “to express disapproval of someone or something.”  My question is,  should we really care what people think?  The ‘people’ I am referring to here are the constantly negative elements in our lives that find it difficult to share uplifting and encouraging words.  It is almost as if they sit there, plotting and waiting to offload on us, all the things they were thinking about during the day.  They may try to label it as ‘constructive feedback’ but I highly doubt it!

We live in a world where criticism is the norm.  If you must share your thoughts and opinions with someone try to put yourself in their shoes.  If you plan on just being mean, then I suggest you hold that thought.  If however, your purpose is to genuinely help that person improve, then please strive to be respectful and thoughtful of their feelings in your delivery.

Too often messages meant for good get lost in translation because of poor delivery resulting in anger and hurt feelings.   No one likes to be criticized.  Some of us over the years have learnt to toughen up so the opinions of others does not negatively impact how we feel or see ourselves.  Unfortunately, not everyone can master that skill, after all,  this is something that is developed over time.

My suggestion is rather than criticize let us ’empathize’.  Our intentions should always be to uplift, encourage and educate NEVER to break others down.  Focus on what really needs fixing.  Think, if you were on the receiving end, would you action every criticism you were given? Chances are, No!  We need to interpret for ourselves what messages we can learn from and what messages to disregard.

More often than not the people closest to us find it hard to tell us the truth sometimes. I  believe they are afraid of potentially hurting our feelings.  Don’t dismiss anyone who is trying to be genuine, you might miss out on an opportunity to learn something new.  Nobody is perfect, and that’s okay.  No one has to be.

How we deliver the message is just as important as the message itself.

To be heard is to…

via Daily Prompt: Heard

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“Is anybody out there?  Is anyone hearing our cries for help?”  Who are those voices and where are they coming from?  The voices I am referring to belong to the children, women, families and individuals out there that go through life just existing rather than living because most of the people around them only hear rather than listen to their pain or unfortunate circumstances of either abuse, domestic violence, addiction or poverty. These people believe it or not are the lucky ones.

You see, there are many other voices out there that have been sworn to secrecy or terrorized to keep silent.  The feeling of not being heard can bring about anger, frustration, hopelessness, depression and resentment.  Who is hearing their faint cries for help?  We rely on our ears to hear and our mouths to speak and hopefully be heard.  However, our eyes sometimes catch glimpses of questionable behaviour and interactions that make us stop and think but then we dismiss it as if it never happened. Why? “It is not my business.”  “He or she is NO family or friend of mine.”

I agree. They are not members of our family nor are they our friends.  Some people are of the belief that they should only care about people and situations that directly affect them.  These people tend to reserve kind and uplifting words and good deeds only for persons near and dear to them.  Whereas there are those people who are always giving of themselves to help others.  They seem drawn to people or situations that need an intervention. They are usually positive in their attitude and genuine about their purpose.   They don’t just hear, they listen and show their audience that they have indeed heard them.

I have no doubt that we hear the stories of others and say, “Wow, that is tough!” I know, I have. How many of us use what we’ve heard and take action or try to make someone’s life better even if in a small way.   I recognise that every situation is different but the commonality of all the situations is the same and that is help is needed.

For me, to be heard means that I can see by the actions and behaviours of my audience whether they have not only heard me but more importantly if they understood the message I was communicating.

To be heard for me, brings a feeling of joy and accomplishment.  For someone else, to be heard could mean they are no longer hungry, no longer being abused,  they have a voice that would be acknowledged and listened to.  It can mean many things for different people.  When we’ve been heard we are really looking for a positive response.

Today look around in your community and see if there is anything you can do to make someone’s life a little better.  Sometimes we just need to listen, really listen to gain a better understanding of a situation.

Before I close, I would like to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to those of you who answer the calls for help in whatever way you can.  You are awesome and this world is truly blessed to have you in it.

Let us try to make a greater effort to listen not only with our ears but with our eyes and hearts. It is not too late.  Show someone that you’ve heard them and make today a great day.