We all know that one of the keys to happiness is to have a beautiful and enduring relationships with other people; strong and intimate friendships that go deeper than social media, sharing an office at work or taking our kids to the same park in the afternoons.
Often we are not very intentional with how we pick our friends. When we are, we intentionally cut out people who are good for us because it takes more work to be friends with them. So here is a list of friends that I hope you have in your life and if you don’t, I hope you start making soon.
The loyal best friend
Life is really hard and a lot of things keep changing. However, as human beings we still need some sort of stability and we often get this from family because they do not have a choice but we can also get this from having and being fiercely loyal best friend.
The best friend is your go to person. The one with whom you can be absolutely vulnerable and honest with. The one who can trust you with their skeletons. Being and having a loyal best friend makes us better people. Makes us love other people passionately and experience that love back.
The loyal best friend does not take your bullshit. They are a safe place but also a place where you get checked and corrected when you are not acting right. They know you better than anyone else and so are able to ask you the right questions.
Loyal best friends are cultivated. If you do not have one, there is still time. As you interact with your friends and acquaintances, carefully observe them to see if they are the type of people you would like to let into your life. Take your time with people and give them chances. They may surprise you. Also develop loyalty and learn to keep in touch with close friends even if you move.
Different from you
These are the second most important friends to have. Sometimes these are the most difficult friendships to cultivate but when they bloom, they are so beautiful. A lot of us have grown up a certain way and we tend to surround ourselves with people who think, look and act just like us and so we never grow because we are never challenged. We all need friends who we differ with personality wise, culturally, economically or any other way. These kinds of friendships tend to open our eyes to different worldviews and make us better for it. So stop shrinking away from people who are different from you. Stop always gravitating towards your own kind. Make an effort to get to know people who are not exact like you. It may be as easy as finding a good conversation starter, summoning all your courage, dropping your bias and saying hi.
I have a friend who is not much older than me but who is living the kind of life I aspire to. She has given her entire life to something she believes in and is just a trailblazer for women like me. She is not a celebrity by any standards. In fact a lot of people, even our other friends, seem to be oblivious to just how kick ass she is. She wouldn’t call herself my mentor but I learn so much from her. She makes sure to update me on opportunities available in our field and sometimes we just hang out and have a lot of fun.
A mentor friend is someone who inspires you to become better without making you feel less than. Someone whose wisdom and insight in whatever arena of life guides you. They do not need to be a CEO. A mentor can be a stay at home mom who is doing a great job running her household of six kids and three dogs and still looking great doing it. It could be that friend who has taken so many punches from life but still bounces back. Look around and you will find people to look up to.
The one you mentor
Apply the principal of paying it forward. I learned how to be a mentor friend by being a good example to my younger sister and making an effort to hang out with her and sometimes teaching her about life. We ended up becoming pretty close considering our age difference.
In University, I was a mentor friend to three girls. They often came to me when they needed guidance or when they were in trouble. I began meeting with them for lunch or sleepovers and whenever I heard about opportunities in our industry, I would let them know. As we grew older, the relationship dynamics changed and they became some of my closest friends. Just as someone has invested their time, wisdom and effort on you, invest in someone else. This is especially important in fields where minorities are marginalized like women in tech.
The neighbor/coworker friend
If you have a full time job you spend majority of your time at work. Multiple research has shown that the more isolated you are at work, the more depressing work becomes. The average person will spend half their life, that is 80,000 hours in a work environment.
You need to develop cordial relationships with most of your coworkers and at least a few meaningful friendships. You need people who you are happy to see when you get to work in the morning or when you come back from vacation. Your work friends do not need to interact with you outside of the office, although there is nothing wrong if they do, but they should at least be close enough to know enough about you to count as more than just acquaintances.
When you are not at work, most of your time is spent at home. You need to mean more to at least one of your neighbors than the person who only comes around when they needs something. Being friends with your neighbor has its obvious advantages like having someone to look after your house when you are not around, but it goes deeper. Having good neighbor helps to build a community around you and your family, if you have one. Community is how human beings have made it this far.