“Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20
Can you come up with the common traits of those friends that you enjoy hanging out with? How do you feel when you are around them?
Last time, we discussed about the powerful influences our environmental and demographic backgrounds have on us when we make new friends.
Since friendships require more than the click of a second, in today’s article, I would like to focus on the long-term aspects of a friendship. That is, how should we maintain our relationship with others so that its both satisfying and enduring.
A: “Hey, it’s me…sigh….My boss just asked me to take care of this case, a case that everyone wants nothing to do with. But you see, I am just new to the company. What am I supposed to do than say “Yes”? Oh, it’s killing the hell out of me, and honestly, I don’t even feel prepared for it but I am already meeting the client, like tomorrow? What am I supposed to do?! I am so freaked out about missing anything, or what if the client asks me something I haven’t prepared for? Any suggestions?”
B: “Oh…hm…yeah…right…I suppose it would be okay. Hey, just about to tell you when you called! You remember that guy we met last time at the bar? He’s texting me to ask me out for an official date! Any thoughts on how I should reply?”
A: “Ugh……” (eyes rolling)
Have you ever experienced anything like the above scenario? That, when you were saddened by life and called your friend for support but your friend responded nonchalantly, and even started talking about themselves?
Sometimes they even went so far as to discuss their life so fervently as if they have already forgotten how awful you were feeling at the moment. These “friends” truly deserves their place in the mere acquaintance category.
As we have talked about in our previous discussions on friendship, mutuality serves as an important driving force in any relationship. Both stakeholders of the relationship should devote equal attention, time, or energy to the relationship in order to make it last.
Nonetheless, apart from mutual contributions on the relationship, one other factor greatly improves the relationship, which is providing mutual support on the autonomy of one another.
Autonomy Support for One’s Emotion and Rationale
According to psychological research, whether someone enjoys his/her relationship with another person depends largely on whether his/her friends support their decision-makings or emotions experienced (Demir, Özdemirs & Marum, 2011).
For instance, when you tell your friends about a imminent problem at work, instead of the “hms” and “aghs”, do they support your feelings in ways that come from your standpoints?
Do they encourage you to speak more of your thoughts in mind, and motivate you to take reasonable actions (Deci, Guardia, Moller, Scheiner, & Ryan, 2006)?
Psychologists have also found that when one person relies on the other person for these types of intimate discussions and receives positive feedback, he/she will become more willing to open up themselves to their friends.
Similarly, when his/her friend interacts with him/her in the same way, this friend will also experience a boost in their relationship (Deci, Guardia, Moller, Scheiner, & Ryan, 2006).
Put simply, when we want to be friends with someone else, we must be willing to take on our responsibility of sharing their emotions and life experiences and let them do their part of it, so that both sides feel needed and comfortable in the relationship.
One thing worth bringing up is that the benefit of perceived autonomy support can also be applied to couple relationships. When both partners feel mutually supported by their spouse, they tend to hold higher satisfaction toward the relationship as well. This in turn means lower rates of conflicts when both of them are in a healthy state mentally and physically (Deci, Guardia, Moller, Scheiner, & Ryan, 2006).
Do you find yourself needing some form of change or adjustments?
If you tend to be Friend B in the scenario described earlier, are you willing to let go some of your ego, and more of their selves?
If you are usually Friend A in the situation, what a good friend work you’ve put up to! I wish you the very best in finding that great friend who cares about your feelings and are willing to share theirs with you!
Deci, E. L., Guardia, J. G. L., Moller, A. C., Scheiner, M. J., & Ryan, R. M. (2006). On the benefits of giving as well as receiving autonomy support: Mutuality in close friendships. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 313-327. https://doi.org/10.177/0146167205282148
Demir, M., Özdemir, M., & Marum, K. P. (2011). Perceived autonomy support, friendship maintenance, and happiness. Journal of Psychology, 145, 537-571. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2011.607866