Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Good Friend Guide

Hello wonderful friends!! 

As promised, I have comprised a "Good Friend Guide" as a follow up to last week's blog on the importance of friendship. I have developed these points as a result of wisdom gained from my own experiences and the insight I have acquired via others' viewpoints and feedback over the years and recently.

              The Good Friend Guide: Basic Rules to Keep You in Check

*Stay Social*
-When you don't feel like going out and meeting up with your friends, do it anyway.
-It takes energy after a long work day and may break up your routine, but you will be happy you did afterwards, and your friends will too. 
-Being with your friends is mutually beneficial. When you make time for your pals, you build stronger relationships and your life becomes more enriched with a support system and people who love you.
-It is important for you not to seclude yourself from your friends because the more you do, the less motivated you will be to make an effort, and consequently, the more your friends will feel like you aren't invested...and the farther apart you will grow.

*Be Dependable*
- Stay true to your commitments. If you are a person who has a crazy schedule or you have a habit of canceling plans last minute,  don't commit until you know you can. Then you won't be breaking a promise and you are up front from the start. You really don't want to be seen as a flake. 
- If you do make a commitment, stick to it. 

*Be Honest* 
- Don't underestimate the intelligence of your friends, they know when your BSing them and when you're coming up with lame excuses.
- If you don't feel like following through with a plan to hang out, be honest about the reason. If they're your real friends, they should understand you and will appreciate your realness.
- Tell your friends the real reason because more than likely, they've figured it out anyways and no one likes to be lied to. Deceiving your friends will lose you points real quick.
- Being honest only strengthens your relationships. Being open and raw is scary sometimes, but it is the only way to form genuine friendships. 
- Get over your fear over being judged, people appreciate candidness and when you are open, they will feel more comfortable revealing their true selves as well. 

*Have Good Character*
- As hard as it may be sometimes, try really hard not to say something about a friend that you wouldn't say or haven't already said directly to them. Most likely, it will get back to them and nothing gets resolved by talking to someone else about it. Not to mention, do you want your friends talking about you behind your back?

*Be Self Sufficient*
- Friends are not your babysitters, they are your equals. This means in order to have a balanced friendship, it is important to be independent and take care of yourself. 
- Do not expect your friends to take care of you all the time. It becomes apparent and annoying quickly to everyone. 
- For instance; 1. Be able to drive yourself places and  give your friends a lift every now and then; 2. Plan ahead and be sure you have a bag that can carry your own belongings when you go out; and 3. Take the reigns occasionally and make the plans; make the reservations or look up the directions when you're lost in the car, don't just sit there texting, expecting someone else to figure it out. 

*Be Thoughtful*
- Although our lives can be really busy; our careers and money will not be at our funeral, our relationships will. Make time to check on your friends and show them you care. It takes 2 seconds to send a text! Celebrate their successes, support their endeavors and be a listening ear through tough times. 
- Seek to give and be the friend that you want to have in return. 

One of my favorite suggestions that I received for this guide was from, Miss Oregon USA 2009, Sylvie Tarpinian and it is as follows: 

"Seek to understand before seeking to be understood."

This phrase completely gives me a refreshing mindset. Instead of always focusing on what they can do for you or how your friends should improve in one way or another; focus your energies, instead, on what you can do for them and what is going on in their lives. It is amazing how the feeling of sadness is lifted when you ask a friend how they are truly doing and you engage in a conversation that is all about them. Life is so much more rewarding and meaningful when you are giving to others as opposed to always thinking of yourself. 

In summary, life is so much richer with true, meaningful friendships. But, they don't just come to you, they take energy and effort. However, the rewards you reap are greater than the seeds you sow. This holiday season and going in to the New Year, reflect on the kind of friend you have been and how you see your friendships blossoming in the future. Choose the friends with whom you invest your energy and love with care; be sure they are Team You and will only be a positive influence in your life. 

"Our relatives are the family that we are born with, our friends are the family we choose."
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! This is such a fun topic!

Until next time,

Kristen Dalton

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Friendship and The Golden Rule

When growing up, especially through middle and high school, I struggled with having real friends. I'm not going to give the whole personal rundown, but to sum it mom was right when she said, "As you get older, you'll realize who your real friends are."

Let's face it, they didn't make the movie, Mean Girls for no reason. Girls can be brutally mean and hurtful to one another, so it can be hard to get to a point of being able to trust and lean on girlfriends after a certain amount of painful experiences.

While growing up, I had very high standards for myself in terms of maintaining strong morals and values and I only wanted to surround myself with people who shared in the same philosophies, so we could build each other up (bible study and my faith had a lot to do with this.) But, when you think of a girl in high school and college who doesn't drink, smoke, do drugs or have sex, the friendship pool and invitations to parties for her get smaller and smaller.  At the time, I thought it was good to be strong and steadfast in my beliefs, so I really didn't have a lot of friends, and I focused on my goals instead. I am a fiercely devoted friend and take being a good friend seriously, so when a "best friend" would wrong me in one way or another, I would be devastated and continue to lose faith in having solid friendships with girls. You could say, I had a SUPER SENSITIVE personality trait, which is exhausting for other people.

All these things are flaws on my part. When I look back now, I realize that when I thought I was being a good person and staying true to my values (while gradually cutting people out) I was actually being judgmental and intolerant. Granted, I was in high school so I didn't have the maturity to realize that everyone makes mistakes and grows differently, but I was too hard on people and expected too much from them. When someone let me down or disappointed me, I pretty much broke up with them and continued building my wall so I wouldn't get hurt. I thought, "you are drinking illegally or trying drugs, you are a bad person" or "you talked about me behind my back or didn't stand up for me, you are not the best friend I am to you." Now, that I am older and more open minded, I think, "Geez! Cut a person a break already. You will never have friends if you are so hard on people!"

Fast forward 3 years and I have learned so much. My mentality on being a good person has changed a bit and isn't so clear cut/ black and white. I am 1000 times much more accepting of people and their "isms" and have realized that EVERYBODY has problems, have gone through dark times in their lives, and no one is perfect. I have learned to take people as they are and my friendships have flourished. I am in such an amazing place right now and feel incredibly in awe of the fact that I have made genuine friends who share with me in the same philosophies and life values. I honestly don't know how I could survive life without them, and I find life to be so much more substantial with them in it.  They are the kind of friends that cheer for you, congratulate you in your success, and are there for you in pain.

In summary, you have to take people as they are. Quit being judgmental! Obviously, you want to guard your heart and wisely choose the people whom you trust and consider your inner circle. However, no matter how awesome a person or friend is, they are going to have qualities that annoy or irk you...but hey that's what makes them them! Who cares if one friend is having fun at the club and wants to get freaky with some random guy on the dance floor? She's having fun, let her! And if another friend goes MIA for a month or two for one reason or's annoying and maybe you wouldn't do it, but there probably was a time in your life where you messed up too, communicate your feelings to her so she realizes how her actions affected you, then forgive her for it. That is how friends will last over time, with communication and forgiveness. BUT, do not be mistaken that there are situations where you may need to reconsider a certain friend for your "inner circle" because their actions are toxic and they are affecting you negatively. Maybe that person should be considered an acquaintance in your mind, instead. Your friends should bring out the best in you, support your dreams and take you as you are.

Finally, choose your friends wisely, be as accepting, forgiving, and trustworthy of them as you would want them to be of you, aka: The Golden Rule. No one is perfect, and a little communication goes a long way. 

Next week, I am planning on creating a Do's and Don't guide to being a good friend. I would love your suggestions for this list! :-)