Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Better Friend

I've been doing some self-reflection this morning, and here's a thought line I've been pursuing:

Our opinions of how right or wrong a person is (how justified they are in the things they're saying and doing) depends in a big way on how much we understand, agree with, or sympathize with the reasoning behind their words and actions.  The degree we sympathize with someone in turn depends largely on how we can relate some form of our own experiences to theirs.  So, we are limited by experience and perspective in our ability to decipher the rightness or wrongness of others, and they are limited in deciphering ours, no matter how wise or perceptive they are.

I think most of us are very aware of this, even if we don't take the time to articulate it.  That's why we are careful about whom we share certain information with and whom we're willing to accept advice from.  A person needs to prove to us that they really understand where we're coming from before we can take them seriously if they have a different opinion or any form of constructive criticism.  That's one reason why it's easier to take constructive criticism when it's used sparingly in the center a large glob of genuinely validating and affirming feedback.  (Stupid example: You make the most incredible pancakes I've ever tasted!  You should seriously open your own restaurant.  You know what would make them even better?  If you added some variety.  Bananas or chocolate chips would knock 'em out of the park.  OK, I warned you the example would be stupid).

Anyway, I also think that's why a lot of females ask for feedback from close friends on so many details of our lives--from "Do these pants make me look fat?" to "Do you think Shawna's still mad at me?" We're partly looking for assurance and validation.  When we say "Was I a jerk?" "Am I crazy?"  "Am I totally off here?"  what we're looking for is someone to say, "I understand what you did.  I understand why you did it.  I'm not going to reject you for it.  You're thoughts and feelings are safe here."  Then, in that context, the sympathetic friend (in their best moments) can say, "I don't think this other person gets where you're coming from.  Here's what I think they may be (mistakenly) thinking about where you're coming from, and here's what I'd do or say to help them see what's really going on in your heart."  And we can listen to them because we know they've put themselves in our shoes, the are on our side, and they are fighting with us instead of against us.

Those are just my thoughts.  And thinking of these things, reflecting on times when amazing friends have come through for me in this area when I needed it so badly, I can see ways in which I could be a better friend to others.

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