A few days ago, I wrote a blog called Good Busy and Bad Busy. In that post, I mentioned that spending time with friends could be either good or bad busy, depending on the friends. I also said I may have to write about the difference between good friends and bad friends soon. So here it is.
Before I give a few examples, let me say this one thing. Sometimes at school, this thing happens with the younger grades (like K or 1st). Some kid will come running up to me crying, with another walking behind. The kid walking behind clearly doesn’t want to be part of this conversation, but has been forced into it by the crying kid, because as we know, crying kids have power. The crying kid will say to me, “Mr. Miller, blank said he’s not my friend!!!!!” At which point, blank and I usually make eye contact, and in that glance I usually silently convey the message, “I can understand why.” But I don’t say that. Usually I’ll just say something like, “It’ ll be fine. Go find another friend.” Which always gets them off my back for the moment. The crying kid either does exactly that, or he/she realizes that if he/she needs relationship advice, he/she’s not going to get it from me.
That kind of thing can be entertaining when it happens with little kids. It’s sad and kind of stupid when it happens with adults.
Good Friends aren’t weird and annoying. Bad friends are. Now, Good Friends may actually be weird, and sometimes that’s the attractive thing about them. But they shouldn’t be both weird and annoying. And if they have their annoying moments, those should be few and far between.
Good Friends will actually make an investment of themselves (their time, their interest, their coffee), into you. They won’t always wait for you to contact them, and then get mad at you if you don’t contact them according to their set but unspoken schedule. If a lot of time goes by since you’ve seen each other, they won’t get into the “if he/she wants to see me, he/she can contact me first” thing. That’s dumb; leave that rule on the playground. If you miss people, contact them. (Note – even though I used the expression “he/she,” let’s face it – this is probably more of a “she” thing).
Good Friends will come and play music with you at a moment’s notice. Bad Friends won’t. Oh sure, some Bad Friends will use the excuse, “But I’m not a musician. I don’t know how to play the (fill in instrument name here).” I’m not buying it. If a person is a Good Friend, they’ll say yes to you, and then hurry and learn the instrument over a period of a few days. I know most people don’t share this view with me and I’ll admit it’s odd, but it’s the way I feel.
Sometimes people from your past can show up and actually become Good Friends. That’s a rare but great thing. Other times, people from your past can show up and remind you of why they need to stay in your past and not become part of your present. If you have Friendship Common Sense, you’ll have to know when to leave people from the past where they are and don’t let them back in.
Which leads me to the next Friendship Common Sense rule – you’re in charge. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend. Stop trying to do that. You can be courteous to people, but you don’t have to spread yourself so thin into everyone’s life who wants a piece of you, that you end up becoming so shallow you’re not a Good Friend anymore.
(See what I did there? I connected the “thin” and “shallow” thing together).
Lastly, if someone doesn’t want to be your friend, don’t force them. Don’t have a “confrontation” about it. Years ago a woman I knew was sure she was in my “inner circle” of friends, even though to me, she clearly wasn’t. And it seems like I’m the one who should get to decide about the inner circle. She finally decided to have the “confrontation” with me… “How come I’m not considered one of your close friends?” Nothing awkward about that conversation at all. It was sort of an adult version of that school playground story.
I tried to explain it graciously and tactfully, but that’s not really possible when someone is so dense they think they’re your friend when they clearly aren’t. I think I did say something like, “Well, confrontations like this one aren’t really helping you.”
I haven’t seen her for years.