Healthy friendships are an important part of life. How do you know if you can trust your friends?
Brene Brown, the author of The Power of Vulnerability, has a video about her then-third-grade daughter who was betrayed by friends at school. Brene Brown relates that she taught her daughter the Marble Jar Friend concept. Here’s a brief video where she tells her story.
The Importance of Healthy Friendships
How many marbles do you need in your jar before you can call someone “friend”?
Only you can answer this question for yourself.
The most important question, though, is not how many marbles it takes, but taking the time to consider whether someone is trustworthy enough to hear our deepest secrets.
We live in a society hungry for connection. Many of us want so badly to trust that we respond to anyone who shows us the slightest bit of compassion, without taking the time and effort to discover whether the compassion is truly real.
So we trust, even before that person has really proven worthy of our trust. They use the information against you, as the children did in the video above. Or maybe they turn away from you, unprepared to accept your darkness. Or maybe they gossip. Or bully.
And then we are hurt.
When you don’t know this “friend” before opening yourself up, you leave yourself vulnerable.
How to Know if Someone is Trustworthy
How do you evaluate someone’s trustworthiness?
The first thing to understand is that it takes time. You build a friendship, slowly but surely, by metaphorically dropping marbles in a jar — allowing your friend to show trustworthiness in small ways before trusting them with big things.
Some things to pay attention to:
Does the person gossip?
People gossip in conversation to make themselves feel special, like they’ve got inside information. But the truth is, if your “friend” gossips about someone else, you can expect that you’ll be the gossip topic when you’re not around.
Do they sympathize with your pain?
When you share a bad day, do they listen? Do offer you a tissue if you need to cry? Or do they just try to top your problem with one of theirs? “You think you’ve got it bad with your boss. Let me tell you about mine.”
Are they interested in you?
When you get together, do they talk, talk, talk about themselves and their issues and never ask about you? That is a conversation hog, not a friend.
Are they too interested in you?
If they encourage you to share and share and share (which in the beginning can really feel loving), without being open about themselves, be careful. This person may just be getting information about you to use against you in the future.
They never want to spend time with you
If whenever you call your friend to go to a movie, he or she says, “Let me think about it a few days and I’ll get back to you,” you know you’re low on their priorities. Once or twice might be OK, but in time you realize they are waiting for a better offer.
Do you find yourself the butt of the joke all the time?
If when you hang out with more than just the two of you, your friend gets laughs by telling “funny” (humiliating) stories about you. Once in a while might be OK — sometimes people honestly don’t know what will humiliate someone else. But if it happens often, it’s a sign of disrespect that shows your “friend” to be untrustworthy.
Does your “friend’s” personality radically change around others?
If your friend is kind, compassionate and open when it’s just you two, but someone entirely different around others , that person is not a good candidate for friendship. This person is probably insecure and seeking attention, which might be sad, but that marks a person who is not a trustworthy friend.
Does your friend encourage or discourage you?
Does your friend mostly build you up or tear you down? Certainly true friends may tell you uncomfortable truths at times, but if it’s always criticism — if you always leave the conversation feeling worse than when it started — the person is not a good candidate for friendship.
These are just some of the ways that your so-called friends show that they really aren’t. If you know they aren’t trustworthy, you can keep them as acquaintances, not sharing with them in ways that make you vulnerable.
Evaluate the Signs of Healthy Friendships
Before you give away too much of yourself, test the friendship in small things.
- When you invite them to spend time with you, notice whether they make you a priority. If yes, put a marble in their Friendship Jar.
- Tell them a small secret and see if you hear it back. If not, put a marble in their Friendship Jar.
- Pay attention to whether this person speaks respectfully to you in front of others. If yes, add a marble.
The title of your friend is an honor that must be earned. This isn’t a test; this is just making sure that you are reading this person correctly. When we trust too soon, we leave ourselves open to be hurt.
Know what you want in a friendship. Most of us enter into all kinds of relationships without any guidelines as to what qualities we are looking for. Can you imagine buying a home and not really knowing what you want in a house? How many bedrooms, bathrooms, yard size, etc.
When we don’t have any qualifications for healthy friendships, then any warm body will do. Let’s honor our choices better than that.
Start by making a list of what you are looking for in a friend. Then go back through and star those things that are really important to you and then set your intention to find friends that match those traits.
If This Doesn’t Come Easy for You
For some people, healthy friendships continue to escape them. You don’t find the right people, or you keep settling for the wrong ones.
If you’re in that situation, coaching and hypnosis can help you set and maintain healthy boundaries. Appropriate boundaries can help you find and keep good friendships and avoid unnecessary pain from bad ones.
As a hypnotist and life coach, I can help you discover where your understanding of boundaries may have gone awry and how you can create solid, healthy boundaries now. These boundaries will not only help you find and keep healthy friendships, but will help you deal with family, co-workers, and people you meet on the street.
Contact me for a free discovery session and find out if coaching or hypnosis would be right for you.