6 Tips for Supercharging Your Friendships Post-Pandemic

Now that spring has arrived and the COVID restrictions are being lifted, many of us are emerging from our two-year hibernation and we’re eager to reconnect our friendships. Over the past two years, whether we’re single or married, we’ve really missed hanging out with our buddies and we’re so excited to spend time in-person with them.

Another consequence of the pandemic is that many of us have let go of certain friendships after we discovered disappointing and even shocking things about our friends. We’ve dropped those whose views about the pandemic, vaccines, and COVID restrictions are vastly different from our own, or whose opinions are informed by conspiracy theories as opposed to factual evidence.

The May 2021 American Perspectives Survey found that Americans report having fewer close friendships than they did pre-pandemic. They report talking to their friends less often and relying less on their friends for personal support.

We’ve walked away from people whose behaviour during the pandemic has distressed and appalled us. It’s left us somewhat leery about making new friends because we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. So, how do we go about making new friends who are going to be the right kind of friends, and how do we make our current friendships better?

friends on a walk enjoying a beverage in the park
Source: Pexels.com

Good friendships should always make you happier and more confident

It doesn’t hurt to remember some basics about what a good friendship should include. In a good friendship, both people should genuinely care about and support each other. The relationship should be reciprocal, with both parties doing equal amounts of giving and receiving. There should be love and acceptance, without any tolerance of unacceptable behaviour.

You should share similar values and enjoy similar activities. You should listen to one-another and treat one-other with kindness and generosity. A good friend should make you happy and relaxed and should always make you feel good about yourself. Your life should be better for having this person in it. If all these things aren’t present, you’ll need to rethink the friendship.

No-one ever teaches us how to create and maintain friendships, so we don’t know what to do when problems arise. We second-guess ourselves and rationalize behaviours that make us unhappy because we aren’t sure if we’re being too fussy or if our dissatisfaction with the friendship is valid. Sometimes we think that we might have done something to deserve the bad behaviour on the part of our friends. (Of course, we didn’t.)

group of friends hanging out on a couch
Source: Pexels.com

My philosophy of Ruthless Compassion offers six tips for supercharging your friendships

1. Know the difference between a preference and a deal-breaker.

In every friendship, whether established or brand-new, there will be one or two things about your friend that you’re not crazy about. You need to decide if these are things you don’t necessarily like but you can live with, or if these are things that you absolutely can’t tolerate. We’re all imperfect and part of a good friendship is accepting one-another, including our flaws. However, we shouldn’t have to put up with anything that really bothers us. If there are deal-breakers in the friendship, feel free to end it and move on. Otherwise, you’ll never be fully comfortable or happy with this person.

2. Know the difference between an honest mistake and willful insensitivity.

Sometimes our friends mess up, but they shouldn’t have free rein to constantly hurt us or mistreat us. It’s fine to forgive the occasional instance of not-so-cool behaviour. After all, everyone can have a bad day and say or do something stupid. But, there’s a real difference between a friend putting their foot in their mouth on rare occasions and this person regularly treating us badly. Willful insensitivity is when someone never bothers to consider the impact of their actions on you and they keep doing things that hurt you. That’s simply not okay.

3. Stop justifying unacceptable behaviour.

If your friend is rude, insulting, contemptuous, dismissive, neglectful, undermining, selfish, insensitive, threatening, crazy-making, competitive in a hurtful way, insulting, excluding, mocking, or punitive, it is never okay. If someone is angry at you over something you’ve done, that’s not an excuse to mistreat you — it’s an opportunity for healthy (and polite) confrontation. Know that there’s nothing that you could do that would ever justify your friend mistreating you. If you’ve done something really awful, your friend can talk to you about it or they can choose to walk away. There’s no justification for them mistreating you, ever. Period.

4. Stop tolerating frenemies.

Some friends always have to be right, on top, the best, or the most popular. These are insecure individuals who see your friendships as a competition that they have to win. They constantly need to one-up you or prove that they’re the most intelligent, knowledgeable, attractive, successful, or well-to-do. In a crowd, they demand all the attention, leaving you with none of it. They pretend to support you but their supposedly helpful remarks are really just veiled insults. They ruin your self-confidence and actively interfere with your joy and success. They get angry if you do well in any way. Rather than being happy for you and proud of you, they resent your accomplishments. These are frenemies, not friends. Run, do not walk, away from them.

5. Stop tolerating unreasonable behaviour.

Our friends should be easy to be around and should improve the quality of our lives, but unreasonable people always make things harder for us. They’re difficult, overly-touchy, insanely particular, inflexible, and overly demanding. They suck our energy. They’re frustrating and exasperating. And they’re like this with everyone, making us cringe and feel embarrassed for being their friend. They won’t listen to reason and they’re defensive during disagreements. They refuse to compromise and make you feel guilty for setting limits or asking to have your needs met. You deserve so much better. Walk away.

6. Know the difference between disagreement and disrespect.

In our friendships, there will be times when we disagree. As long as it’s not verging into deal-breaker territory, that’s fine, and we can agree to disagree. What’s not okay is when the friend tries to coerce you into adopting their point of view, or when they insult you for seeing things your way. We can have different types of friends with different views on things. As long as everyone is respectful and tolerant of one-another, friendships can be positive but beware if your friend is belittling you over your opinions, publicly criticizing you for them, or deliberately working against you. Respect and tolerance are essential aspects of a positive friendship and if they’re not present, the friendship is not a healthy one.

Ruthless Compassion is about seeing the truth about yourself, others, and the world and making reality-informed choices. It’s about being kind to yourself and to others, and never tolerating or justifying mistreatment. When you adopt these 6 tips informed by the philosophy of Ruthless Compassion, your friendships will thrive.

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Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series

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Marcia Sirota

Marcia Sirota

Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series

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