Category Archives: Friendships

Teaching Children About Choosing Friends

Every parent frets about their kids having “weird” friends.  At some point, children always seem to gravitate toward some unhealthy, unpleasant, or annoying kid that you don’t like. 

Kids pick their own friends, and who they choose says a lot about their character.  However, they also get drawn into situations where they feel compelled out of fear or threat of isolation to be friends with certain kids.

I remember my son having a bunch of his buddies over once.  When they all left, he came to me and asked, “So, did you like them?”  I told him I particularly liked the ones who could look me square in the eye.  I didn’t say that I disliked anyone in particular.  I just said that I thought the ones who could look me in the eye were more straight, confident, and comfortable kids.  I told him it was just a preference on my end and that he may see other things in them.  Perhaps one of them couldn’t look me in the eye, but they were always there for him when he had a problem.  

If your son or daughter has weird friends, you have to give them little hints like that.  By doing this, you’re not criticizing, condemning, or excommunicating any of their friends.  You’re simply giving feedback.  The minute you start singling out and condemning one kid, your child is going to become best friends with him or her.

Ask your child what they think constitutes a good friend.  Have them to think about what happens at school:

  • Who’s not nice?  Who hurts other kids? 
  • Is anyone bossy?  Does anyone tell your child what and what not to do, or use threats to get them to do things?  Do any of your child’s friends try to make them feel guilty if they don’t get what they want?  
  • Does anyone get jealous or angry if your child spends time with other people?
  • Do any of your child’s friends talk behind their back, laugh at them, or make fun of them?  Do any of them spread rumors about your kid, tell lies, or share stuff they told them in secret?
  • Do any of your child’s friends play rough by hitting, pushing, pinching, kicking, scratching, slapping, or punching? 
  • Do any of your child’s friends ignore them if they haven’t gotten their way?  Do they only pay attention when they want something and ignore your child when he or she has something important to talk about?

Instead of attacking a particular kid, what you should be doing is constantly grooming your child to be thinking about these things and then have them make their own decisions.  Kids choose their own friends, and at some point, parents become secondary to their kid’s friends.  That’s just the way it is.  When you attack your kid’s friends, it’s like pulling the rug out from under them when there’s no floor there.  Instead, you should be more indirect about it and avoid the tug-of-war.  Discuss with them what the qualities and behaviors of an unhealthy friend are.  Keep your voice very low-key, and help them understand that friends do not embarrass each other, put each other down, pressure each other to do bad things, act nicely only when they want something, or reveal information they share in confidence.  Put it back on your child to think about. 

When you see your child in cahoots with a particularly snotty, nasty, or rotten little bugger of a kid, just tell them, “You know, I was a little surprised that when Johnny or Mary said ‘blahbity blah,’ you didn’t stand your ground.  I think standing your ground is a good thing.  Sometimes it may annoy our friends, but there are times when it’s important to stand our ground when we know certain things are right and wrong.  You might think about that for next time.”  So, instead of saying, “That kid’s rotten and I don’t want to see him in the house anymore,” you’re putting it on your child to have strength of conviction.

You can also set limits and boundaries, such as telling your child that he or she can only play with their friend when they are at your house.  In addition, one of the best things you can do is to take the stinger away.  I’ve been suggesting this for years and years and years – especially when kids call saying their friend is being mean.  For example, tell your child that you are going to take them to the zoo and suggest they invite some of their friends, especially the ones you’re having a little trouble with.  While you’re at the zoo, make an alliance with the kids you think are rotten.  You don’t know what’s going on in their homes or what’s making them so difficult, but you can sometimes tame the beasts when you invite them to the beach or ask them to come over for a picnic or a barbecue in the backyard. 

I remember once my parents were concerned about a friend of mine whose nickname was Penny.  I don’t know why they were so concerned about Penny at the time, except that we got into some trouble.  Remember those phony phone calls?  As kids, we’d call up someone, ask them if their refrigerator was running, and then tell them they’d better go catch it.  Or we’d dial a bread company and order a whole bunch of bread to be sent to somebody’s house.  It was pretty terrible – we only thought about the people we were annoying, and we didn’t consider the poor bread company.  I remember my dad sitting me down and saying, “OK let’s talk about what a friend is.  Does a friend have you do things that are bad?”  I responded, “Well, I guess not,” even though at age 9 I thought friends that did bad stuff were pretty fun.  He then went through a list similar to the one I discussed earlier and said, “Now you make up your own mind.” 

Given the power to make up your own mind, you tend to do the right thing.  You don’t believe me?  If you’ve got kids who always squabble over who has the biggest piece of cake, pie, or whatever, next time let one of them cut it and the other one pick the slice he or she wants.  It’s amazing how the pieces all of a sudden come out even.

How to Not Lose a Friend

Friends are really important.  They make you feel anchored to the world, and without them, you feel lonely, isolated, and depressed.  They care about you and do things with you.  You can talk to different friends about different things – you can blow off steam, you can get feedback, or you might receive a badly needed dose of comeuppance and become a better person.  But most importantly, it feels good knowing it matters to other people that you exist.    

But even when people have great friends, they somehow still manage to screw it all up.  Here are some steps you can take to prevent losing a friend:

The best way to ruin a wonderful friendship is to make negative assumptions.  If a friend doesn’t call you for four days, you assume they don’t like you, they forgot you, or they are being rude and insensitive.  You lament that they should know you are going through stuff.  However, instead of making negative assumptions, you could just pick up the phone and say, “Hey, are you OK?  I haven’t heard from you, so I was concerned about you.” 

That’s a friend – the other is a parasite. 

Gossiping and betraying someone’s trust is another way to ruin a friendship.  Talking to anyone about your friend’s personal issues, feelings, and thoughts is a huge betrayal.

Failing to reciprocate.  One of my main definitions of a friendship is that it’s reciprocal.  Now, that doesn’t mean you have to do the same things back and forth, that’s sort of silly (i.e. you got me a piece of bread, so I need to get you one).  Reciprocating means making an effort to do something benevolent for the other person (e.g. getting your friend bread if they’re hungry, or helping them untangle their hair if their hair is tangled). 

Talking and not listening.  Somebody ruined a friendship with me by not listening and only talking.  She didn’t even listen when I tried to talk to her about not listening.  I took her hands in mine, sat really close to her so that we were almost nose to nose, and told her that I loved her and enjoyed doing things with her, but there was an issue.  I told her that I couldn’t talk to her about anything without her stopping me and talking about herself.  I talked about how it always got either intrusive or competitive (i.e. I couldn’t talk to her about a toe without her stopping me to tell me that she had 20 toes).  She said she was sorry and that things would change, but they never did.  So we took a break.  The break has lasted two years, and it has been good.  It’s not that she is a bad person, she’s just not a good friend.

You need to have an attitude in life that your problems are not more important than anyone else’s.  There are a lot of people who have a problem hither and thither, and they are just horrible to everybody.  We all are a little grumpier or more reserved when we are stressed out, but when that happens, just hold up a Post-it note that reads, “I’m stressed out beyond comprehension, don’t take anything I say seriously.”  Just communicate it any way you can, and make it fun.

Another way to ruin a friendship is failing to stay in touch.  With technology these days, there is almost no excuse for not staying in contact.  You can send a text or an email if you don’t want to lick a stamp, or you can video chat.

You also lose friends by only making use of them when you need them.  When you don’t need them, they get dismissed.  You have to do things to nurture the friendship.  Think of cute things to say to them and do with them.  Ask them how they are doing.  If they have a lot on their plate, tell them that you’re worried and ask if there is anything you can do to lighten the load.  Even if they say no, talking to you may be just what they needed. 

If you know your friend is having an exhausting time with a new baby or some other crisis, come over one night with a fully prepared dinner in Tupperware, hand it to them, and then turn around and leave.  Little things like that show you are thinking of him or her.  Don’t be stingy.  Give more than you get.

Don’t sneak around with your friend’s spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many people say that their husband or wife left them for their best friend.  Excuse me?  “Best friends” don’t become intimate with each other’s boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, or wives.  You just don’t do that.

Another tip: learn to compromise and don’t be competitive with their other friends and family.  Just because they don’t do A, B and C with you, appreciate that they do L, G and H with you.  Don’t make them feel stressed out to the point where they feel like they have to choose between you and the rest of the universe.  And if your friend wants to try something new, don’t say no.   People get a little compulsive about their comfort zones.  Both you and your friend should stretch out and try new things. 
 
Don’t make fun of their errors all the time.  I have a friend named Sam who I play tennis with.  One day he was eating dinner at our house after a game, and we started making jokes.  Because he had missed a shot, he sighed and said, “Does that mean I can’t have salad?”  It has become a running joke between the two of us.  Whenever we miss shots we should have made, we keep going back and forth with which parts of dinner we should and shouldn’t get.  You can have a good time poking fun, but don’t belittle each other.

Lastly, act like a friend, not a parent.  You can’t control how other people behave.  If you see your friend being self-destructive in any way, tell them, “It just kills me to see you hurting yourself like this because this is in your control.  It doesn’t feel like it, but it is.”  That’s not being a parent, that’s being a friend.  If their self-destructive behavior becomes more typical, then you have to draw a line.  You’re not telling them how to act – you’re telling them what your expectation of a friend is.  If they don’t fall into that category, then they’re not a friend and they’re not somebody you should put effort into. 

Let’s say, for example, that you have a friend who is married with little kids and is flagrantly having an affair.  I would discuss it with them several times, talk about the impact on the kids, their marriage, etc.  If that doesn’t work, I would ultimately say, “I don’t have friends who betray the people who love them and are willing to have fun at the expense of their kids’ well-being.  I am not interested in putting effort into somebody like that as a friend.”   If they respond by saying, “Oh, well you’re just being judgmental,” you just say back, “Damned straight I am, except I’m judging you as ‘friend’ material.  Whether you’re ‘mother’ or ‘wife’ material is certainly not in my venue.  All I’m judging is whether or not I want to call somebody who is doing this my friend.” 

That’s the kind of discussion you should be having and feel no guilt about.

When to Give an Ultimatum

The number one rule about giving an ultimatum is to mean it. 

A lot of people give ultimatums, but in their heads, they’re not sobered and settled.  They’re trapped, for example, in the belief that they can’t do any better and that spending life alone would be worse than staying with a person who hurts them.  When you say, “If you don’t stop drinking, I’m out of here!,” you’re really saying, “Please change so I don’t have to think about leaving.  I can’t actually live alone.”   That’s why I tell people they shouldn’t give an ultimatum until they actually have their bags packed and a game plan.

The reason most ultimatums don’t work is that the person making it is not ready to follow through.  They hope and hope and hope the threat itself will be enough to make some magical change happen, but more often than not, it doesn’t turn out that way.  You have to remember an ultimatum is finalIt’s a demand that if not met, will result in a direct action.  Basically speaking, the direct action is leaving.  If you are telling your partner for the first time that his or her behavior is unsettling, that’s not an ultimatum.  An ultimatum is a final shot across the bow.  It’s a last resort after you’ve tried everything else. 

The time to issue an ultimatum is when you have the courage and means to follow through on it, and not until then.  If you don’t, stop whining and complaining, and just make the best of life.  Seriously, I mean it.  You can only give a truthful ultimatum if you’re indeed ready to leave.  

One of the dumber ultimatums I hear people make is, “If you don’t marry me, I’m leaving.”  It’s just ridiculous.  Who wants to get married to someone they have to threaten into marrying? 

The best thing you can do is avoid getting to the point where you have to issue an ultimatum in the first place.  It’s much better to be up front in the beginning of a relationship and explain what’s acceptable and what’s not.  Very few people do this because they don’t want to lose their boyfriend or girlfriend.  They play games in their heads and figure everything will work out.  However, if you don’t like someone’s behavior, you need to state your boundaries early on.  If you really don’t want to marry a smoker and you’re dating a smoker, you have to tell them you have no intention of marrying a smoker.   That’s stating a boundary (“I have no intention of __”), not giving an ultimatum. 

So be sure to state your boundaries — “I have no intention of shacking up”; “I have no intention of having sex out of wedlock”; “I have no intention of using drugs or being with somebody who is abusing drugs.”

Finally, giving an ultimatum to a controller is just silly.  They’re not going to give up control.  There was a woman who recently called my show about her husband being a Scrooge.  He made five to 10 times more than she did, but expected her to hand over all of her paycheck and split the grocery bills with him.  I did not tell her to give him an ultimatum (she had already done that over and over again without success).  I told her to inform him that he’s the man and by definition of a man, he is supposed to provide and protect.  I said she was not to hand over her paycheck anymore, and direct deposit the money into an account he didn’t know about.  He needed to face the reality that there would be no water, no lights, no heat, and no house unless he took care of things.  An ultimatum wouldn’t work on him because there was just something wrong with him.  I told her if he didn’t respond appropriately, she’d have to be ready to move home to Mother. 

If you want to avoid these messes entirely, just talk about things before you get married:  “How many kids will we have?”; “How will we deal with our prospective families?”; “What do we think about religion or sex?”  About six months of premarital counseling should go into any marriage.  I would say that a good 30 percent of people who go into premarital counseling don’t get married, and I think that’s fabulous.  That’s a lot fewer divorces tearing up kids’ lives.  It’s not necessarily that anybody is bad – they just find they’re not a good match after actually discussing the issues of marriage.

So remember: an ultimatum is a final declaration.  Don’t issue one when you don’t have the courage and the means to follow through on it because you’ll only be looked at as even less than you already are.  You’ll also think less of yourself.  It’s hard to impress yourself when you see yourself not having any guts.           

 

Improve Your Relationship – Argue!

Did you know that arguing can actually help your relationship?

The best way to elucidate this point is to talk about an argument I had with a friend of mine.  While we were having dinner one night, the conversation shifted to the topic of art.  My friend started telling me a story about a South African artist who had gotten a huge ball of plasticine (a type of plastic material) and rolled it through the streets of a number of poverty-ridden cities in South Africa to make a statement about violence and poverty.  The ball was then displayed in a museum for people to come and say “ooo” and “aww.”  Well I just thought this was too funny and laughed. 

However, he didn’t intend for his story to be funny.  

My friend, who I have known for five or six years and who has always been the most mellow human being on the face of the Earth, got pretty passionate (what I didn’t know at the time was when he was younger, he worked in that museum and it was his responsibility to dust off the ball each night).  And this only made me laugh harder.  I mean he was exhibiting such intense emotional reverence for a big plastic ball that picked up trash!

But then I saw he wasn’t just being passionate.  He was clearly upset.  I just looked at him and said, “OK, let me understand this.  The guy took a huge ball of goopy plastic, rolled it through streets to pick up garbage, and it ended up in a museum?!”  This just seemed like the plot of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to me.  There was nothing he planned, this was not creative, and whatever got stuck stayed.  How the hell could anybody call that art? 

Well he did, and the situation didn’t get any better.  He then mentioned another very famous German artist who just painted a canvas black, but it was considered a great piece because of the way the brushstrokes reflected light.  At this point, I lost it all together.  I was the laughing version of inconsolable.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  I have to tell you, if it looks like I can do it, it’s not art (I don’t think Pollock throwing paint on a canvas is art either).  For me, an entity is attractive or it’s not.  I don’t care who made it, what their political history was, if they were rich or poor, or if they had emotional, mental, or physical problems.  My friend, on the other hand, thinks a piece of art has no intrinsic value unto itself.  For him, art is tied to history, biography, era, and circumstance – something has artistic value because of the surrounding context.   I could not agree less.  I don’t think that’s art, I think that’s a personal statement.  I think art is supposed to be attractive, passionate, and powerful without all that surrounding stuff.  For example, as I pointed out to my friend, if you suddenly found out that the big plastic ball of garbage was created by Donald Trump, it would no longer be meaningful.

However, through this argument, we came to a deeper understanding about each other.  I called him up the next day, apologized, and told him I now had a better understanding and appreciation about something that was so emotionally personal to him.  I just said we probably wouldn’t go art shopping together, and we shared a good laugh.

Arguments, especially between you and someone you care about, should be constructive and bring about a deeper understanding.  Here are a few general tips for arguing in your marriage:

Only argue about one thing at a time.  Don’t start bringing up history or other subjects, and don’t wait until you have a long list of disappointments to airTalk about things as they happen and you’ll avoid feeling ferocious from holding in your frustration.

Argue very gently.  Don’t criticize, name-call, or blame.  Arguing is not about abuse – it’s about stating your needs clearly and respectfully.  Try as hard as you can to figure out what the other person is talking about and what they want without being defensive.  If you’re getting defensive, just tell them you’re getting a little hot under the collar and to give you 30 minutes to go for walk, take a shower, or make a cup of tea.  Say you’ll finish the discussion later.  And during the break, don’t rehearse what you’re going to argue about.  Just calm yourself down. 
 
Listen to each other.  People have different personalities, tastes, histories (family, emotional, and psychological), needs, goals, and dreams.  There’s only one reason couples grow apart: they haven’t reached out to each other, expressed what’s on their minds, or taken what the other person has expressed and done anything constructive with it.  People do not naturally grow apart – it’s totally voluntary.  If you’re having a discrepancy with your husband or wife about decorating your house, for example, you need to communicate.  Ask each other what makes you feel comfortable in a home.  Not all the rooms have to be the same style.  Compromising and giving the other person something they dream about is all part of love.  In my house, if one of us says we really don’t like something, it doesn’t come into the house.  We just keep looking until we can find something we both like.  (Now, fortunately we have relatively similar tastes, such as not wanting a lot of beads hanging from anything).

Stay focused on the solution to the problem.  I once read a story about the CEO of a cancer research company who actually encouraged arguing because as opposed to getting input from a bunch of “yes” men and women, the arguments would foster new ideas.  And when the arguments got heated or off track, he would just say, “Hey, let’s remember why we’re here – to cure cancer.  Keeping focused on the mutual goal is very important.  For example, the next time you and your spouse are trying to go out to the movies and there are dishes to put away, don’t stand there fighting about who did the dishes the last time.  Just keep focused and say, “We have to get this crap out of the way so we can go to the movies.”  Get it done without the ego of who did what.  The point is to find a solution.  

The real purpose of arguing is to come to some kind of agreement or compromise.  The main point of arguing is not to win (you could even put that on little three-by-five cards around the house).  Having a useful argument means you’ve learned something about yourself and about your partner.  Always remember you love each other.  

As many of you know, I take pool lessons.  The hardest thing for me to learn was that dropping the ball in the pocket is not the goal.  Instead, you’re supposed to play for that incredible feeling of when you make the perfect stroke exactly in sync.  The point is the feeling, not winning a particular point.

So, the next time you’re arguing with someone you love, remember the point is not to win the point – it’s to experience the feeling of being in sync. 

Getting Rid of a Toxic Friend

According to a new survey, 84 percent of women and 75 percent of men say they’ve had a bad friend at some time in their lives.  On top of that, 83 percent of both men and women say they have held onto a friendship longer than it was healthy.

Why is it so hard to dump a bad friend?

People keep toxic friends for the same reason they stay in all kinds of relationships:  There is something in the friendship they don’t want to lose. They find something about it compelling, familiar, and/or comfortable.

Essentially, they are afraid of the consequences.  They are afraid of what will happen, or they think the friend might turn on them and things will get even uglier, or not having very high standards, they just don’t really want to let go because they think it will be OK.

My standards for a friend are very, very, very high.  He or she has to be a really decent person.  I have friends of all different religions, sexual orientations, ethnicities, personalities, and genders.  The commonality amongst them is that they are decent people.  That is where I put the bar.  If I know someone is not a decent person, then I’m not interested.

You know when friends aren’t friends.  They take, you give.  There’s no balance.  They do not accept who you are.  They betray you, they’re negative, they have no respect, and they’re ultra-critical with digs, put-downs, and sarcasm.  They diminish you so they feel better.  It’s pathetic how vicious some people can be.

But do you know what?  People who are really crappy human beings somehow still have friends!  It’s either because birds of a feather flock together, or it’s because some people are OK being friends with a crappy person as long as the crap isn’t turned on them.

So many times on my program, this has been heard:

Caller: “I’m just stunned they did this to me.”

Me: “Were they doing it to other people?”

Caller: “Well, yeah, but I’m really stunned they did it to me. I thought we were friends.”

Me: “Have they done that before?”

Caller: “Well, yes, but I thought this time….”

It doesn’t pay to play blind.  If you are friends with someone who is indecent, it is eventually going to splatter.

Some friends just bring out the worst in you.  When you’re trying to take care of your health and not eat or drink as much, they’re the ones who drag you down.  They say, “This is not necessary, let’s go have coffee and cake,” or “Let’s go have a drink.”  It makes you so aggravated you either become withdrawn or ferocious.

Other friends always disappoint you.  They don’t do what they said they were going to in the way they said they were going to do it.  And each time you just say, “Well, stuff happens.  I’ll get over it.”  But they do this because they don’t like or respect you, your spouse, your kids, and/or your family.  There may be some legitimate issues with them, but usually they are just insecure, jealous, or mean.

So, how should you break it off with a toxic friend?

My suggestion is you have an honest conversation with him or her.  Just say that these things typically happen.  Say you’ve gotten tired of him or her, you’ve lost interest in the relationship because it hasn’t changed, or that he or she has hurt you.  Suggest the two of you take a break and after some period of time, see how you both feel about it.  That leaves the door open for the person to do a little bit of soul searching.  He or she probably won’t, but at least you’re not coming down with a hammer.

If you really don’t want to interact, it’s probably best to click delete on their messages whenever possible and do not respond to protestations or attacks on you out of defensiveness.

Life is very short.  If people aren’t decent, kind, accountable, responsible, or responsive, man up and get rid of them.  Put your time, energy, and sweat into becoming a better person and having better people in your life.  If you don’t do this, your life will not be as good as it could have been.  Besides, the friendship is probably going to end someday anyway.

Here’s a list of “12 Types of Friends You Should Break Up With”

My Final Visit With My Friend Karen

I want to talk about my friend Karen, who is in the last stages of cancer.  I went to visit her this weekend and got to see how a woman who is suffering still has class.  While I was there, the family showed me a tape of Karen.  In the video, Karen was receiving an award for Employee of the Year at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and she was being interviewed about the award.  Now, you’re probably thinking, “the DMV?”  Most of you get very aggravated with the DMV – the waiting in lines, the rules, not feeling like you’re being helped, etc.  But until Karen came down with cancer, she hadn’t missed a day of work in decades.

Just before receiving the award, Karen had a stroke and the interview was conducted while she was in the hospital.  Some very big “mucky-mucks” came to see her – the head of the state DMV and the lieutenant governor – because it was such a big award.  She was sitting in a wheelchair struggling to talk, and she was asked how she felt about getting the award.  She said (and I’m paraphrasing – she said it much better), “I feel very honored.  I and all of us here work very hard to serve the public.  We do the best we can to be considerate and compassionate, and to do a complete job.  That’s our job.  It’s our responsibility; it’s our obligation to serve.  I enjoy serving the public, and I enjoy helping people.  I’ve always been that way.” 

There she was, only 49 years old with terminal cancer and now a stroke, sitting there glowing with modesty and talking about our responsibility to serve well and with the right attitude.  If even 5 percent of the people in this country actually do that, I’d be amazed.  It just shows what kind of a person she is and what kind of a person we’re losing.

I told her later, sitting by the side of her bed in her house, holding her hand, and wishing I had magic, that I was really impressed with her attitude.  She’s never been interviewed before and didn’t know in advance what she’d be asked, but she just talked from her heart and said, “You know what?  It doesn’t matter what the economy is like.  When you have a job, it’s an honor to have that job, and you should do it to the best of your ability without resentment and without attitude.  You should be grateful you have a job and understand the value of what you do to serve other people when you have that job.”

Karen’s words got me thinking: What if people had the same attitude about their families?  What if they thought, “It’s a blessing to be fortunate enough to be a member of this nice family; I’m going to honor that great fortune, and I’m going to do the best I can to serve the people in this family.” 

Unfortunately, most people only think about themselves.  This is why I loved that line from John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  It’s a great concept.  There are so many terms we can substitute for “country” in that phrase, and it still rings true.  You could replace “country” with “job,” “spouse,” or “family.”  

So for the rest of my life, anything useful and wise I come up with on my program, I dedicate to Karen, one of the most decent, sweet, lovable people ever.  Everybody in her family will tell you no one disliked her.

Think about that.

Do you know anybody who’s liked by everybody?  Karen’s the only one I know.  She is so genuinely generous.  She’s not one of those manipulative people-pleasers who uses people to get what she wants.  Karen was created to give with a good attitude, even with terminal cancer and a stroke.  There’s just something special about her.  If you’re lucky enough to have a handful of friends anywhere near like that, it is a major gift from the heavens.  Anybody who’s around a person like that is changed forever.

How To Say You’re Sorry

There is an effective way to apologize and an ineffective way. 

Here are some ineffective ways:

1. I’m sorry.

That’s it.  That’s it?  It’s kind of shallow and superficial.  If you say “I’m sorry you felt upset,” that puts the blame on the injured party.  If you say “I’m sorry YOU felt upset,” that means you aren’t taking responsibility for your actions.  That just says you got upset and I’m sorry that you got upset, but it’s not my problem!

2.  I’m sorry if I did something to offend you.

Ouch.  The “if” word is a stab in the heart.  It’s pretty defensive, and not “owning” it.  It’s qualifying the apology.  Any apology with a qualifier in it is not really an apology.

I particularly remember this one, because I was in a situation where I used this and blew it.  I made a terrible mistake early on in my psychotherapy practice.  I used this line with a patient.  She didn’t say anything, but the next week, she came back furious.  I guess I was being defensive and didn’t realize it.  So, even the pros do it.

3.  If it will make you feel better, I’m sorry.

Whoa!  This one is so insincere that it literally drips insincerity.  What you’re really saying is “If it will make you feel better (you stupid, weak, annoying idiot), then I’m sorry.  Yikes!

4.  I’m sorry for whatever I did.

This is one that too many husbands try to use, but then too many wives don’t communicate particulars!  This one is a bit vague and non-specific.

5. Any and all apologies followed by the word “but…”

This apology reminds me of a funny thing that happened in a psychotherapy session.  I sometimes get a little playful with words and images, so when I had a husband and wife in therapy, and every time the wife opened her mouth, she said “but, but, but, but,” I said back “you’re a ‘but’ with feet!”  She went through the roof, because she thought I called her an ass.  I guess I should have watched the way I worded that comment.  I wasn’t sensitive and got a little too playful at the wrong time.

That example segues into how to apologize correctly.

First of all, you personalize your apology.  “I am sorry I hurt you.”  Anything that is personal is felt more deeply.  That needs to grow into “I’m sorry I hurt you by breaking my promise….” or whatever you did.

The third part of the apology occurs when you show you really understand why this was upsetting – you’re not only acknowledging that it was upsetting but also why it was upsetting.  “I’m sorry I hurt you by breaking my promise to call.”  You are justifying their being upset.  You elaborate on all the hurtful aspects of what you said that you’re aware of, and then you again express regret and remorse.  “I am so sorry  I have hurt you.  I take full responsibility.  I did this and I regret it.  I have remorse.  I was being selfish and flighty.  I was insensitive.”

It’s really then important to express some desire to make amends.  Discuss what you are going to do inside your heart, soul, life, mind, and habits to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  And repeat your apology as often as needed, especially for bigger wounds. 

After things have settled down, and some time has gone by, you might want to talk about some mitigating circumstances, but in general, I wouldn’t suggest you go in that direction until the pain has subsided to a much lower level.  And don’t use the excuse “I had a few too many drinks.”  You still did what you did. 

If you are going to apologize, make it sincere or don’t bother.

What Makes A True Friend

Friendship is very important. That’s one of the reasons why emotional desolation sets in when people move a lot – they don’t keep up the friendships they’ve had. 

We need family, not therapy. We need a nice family and friends. We don’t do well alone. Every time you hear about some “nut” doing something horrible to people, you always hear “he was a loner.” That’s a symptom and a disease rolled into one situation.

Life is not meant to be lived alone. We are very social beings and we need people to care about us, understand us, share the same mentality as us, and preferably, be reasonably close in age (but that’s not always necessary). The word “friendship” is very special, and I think people throw it around to include people they know and do stuff with. A good friend, however, is someone we can rely on, someone who is faithful and who is not trying to change us, dictate to us and/or manipulate us. If you have a good friend, you know they know your warts and you know theirs, but in the greater scheme, it doesn’t matter, because the essence of that person’s character is beautiful and that’s what really counts.

Finding someone who will watch your back and stand up for you, and who is loyal is one of the hardest things in the universe. There is no real friendship if there is no loyalty. You know you have a true friend when the “stuff” hits the fan and they are still standing by you.

Good friends are always supportive. When you’re in a time of sincere and reasonable need, a friend will be there wanting to help. Friends need to be reliable and keep the things you discuss private. You know you don’t have a friend if he or she has carried a tale to others of something you said or something you did. It’s truly splendid if you can carry friends throughout your lifetime, because that isn’t always possible.

Here are six ways to maintain a good friendship:

  1. Work at staying connected. Call, write, and/or visit.
  2. Root for one another, and drop the envy. Celebrate each other’s successes. Friendship is not a competition, and a real friend takes pleasure in your success.
  3. Don’t gloat, and don’t boast about things that make you feel superior.
  4. Show up for “cornerstone” events. Share in them.
  5.  Be flexible and understanding.
  6.  And finally, protect confidences.