This is my best friend Emma, who I have known since we were babies. We have practically grown up together, and despite not going to the same school or church growing up, we’ve had an unbreakable friendship over the years.
We are very different people - I’m future focused and driven, strategic and very process-minded, where Em is more flexible, prioritizes relationship over process and sees the connections in all the events in her past that led her to where she is today.
Some might say we’re too different to be friends - and maybe we shouldn’t be, we haven’t had many of the same interests in hobbies, activities, even direction in life. Yet here we are, twenty-seven years strong and counting.
It was in a coaching session with her that we clicked as to why this friendship works - we compliment each other.
Where I am ploughing over people to make my plans happen, she can urge me to care for others more, and share some of her grace. Where she solves problems, I am driven to make the solutions happen. I can help her keep track and stay focused on what’s in front, encouraging her to plan for the future from time to time (she’s excellent at winging it.)
We’ve not always found this wonderful balance - there have been times of competition, clashing and tension. But we’ve learnt that friendship is more important than being right, and that sometimes the best option is to agree to disagree and keep on being ourselves.
I was chatting with her about some of the most important elements to a true adult friendship, and these are some of the key things that have helped us through the years.
#1. Always have grace
It sounds easy but it’s very difficult. Keep in mind that your best friend is a person too - a person who wants the same basic things as you: love, acceptance, respect. Make allowances for each other, be there for each other, and be strong when you need to. Don’t be afraid to pull them up if they need it (true friends call you out when you need it) but always do it in a loving way.
#2. Say sorry and mean it
Sorry is a seriously hard thing to say, especially when you’re both in the wrong. “I’ll apologize when they do,” you think. But they are probably thinking the same thing. Make the first move. And don’t demand forgiveness. Ask for it, give it, but it might not always be given to you straight away.
#3. Keep in touch
Talk to each other! A relationship thrives and blossoms when you feed it. And don’t give it crumbs with short chats over messenger and comments on instagram - feed it with hearty stuff. Take the time to call, skype, write long letters and emails. Talk about your feelings, your challenges, your successes, your ideas. Go beyond the shallow and spend time together - even if it’s through the phone. Friendship requires effort. Deal with it.
#4. Adventure together.
Don’t just spend all your time talking, but actually get out and do life together - go on road trips, go shopping, tramping, cook and clean together. Go walking, swimming, riding - anything that you both enjoy. Introduce each other to your hobbies, be bad at something but love it for your friend.
#5 Be willing to share.
Be generous with your time and attention. Share your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Share stories and beliefs. Even your best friend in the whole world won’t think, feel and believe exactly the same as you. Share in a loving way, let them know what you are thinking about and be ready for discussion.
These are the rules we try to live by. We aren't 100% successful - we are wonderfully flawed people.
But our friendship is a lifelong one. We can love and appreciate each other, and build each other up. It takes a lifetime of practice to be a good friend, but I am so thrilled that we get to learn together.
What are your key elements to a friendship? Is there anything you would add?