The Smart Art of Friendship: 4 Tips To Help Your Friendship During Transitions

Co-written with Amy Greenleaf Brassert, Relationship Coach

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” ~ Dinah Craik

Friendships are great for our health, if those friendships themselves are healthy and growing.  For this reason, being at choice and intentional about your friendships, especially during life’s transitions, is important.

We need friends as we go through transitions: for support, for relaxation, to listen, to encourage, to ground and center, and to feel loved. And there are times in our lives when our friendships are more vulnerable; when we experience challenges, stressors and events that impact our friendships.

This is different from the natural stages of transition in any friendship which will be addressed in an upcoming post.

You may have already noticed or experienced how transitions can be challenging to your friendship(s).  Here are different types of transitions that are often stressors on friendship:

  • Career transitions – career advancement, job loss, career change, retirement
  • Money transitions  – different attitudes towards money, sudden changes in financial status, differences in spending habits/choices
  • Health transitions – health diagnosis, health lifestyle choices, mental health, addictions
  • Relationship transitions – becoming coupled, single, widowed, re-coupling
  • Family transitions – becoming pregnant, becoming (step)parent, being child-free
  • Residential transitions – relocating or moving, downsizing, upsizing, moving to assisted living
  • Spiritual transitions – changes in core personal values, interests, or pursuits

When navigating any transition, be mindful and respectful of how each friend deals with change, transition and opportunities. Each of us approaches change differently and has different needs and ways of being during transitions. It’s helpful to notice what a friend is asking for, for example, listening, problem-solving, support, helping do research, distraction or play.

There are subtle differences in what different friends can offer us during transitions e.g. encouragement, a sounding board, relaxation, care and affection, honesty and straight-shooting, or space to be ourselves. This makes it critical to know what skills, strengths and abilities we have and are willing to offer during a transition. And what we can’t offer.

Making a request for help or support takes courage. Equally, it takes courage to consider the request and be honest with ourselves about whether we can fulfill the request or not.

Four Tips for the Care and Growth of Your Friendships During Transitions: 

  1. Prepare yourself for the impact of transitions. Become aware of how transitions can be stressful on friendship. This is deeply personal so we need to pay attention to how we go through transitions and share that with your friends.
  2. Face the “it” in your friendship. Make a decision about whether and/or how to have a conversation about “it”. Consider the impact on you and your friendship of having/not having that conversation.
  3. Be clear about your needs and your boundaries. Know your deal-breakers, your must-have’s and where you draw the line.
  4. Respect your differences. We all have different ways of approaching change, opportunities, growth and challenges.

Here are some thoughts to ponder:  What’s your finest quality as a friend? What qualities are you most grateful for in your friends?  What do your friends value about you?   What’s one friendship quality or skill you would like to explore, strengthen or develop in yourself?  

For more posts about friendship and transitions, come on over to The Smart Art of Friendship blog.

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