What quality do you value most in a friend? When you stop to think about it, or even if you answer the question off the top of your head, what comes to mind? Depending on your answer, you may or may not be surprised that whenever I ask a woman what she values most in a friend, the answer is almost always “honesty.”
Trust is of primary importance in any successful relationship. Among casual acquaintances, however, it’s not as crucial as in friendship, which is a state of mutual attachment and support. Trustworthy friends are valuable beyond measure. This is a primary reason that Women Who Walk the Talk™ celebrates authenticity. If you are fortunate enough to have a trustworthy friend, never take her or him for granted. If you have more than one true friend, you are very fortunate. If on the other hand, you don’t know anyone that you feel you can trust, you may want to start to think about how to make authentic friends, for they will enhance the quality of your life. Even if you find only one in your lifetime search, you’ve found a priceless ally.
But how do we make true friends? It’s been said that “to have a true friend one must be one.” This isn’t as easy as it may sound. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight. As with anything worthwhile, it takes patience, acceptance, sensitivity—and perhaps most of all—trustworthiness or credibility.
It’s a mistake to think of friends as people who help you get what you want. In fact, it’s unethical. A real friend is someone you are grateful to know for his or her intrinsic value as a fellow human being. Perhaps the ideal friendship is one in which neither party ever asks a favor from the other that’s difficult or painful for him or her to fulfill. It’s probably best if you can enjoy your friend(s) as you maintain your independence without putting your relationship to a test that can weaken the bond. If you get down on your luck, any favors you might ask a friend should be in proportion to how your friend might help you without sustaining some consequential loss that will cause him or her inconvenience, suffering, or discomfort.
On the other hand, if you feel like you couldn’t count on a particular person if there were a problem and you needed help, perhaps there are issues of reciprocity based on trust. If you have evidence there are trust breakdowns in your relationship with someone, it’s wise to at least be cautious in pursing or tacitly agreeing to a friendship.
You never need to disclose your deepest and darkest secrets to someone, especially to prove your friendship. And if you do, it’s unfair to expect your friend to reciprocate. We’re all entitled to privacy. If you have a deep need to share something about yourself with a friend, be as certain as possible that you can trust that individual. If it’s something unpleasant, why place the burden on your friend, or swear him or her to secrecy? Too many contingencies can add stress to a relationship. At the same time, demonstrate your trustworthiness with your actions. Besides not betraying your friend’s trust, it’s wise not to betray a third party’s secret or saying something hurtful about that individual. Your friend then has reason to wonder if you will do the same to him or her.
Trust is meant to create feelings of comfort and pleasure within a relationship, not to create a quagmire of secrets and issues that put both parties ill at ease and strain communication. Friendship also requires balance. If you show that you have an interest in someone and care about that individual’s welfare by listening to his or her concerns, showing consideration and sometimes putting his or her needs first, a friend will reciprocate. This way you both nurture your relationship and help it continue to grow.
If you and your friend disagree about an issue, it’s unnecessary to fight—just respect one another’s point of view. Talk about it if you must, but don’t feel you need to win an argument. Then nobody wins. It’s not worth it at the cost of a friend.
Ultimately, true friendship is rewarding and life-sustaining, bringing joy, freedom, peace, and dignity to each friend.
Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones
Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™