The Art and Etiquette of Friendship

Friendship is an art form. As a sculptor shapes clay or a painter brings shapes and color into life on a canvas, so too can we create lasting and fulfilling friendships. We’ve heard it said that to have a friend, you need to be one first. I’m not talking about a Facebook friendship, I am talking about a deep, powerful and real friendship. Gloria Naylor, the novelist and educator, said, “Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence; a time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny and a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.”

Yes, there is an art and etiquette to friendship; real friendship. In general, people can be divided into two categories: givers and takers. Real friendship involves giving. It also involves knowing and understanding expectations and limitations on what a friendship involves. There are five simple rules regarding friendship which, if followed by both, will yield far more fulfillment for each friend than anything imaginable.

Rule Number one: Never presume upon a friendship. Our friend is not there to serve our every whim or fancy. He or she is not at our disposal. We should not place demands or expectations upon our friend which would cause them stress or rob them of their time.

Rule Number Two: Do not accept from a friend what you are not willing to give in return. True friendship involves the giving of both parties. Before you accept a friend’s time, energy and attention, think about what it is you are asking. Unless you are honestly willing to do the same, do not ask it of your friend.

Rule Number Three: Stay out of your friend’s closet. This is not his or her literal bedroom closet; this refers to their personal business and private affairs. In a true friendship, friends will usually tell one another everything. However, that is, and should be, the choice of each person. If your friend wants to tell you something personal, that is his or her business. The choice is that of our friend to do so. You should never to pry, question them or seem nosy.

Rule Number Four: Honor the confidentiality of your friendship. Whatever is said or told to one friend by another should, under no circumstances, be repeated or shared with anyone else. Just as we would expect our friend to honor our wishes of confidentiality, we should never betray that of theirs.

Rule Number Five. Accept your friend’s flaws as he/she accepts yours. No human being is perfect. We all have our flaws. It is easy to recognize the flaws in others without realizing our own. A lasting friendship is one in which both know when to stay mum and to give each other the time and space needed. We each have our good days and bad. Do not judge or criticize a friend and expect them to conform to our perfect idea of who they should be.

Good friends are hard to find. Lasting friendships are invaluable. It is said that if you can count your real friends on one hand, you are indeed very lucky. The word friendship is tossed around quite loosely. Each friendship is unique and has its own characteristics. We laugh with some; we cry with others. We discuss ideas with some and we engage in hobbies yet with others. The mutual respect of a friendship will lead to its strength and endurance.