For most of us, friends have immense influence on opinions, outlook, and ultimately, our behavior. Who do you go to when you want to vent to someone? Chances are, you go to your bestie and/or significant other. If your significant other is the topic of the vent session, you find another friend to talk things through.
Friends are invaluable to have because they participate in creating memories and experiences that shape us. They help us get through tough times, and in the process show us that we can count on them for anything. Often, they are the people with whom we want to spend our free time. Naturally, when we invest this amount of time and energy into our friends, their opinions become invaluable. And we tend to believe that these opinions are shared with noble intentions—because our friends want what’s best for us, right? Well, let me tell you, I think that sometimes even though our friends may want what’s best for us, they don’t know our thought processes or what is going on behind the scenes. They are going off of what they are being told in that moment; so they have the ability to hype up the situation, calm your thoughts, etc. But their response is based on what is presented to them and what they would do. It isn’t always about what encourages self-reflection, growth, or seeing things through a different lens.
Don’t get me wrong; I know there are probably friends out there who encourage you to be the best version of you—and that’s great! And there are also friends who just give opinions based on just their personal value system. A quick example:
Josie: I’ve been really upset with Tim lately. He doesn’t make time for me and its like I’m basically living with a roommate.
Mary: Wow. If it feels that way that probably means he’s becoming disinterested. He’s such a guy—trying to just ignore you?!
Josie: Right?! I don’t even know what I did. What should I do?!
Mary: Ok you have two options. You could call him out and tell him to get it together because this isn’t fair to you. Or the second option is to just do your own thing and just don’t talk to him—he’ll get the hint.
So, while its great that Mary is a great listener to Josie, where in her advice did she encourage Josie to come to her own conclusions and take actions that reflect the best version of her? Where was the option to give Tim the benefit of the doubt? Maybe he’s been under stress at work, has something on his mind, etc. I’ll bet you that if Josie ended up choosing one of the two options she was given, her actions would be driven by being passive aggressive or becoming defensive.
Here’s the lesson I want to conveyt: Vent to your friends—it’s healthy. But just know that whatever advice they give is going to come from a place of solving the problem based on their terms. Take it all in—and then really reflect on what you can do to be the best version of yourself, no matter the situation. Now if you are the friend who is the listener, know that your opinion is going to go a long way. Do not take this responsibility lightly. Be the kind of friend who encourages multiple perspectives and asks more questions to get your friend to make their own informed decisions based on their value system and not yours.
Diana Nesko, MS, LGMFT provides individual, couple, and family therapy in our downtown Bethesda office. Call or email today to set up your first appoinement or a complimentary telephone consultation with Diana.