You Can Choose Your Friends (Yes, Really!)

When determining whether to pursue a romantic relationship, people often tend towards vigilance, looking out for signs of “red flags,” “settling” and indicators of incompatibility or “deal breakers.” When it comes to friendship, however, many of us take a much more relaxed approach.

We know it’s important to choose our friends wisely. My grandmother always instructed me: “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are.” The motivational speaker Jim Rohn said: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” And then there’s the well-known Japanese proverb: “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” The truth is, the company we keep shapes who we are, what we feel, believe, and the choices we make.

But sometimes we lose track of the idea that we can choose who we want to be friends with, just as we can choose to with whom to pursue a romantic relationship.

If you are looking to bring more intention to your friendships, it may be helpful to approach making friends like dating. This can include:

  • knowing what you want in a friendship beforehand and the kind of friend you are
  • practicing being a good friend to yourself (i.e. loving yourself) first and foremost
  • taking the time to get to know a new person and using this time to assess whether you even want to pursue a friendship with them (and whether they really want a friendship with you, as well)
  • being willing to keep looking and move on if you determine that you and another person aren’t a good “match”

It’s important to remember that, as with dating and partnerships, we can have standards. We don’t have to participate in any given friendship or relationship that comes our way…

…even if the other party wants us to.

…even if we’re lonely.

…and even if the other person “looks great on paper.”

Your feelings and needs matter.

You can choose who you want to be friends with.

(Yes, really.)

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© 2022 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

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