Two Different Kinds of Friends, Are You Real or Fake?

I find myself in Riga, Latvia in eastern Europe and while it’s similar to Canada with its northern disposition and affinity for hockey and basketball, the two countries are otherwise very unalike. Walking around my hometown in Canada would be met with the sights of relatively small buildings with modest heights and space, space for pretty much as far as the eye can see. Conversely, walking in Riga is thatched with sets of evenly parallel streets typical of downtown settings and buildings with fine carved, dated architecture expanding far above your head, built far beyond your time (or your grandparents for that matter). It’s a welcomed scene for a Canadian guy who is normally surrounded by the ever-expanding, but comparatively fresh buildings from home.

The differences don’t stop with the city and its surroundings of course, with cultural norms and behaviours following their own unwritten but established rules. To the outsider looking in, it might even seem like these people just aren’t as friendly, operating on their own wavelengths and at their own pace. Even my limited encounters with some locals had demonstrated their knack for being pretty blunt when something wasn’t funny, pronounced horribly wrong, or just plain stupid- all things I’m quite capable of in conversation, sometimes in bunches! Like when I tried to say a former Latvian NBA basketball players name just my second night here, which was met with a laugh and a comment about how brutal my pronunciation was…

Building from this, I was reading a book that serendipitously coincided with this area of Europe and shared the thoughts of a teacher on these differences, and explained by the author of the book (which was The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, by Mark Manson- a great read on a healthy, productive mindset that’s worth checking out).

To summarize, the Russian teacher explained that the strong influences of socialism and communism felt by older generations had shaped the social behaviours of the people here (there is a heavy Russian influence in Latvia, and about 1 in 3 people are Russian). Basically, during these times in the mid 20th century, fear became a very real factor in the lives of the people and trust from one individual to another became one of the most valuable commodities. People became motivated to find individuals they could trust, and those who were trustworthy had more value to others, thus having a greater social gain. The teacher explained that the quickest way to build this was through blunt, honest, and genuine encounters in order to show this quality and gain the trust of the people around you.

Flip over to North-American culture and you see such a vast difference, where people often modify their behaviour to be liked more or present themselves differently at home, work, or otherwise. Capitalistic influences and making money and as much of it as you possibly can has seemingly motivated this difference, with people on a cultural level interested in changing how they act in order to maximize success in different ways. As a result, more people native to this continent are more prone to living in ways unauthentic to their true self, with these background influences of society ultimately playing a role in who they are as individuals.

While the first few instances of experiencing this firsthand were a bit of a shock, the timing of reading an explanation on why it’s like this was perfect. With this in mind now I find the difference pretty refreshing, and definitely something possible in learning from. It’s more typical here that what you see is what you get; if you just said something stupid or definitely, totally not their humour at all (ugh)- you’ll know about it. But when you hear something positive, it holds more weight because you know its true and not some BS that someone’s blowing up the back to make you feel better, or some sales pitch to make them seem like they have more value as a friend.

Just some things I found super interesting that got the wheels turning in thought and I’m sure there’s more to it- what do you think?

Leave a comment below or on Facebook!

5 Virtues Necessary For Every Friendship

No matter how adept someone is at maintaining friendships, there will always be conflict. Despite these struggles, friendship and social interaction is a necessary part of human life, so understanding them better is a vitally important topic. Here are some research based approaches of making sure those around you accurately receive how you feel about them (with sources at the bottom).

1. Adding Value

Poor friends take more value than they give to another, while good friends add more value than they receive. Healthy relationships function best when the value each puts in is relatively equal, and without expectation. What is adding value? Adding value is anything that makes the another feel cared for, loved, and valued by the other. A simple method of someone showing the value of another person in their life is by checking in with how a person really feels or is doing. Beyond the basic nature of “how are you” and other formalities, checking in with how someone is truly doing is an essential form of love in the way of expressing genuine care. If this is common sense, great- applying it further and making a conscious effort to think of more ways to make someone know they’re valued to you is fantastic and still underused in many relationships.

2. Empathy

This articles contents are all interrelated to each other, and empathy is a tool to better understand the people around you. By making an effort to see and understand what another person may be feeling about something is a great way to not only gain motivation for helping them, but also to understand the best way to help them out. The old saying of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” is the basis of this idea and, aside from the overused cliche, it still rings true in dealing with not only your friends, but with anyone you come in contact with. It is much more difficult to be consumed with negative emotions such as anger and frustration with someone when you have a truly empathetic standpoint on why they might be doing what they’re doing. In addition, developing a strong, empathetic perspective has been shown to increase investment, as well as genuine care in others success.

3. Honesty and Being Authentic

Being honest and authentic is a no-brainer, but to expand on it further, openness and honesty is also relevant apart from just ‘telling the truth’. There are hundreds of interactions where people suppress their genuine feelings on something for fear of being rude, hurting someones feelings, or otherwise. For example, in Canadian culture (God bless our maple-syrup-loving souls), there are many cultural norms around being polite and friendly to one another. This is great and doesn’t need a remedy; the only time this becomes a problem is when someone avoids telling another person what that they need to hear, or pretending everything is terrific when it really isn’t. This can hamper someone else’s growth as well as create resentments from within that result from expressing a form of inauthentic behaviour. In other words, if you have to be someone you’re not, say something you wouldn’t say, or pretend to be happy and fantastic, research shows that it will take a toll on your own mental well-being. Being authentic and letting your true self show is easier and beneficial to yourself, as well as the people around you.

4. Communication

As mentioned earlier, these points are connected and this one stems from above. Knowing how to effectively communicate with someone else as well as knowing the right time to is important in making sure the message is received in the right context and in the right state. On top of this, communicating from a perspective of empathy can help make sure that the other person knows it’s coming from a place of love; strengthening the overall message.

5. Committing to Happiness

There’s a mass movement behind loving yourself and putting yourself first. While this is important, it should not take away from investing in your friendships by committing to someones else’s happiness. When someone commits to another’s happiness and they put it ahead of the friendship, they make a decision to do things that are best for the other person despite if it’s uncomfortable. For example, holding someone accountable can be tough and unpleasant, but is necessary to benefit them in the long run. Loving yourself and loving your friends are not mutually exclusive ideas, meaning they should be done together.

Leave a comment below or on Facebook on what you think is missing.

Photos from Elbsandsteingebirge (top), and Bastei Bridge (above) Germany
ReferencesLavner, J. A., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2016). Does Couples’ Communication Predict Marital Satisfaction, or Does Marital Satisfaction Predict Communication?. Journal of marriage and the family78(3), 680–694. doi:10.1111/jomf.12301

Valuing empathy and emotional intelligence in health leadership: a study of empathy, leadership behaviour and outcome effectiveness. (2005). Health Services Management Research, 18(1), 1–12.

Why Our Friendships Always Run Out Of Gas

It’s beautiful day out and my car is full with friends; we’re on our way back from visiting more friends. The right tunes are vibrating out of the speakers, with all of us in high spirits and just enjoying each others company.

I look down through the steering wheel and do a double-take, since I’m hoping that what I’m seeing isn’t true. And with comedic timing, the wheel stiffens as my car slides into neutral and I guide it to the far right shoulder of the road.

We are completely out of gas.

For what it’s worth, this  never happens to me has happened to me to many times in the past calendar year. I should’ve learned my lesson from the first time, since I know my car loves to throw obscure, over-exaggerated estimates on how much mileage it has left until empty, like it’s some grossly overconfident jock judging how much Axe body spray to put on. But I didn’t, so there I sat, waiting for the last of our momentum to be expended before we stopped at a dead halt.

Yeah, this one’s my fault.

I glance around the rest of the car sheepishly and relay the update in our current situation, and I’m met with the reactions I figured I’d find.

The thing is, friendships are not unlike the car I had unwittingly depleted of gas to leave it dead on the side of the highway. Much like the gas, and regular servicing that the car needs, the relationships we have with the people around us need to be maintained.

Friendships are a very real vehicle that will help carry us to where we need to go, all the while supporting us along the way. There are good cars and bad cars, new ones and old ones, efficient vehicles and gas guzzlers. The same can be said for friendships and relationships.

There are good friendships and bad ones, old and new friends, friendships who don’t need much, and ones who need the world.

The reality is that we let a variety of factors stop us from keeping our friendships running. Whether it’s effort (or a lack of), personal anxieties, or we just simply don’t know how to keep our relationships strong, many of us have let people and friends go by the wayside because the vehicle wasn’t getting what it needed to keep running.

I’ve seen too many times where people grow distant because their own anxieties made them believe they’d be bothering the other person if they reached out.

I’ve watched people who used to be inseparable, separate because they couldn’t be bothered to make small gestures necessary for friendship to live.

Sometimes, we don’t really know how to keep a relationship breathing and so naturally, it fades out with the wavering hope that they may be rekindled somewhere down the road.

I’ve always had a personal pride around the maintenance of my friendships, and sometimes I felt like this came across as annoying to some people- and that’s okay. It doesn’t happen often, and if you really want to keep the people who matter most to you around, sometimes you’re going to have to reach out in ways that make you uncomfortable. We as humans are incredibly social creatures, in fact we depend on it, but we let a myriad of other factors influence us in contrasting directions.

In other words, assess who you need in your life and rid yourself of any other external factor, like doubt, fear of rejection or the unknown, and put what needs to be put in to your relationships. The easy way out might feel easier at the time, but keeping the people you want around you is both rewarding and fulfilling- and something you’ll probably thank yourself for down the road.

Every car needs things to keep it running, and your friendships are no different.

To read more on friendship, click here and here.

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Chucking Yourself Out Of A Plane Might Be One Of The Best Things You Can Do For Your Friends

Another day, another article on friendship. But with something as important as this, inspirations are plentiful, meaningful and found all around.

The reality is that all of us stand to better ourselves a bit within the relationships we find ourselves surrounded by. Some people seek to better themselves in creating friendships, others with maintaining them- and every thing possible in between.

As a progression from of my previous articles (about vulnerability, honesty, and value), ways in which to deepen the bonds between those close to you is a natural and attractive step forward. Plus, the idea came from another very close friend- a huge inspiration!

Having a deeper connection in your friendships is wonderful and allows you to connect with people in ways that needed for the very survival of our emotional wellbeing. Knowing how to do this with people can be a tricky task, and is something people naturally progress to slowly over time. But what if you could expand the depths of all of your friends? Could you become closer to everyone, hand in hand increasing your own emotional socialization and maximizing your own growth?

Without question, this is something I relish in my life. The friendships I have entrenched myself in account for the growth I’ve been able to achieve as a person, as well as all of the memories and stories I’ll be able to tell on a porch someday to make myself sound interesting.

The world craves meaningful relationships and the evidence is found in the multitude of different social structures. People crave socialization whether they realize it or not. Holiday parties, bars, office functions- you name it, and they all boil down to assisting people’s basic needs for socialization.

Alcohol is a cheap representative of people and they’re desire to bond. In some cases, alcohol is a commonplace instigator of socialization and fuel for friendships. People are drawn to how easy making friendships are without any social thoughts or anxieties that prevent them from sharing themselves honestly to people they normally wouldn’t.

Not going to lie, it’s such an easy social trap to fall into.

Unfortunately with alcohol, once the drinking is done and the day is new, most often the bond does not carry over quite the same. The bond that was bought for a night is usually exchanged back for the inhibitions that were missing while the night was alive and wild. I’m sure almost anyone can look back on someone they talked to while drinking and then wonder why on earth you were telling a stranger about stuff that would make a good episode if you ever wanted to be featured on Dr. Phil. Or hey, maybe that’s just me.

Alternatively, sharing intimate experiences with someone else will always deepen the connection you share with someone. People often think of it as a concept that flows only in one direction- yet this is wrong. It’s a common misconception that to share these profound experiences with someone you must be very close with them, but I don’t agree. A person can share experiences with someone else they aren’t as close with, subsequently enhancing the intimacy between those two people.

For example, when my mother (a sensible woman) decided it would be a good idea (it was) to pay for me to throw myself out of an airplane for a milestone birthday, just being lumped together with the few people taking on the encounter at the same time was enough to spark conversation after and feel a faster connection than the stereotypical, ‘it feels forced’ conversation with the person behind you at the supermarket. Now if I were to have utilized it with a friend comfortable enough to join me on this, us sharing this experience would elevate our friendship high off of the ground (accidental but welcomed pun).

Have you ever noticed that people just seem friendlier when you’re on a tour or vacation of some sort? Of course, the elevated happiness and friendliness from just being on holiday definitely plays into it, but the common ground of a significant experience you’re sharing is also a factor.

In short, pursuing opportunities where you can share an meaningful experience with someone will make it easier to increase the intimacy of your friendship. Remaining stagnant as friends and being mired in a routine of things that never change will provide a barrier between friendships, and simply being conscious of it allows for a better chance of proactivity and change. Step out of your comfort zone, and search out those opportunities for growth.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone is probably the biggest, albeit toughest, next step. Even the phrase sounds like the verbal equivalent to getting out from a warm blanket to step onto the brisk floor and colder air of your room. However, just like the latter is needed to head to work or school, the former is also needed to gain the most out of life- and for this example, your relationships. In a previous article about vulnerability, taking the plunge is an idea mentioned to enhance a friendship. This is the tougher, less illustrious concept that takes a little more guts.

Something embedded in my friendships is the notion of shamelessness. Whether it’s making sure everyone gets a hug on arrival for one of our annual guys reunion (yeah, we’re grown men and we like to hug, so what?), or offering our thoughts unfiltered, as they come, removing the element of shame just allows you an easier path to be free in who you are with everyone around you. Be shameless in the way you approach your friends, the way you communicate with them, and the way you let them know you care. Take the first step by offering a piece of vulnerability by which those around you can build on, and watch the seeds you plant grow.

 Many people remain chained by inhibitions preventing them from expressing their true thoughts and feelings, and appearing free yourself shows others how possible it is to step away from theirs. This ultimately rewards you and the person you share this side to. The important thing to enable this is to understand why someone is reluctant to be real, and encouraging them by being vulnerable and real yourself.

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How I Tied Male Rompers Into Honesty In Friendships

The bonds we have with the people around us are the most important part of our emotional wellbeing- which is why this article will be about another concept in friendship.

How a person exposes themselves emotionally to someone completely influences the nature of the friendship they share. When you think about it, it’s sort of common sense- the people you share more with are likely people you are closer with. 
However, there’s an element further that is significantly important yet not consistent in many relationships. The way we confide in someone is not just vital to an intimate friendship, but is crucial to our own emotional wellbeing. Being able to speak to someone about your own state of life and everything in it is absolutely necessary, and this is fortunately afforded to most people. People share things about themselves in all magnitudes, from elementary thoughts all the way to the intimate depths of feelings. Bringing this importance to the forefront of our friendships is key in building friendships as well as maintaining individual strength within our emotions. While this may be easier for some, and perhaps more difficult for others, realizing its significance reaps multi-dimensional benefits that simply can’t be overlooked. In summary, placing a priority on being vulnerable in confiding in someone is necessary for the friendship, but is also necessary for emotional wellbeing. This is a skill women are typically more proficient at than men, with unfortunate forces like toxic masculinity stopping more men from sharing their feelings. This means that with habits and mindfulness around it, it can still be developed further by both males and females. The stigma is gone from a man needing to be a nonvocal, emotionally bottled type. If male rompers are making way onto the fashion scene, being comfortable with talking candidly about whats on your mind to a close friend is easily achievable. It’s possible that women come about this easier, but it still doesn’t mean that this can’t be pushed to progress this skill set and be comfortable in talking honestly about what’s going on in your head. The liberation that this brings is indescribably freeing.
The next piece to this puzzle is honesty. This is a concept that means something to absolutely everyone, regardless of who you are. The reality is everyone has things that they either choose to leave out or alter in order to appease the people who listen. In other words, people either change the truth entirely or keep things to themselves because of the way they think people will react to the truth. 
This fear is infectious to our habits, and as with any habit, it can grow and become easier and easier to do until it is a trait embedded in our social structures. 
I’m entirely, one-hundred-and-ten-percent guilty of this. I spend so much time focusing on awareness of the feelings around me that I leave certain pieces of my feelings out of conversations in order to improve the way it’s received. Just like any self-reflection I’ve had, I decided to challenge myself by exposing honesty in its entirety to those closest to me. And it’s because of those feelings that followed this by which the second part of this article was inspired by. The freedom and self-comfortability brought by being honest with my own emotions, feelings, and words are difficult to express; sheerly by the magnitude in which it positively impacted me. Challenge yourself to allow someone in on a version of yourself that is purely honest and unfiltered with everything you say. If you already share this with someone, expand on it by including this habit with other people you’re close to. The way that this can positively infect the friendships around you is invaluable and can’t be fully quantified into words. The contagious nature of honesty and genuineness will only strengthen the relationship, and the liberation within your own mind that accompanies it is a coveted, incredibly positive byproduct. Take the plunge, and get comfortable with challenging yourself. Your friendships stand to miss out on too much otherwise, and regardless of that you owe it to yourself to be free.
The main idea for this topic came from a close friend, and I thank you for the inspiration.
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Keeping People Around Depends on This

Finding anything truly lasting is difficult, and unfortunately sometimes friendships are this way too. Bonds and relationships with others are craved by every one of us; holding onto them can sometimes be a tall task. While by nature humans crave socialization and a sense of community, sometimes the comforting feeling of love and support isn’t consistent. These inconsistencies can be due to friendships changing like seasons, or from a colder isolation of the feeling of loneliness. If you disagree, you are likely blessed in the strength of the relationships that surround you. This article may affirm these feelings within you and perhaps bring a consciousness of the ideas to follow. 

If socialization and warm relationships seem elusive (and a little bit more of a struggle) this piece is about the importance of developing and fostering friendships in a positive way to maintain deeper, more lasting bonds.

The basis of my emotional knowledge for this area in my life is the people that surround me. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who genuinely care about the wellbeing of others- and this is a big head start. While new people have entered my life, the core of my friends have been consistent in my life for many years. I refuse to attribute this completely to luck or circumstance. Conflicting locations has never impeded these bonds, nor has any other factor that usually forces friendships to fade. There are characteristic constants found in these relationships that are a true driving force behind maintaining meaningful friendships. The first of these is value. This word typically springs thoughts of deals, sales or something like the good ol’ Value Picks menu at McDonald’s. As great as a Jr. Chicken is, friendships are probably worth more. The definition of value is “the regard that something is held to deserve importance, worth, or usefulness.” 

This might seem like a no-brainer, but instilling value into the people around you is one of the most important aspects of friendship. 
Doing this means two dimensions: putting value into someones life that you care about, and knowing that someone respects you enough to return the favour. This doesn’t mean eye-for-an-eye, or keeping score of any sort. Rather just being mindful of toxic habits that have no place in friendships, and mutual respects for people as individuals. This is easily identifiable. If someones level of respect indicates you lack importance or worth, this means value is absent. 
What is most important to realize is how crucial putting value into other people is, and how positively it affects you and the people that surround you. Value is as simple as showing someone you care, in whatever way comes natural to you. I’ve found that younger friendships and people find themselves in a balancing act with this, because showing someone you care about them can sometimes be difficult as it leaves you vulnerable. With emotional maturity comes the understanding that this is not an issue, and showing empathy and warmth become more natural and thus more present in longer friendships. 
If you find yourself struggling with some friendships, challenge yourself to making a real effort into adding value into other peoples lives without expecting it to be returned- the humility that builds from this is also rewarding.
What I’ve found in my own personal metamorphosis from a child into an adult is exactly this; value is everything. At younger stages in my life confidence was something that came more naturally to me, and some people around me would be very quick (and right) to say this sometimes came across as arrogance. In fact, those reading right now are probably questioning why “sometimes” is even in that sentence. And while many of my friendships were forged in this time, the reason they’ve lasted is because of emotional maturity and value. What I’ve noticed over this time is the sheer difference in support around me. Being full of yourself might make you a friend or two, but the difference of how these people support you once you add true value to them is incredible. Huh, imagine that- I found that being less of a d-bag increased my overall support network. Crazy. 
The reality is that while so many of these concepts are blatantly obvious, not taking the time to reflect on things allows them to slip away. 
How I began to add value to the people around me was by identifying a strength in myself and utilizing it to my advantage. Personally, I have confidence in my ability to display empathy, and show others I care by talking and listening to them (a trait no doubt learned from my mother, I can not sing higher praises for that woman). Understanding your own uniqueness and your own talents is key when assessing what it is you can bring to the table. If you can’t think of anything, your own self-concept is getting in the way- trust that you are capable and that you are valuable. Once you’ve got it, apply it into your life and become aware of how positive the dynamic of your friendships change.
The final part is coming to terms with how important it is to show the people in your life how much they mean to you, and how valuable they really are. Holding this in only damages your relationship and the other person involved. Showing them they care might also relieve them of any anxieties they have about showing you how much they care about you too! So text them first, hug them when you see them, listen to what’s going on in their lives- the only thing you have to lose is a more meaningful bond.

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