In the age of supporting your friends no matter what they do, female friendships have taken a real hit. Because, at the end of the day, friendships are so much more than simply encouraging your friends to do what they want.
Female friendships can be so rewarding when they’re done right. But since websites like Buzzfeed began touting "you do you" rhetoric, it has become harder and harder to find real friendships, the kind where we can talk honestly to our friends and offer advice and feedback.
My Journey to Real Friendship
As I spoke about in this video on my YouTube channel, my husband was actually the one who taught me that my friendships could be so much deeper than I had originally thought. Because my husband is an only child, he treated friends like family. He would tell them the truth — even if it upset them — because he truly cared about them. He wanted to see them succeed, even if it meant hearing some hard things in the meantime. It probably also helped that he had male friendships, which can often survive truth-bombs more easily than female friendships.
My friendships that praised supporting each other's decisions, rather than pointing out poor choices, never lasted.
I, on the other hand, had viewed friendship as casual. I would hang out with my friends, I would tell jokes or exchange dating stories, but I wouldn’t give them advice. I wouldn’t point out their mistakes in an effort to prevent them from making more mistakes or help them see the error of their ways. Many of my friendships were of the sort that praised supporting each other's decisions, even if those decisions were actually hurting them, rather than pointing out poor choices and encouraging them to act differently. But those friendships never lasted.
“You Do You” Is Not Real Friendship
A real friend cares enough to speak up.
When friendships are based on fun experiences, laughs, and nothing more, you quickly learn that there are a bunch of people who you can do those things with and that these friendships might not last the test of time. But a real friend? A real friend will offer you advice. She will risk the friendship itself because she cares about you enough to say the things you don’t want to hear but need to hear.
A real friend gives advice kindly.
Of course, that doesn’t mean advice should be offered callously, and it doesn’t mean that you should offer advice to just anyone. You need to know someone well before offering advice because she needs to know you actually care about her before she can trust you. And you need to say it in the kindest way possible. For example, instead of saying, “You are doing something stupid. You need to stop,” you could start off by saying, “You know I love you and I want to see you happy, so I wanted to share my thoughts on some of your choices lately.”
You need to know someone well before offering advice because she needs to know you actually care about her before she can trust you.
Real friends can accept feedback graciously.
But we, as women, need to be able to hear criticism. We need to find friends whom we really can trust and who can share their thoughts and opinions and help you make the best decisions for you and your life. And we need to be those friends to other people. I know that for myself there were times in my life that I didn't want to hear advice that steered me away from bad choices, but, at the same time, a good friend will risk hurting your feelings to push you on the right path.
How To Tell the Difference between Simply “Supporting” and Actually Being Supportive
Let me give you an example. A girl is dating a guy. Both of them know that there is no future there. But they enjoy each other's company, and they say they'll break up when the time is right. She says that she's fine, that she can keep her feelings under control, that she's "living her best life." But she talks about him as if they were meant to be; she is envisioning a long-term relationship despite the fact that he doesn't feel the same way.
There are two ways for you, as her friend, to address this situation. The easier and more “2020” way would be to tell her that you support her decisions. You would tell her that she's being true to herself, that she's being casual, that she knows what's best for her. I know that it's easy to say these things because I've done it myself. But it isn't right, and it isn't fair.
Know what truly makes your friends happy, and support them by giving them the strength to make good decisions.
But, if you’re truly her friend, you would tell her what you’re really seeing and be supportive as you encourage her to make better choices. You would tell her that you love her, that you’re worried that she’s going to hurt herself in the long run, and that you want to see her happy.
We all deserve great friendships. Know your friends — know what truly makes them happy — and support them by giving them the strength to make better decisions. Tell them when they're prolonging their pain or when they're hurting others. Be honest with them, and help to make your friends better people. Because they should be doing the same for you.
Abby Roth is the creator of Classically Abby, a commentary, opera, beauty, and lifestyle brand dedicated to looking at the world from a classic perspective. Abby is an opera singer with three degrees in operatic performance from USC and Manhattan School of Music. You can find her website at www.classicallyabby.com and follow her on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest at @ClassicallyAbby.