Three Things to Look for and Three Things to Avoid in Friends
There’s nothing like having a close friend or group of friends. Good friends are there for you in the good times and the bad. But sometimes it can be hard to tell if your friendships are a good fit. If you are feeling unsure about a friendship or you suspect someone isn’t treating you right, this article can help you figure out a plan.
Many teens struggle with friendships and figuring out what makes a good friend. It’s tough not knowing who is a positive influence. We spoke with teens from a focus group across the country and one of them told us, “Not everyone is going to be a good influence in your life and not everyone is going to fit well in your life. Some people end up with friends that they just don’t get along with as well. That can cause a lot of stress.”
Some friendships are stressful to navigate, especially if they bring drama into your life. It is essential to look for the positive ways friends can support you, and what to do if you are concerned your friend is a bad influence on you.
Things to Look For in Friends
- Your friends make you feel better. If you are feeling sad, anxious, or uneasy, a great friend is there to lift you up and make you feel better. They can make you laugh or smile at times when you feel like crying. Or they let you cry but are there to listen and not judge. Talking with friends and being around positive people makes you feel happier. And research confirms that friendships can boost happiness in general.
- Your friends can reduce stress. Having strong and positive relationships can help people better handle stress and actually sometimes reduce the experiences that cause stress altogether. Having friends support you can make things feel less stressful. Just knowing they will stand by you may also make you feel better able to cope.
- Your friendships can help get your grades up. When you have peers around you that want to do well in school, you may work harder to get good grades and stay on task. It pays off having friends who want the best for themselves, and it can also bring out the best in you.
Things to Avoid in Friends
- Friends who engage in harmful activities. Your friends can influence your habits. If your friends are doing something that you are not comfortable with or may cause harm, it is important to steer clear. If you feel like your friends may be doing something you wouldn’t do yourself, try talking to them about it. Tell them why you think it is a bad idea, and maybe try to change their mind. If that doesn’t work, it is important to tell a trusted adult about what is going on. You might even create a code-word system with your parents to get out of uncomfortable situations. Read this article to learn how code words work.
- Friends who pressure you to look a certain way. If your friends are bashing how you or others look, this is a tell-tale sign that they are a toxic friend. You shouldn’t have to dress or act a certain way to have friends. If that is what’s important to the people you hangout with, then you may want to think twice about the friendship. If you think that your friends are bullying you or others on how they look, it is important to stand up for yourself and others who are being talked down to. Showing your friend that you are not okay with their negative comments may get them to think twice about speaking badly on you or others. You can also talk to someone you trust about this if you don’t feel comfortable confronting the bully. For more tips check out: Stopbullying.gov/resources/teens.
- Friends who push you to think and change in harmful ways. Have you ever heard of the ‘Michelangelo Effect?’ While it is usually used to define relationships in which couples shaped each other to best fit together, the concept can be extended to friendships. Some friends may try to influence you to think a certain way and perhaps change how you think about yourself and your habits. If you think some of your friends’ bad habits could rub off on you, try setting boundaries with them. Let them know that you are not okay with what they are doing. Be assertive and stand your ground. You could also benefit from talking with your friend. There may be a reason why they are acting out this way, and being honest and having a conversation with them can make a difference in the direction your friendship is going.
Friendships are important during the teenage years. They can make you feel happier and help you deal with stress. That’s why it’s important to know what things to look for and what to avoid in friendships.
This article was written by Sarah Ann Lundquist. Sarah received her masters and undergraduate degrees in Public Health at La Salle University. Her academic interests include Maternal Health, Reproductive & LGBTQ rights, and Mental Health awareness.