Friends with Benefits

friends_instantSo, I’ve got your attention with this title, right? Before you start wondering how on earth I’ve verged down such a path, hold up. I’m talking friends with real benefits, life-changing ones.

You’ve got over 500+ Facebook friends. Is it time to defriend?

Well, probably not, but it’s time to start making relationships count a bit more.

We need human interaction by nature. Whether you’re outgoing or reserved, interaction is at least even a little necessary for work, grocery shopping or family gatherings.

Rory has fansI know for me, I crave human interaction, constantly. It’s sometimes uplifting, often humbling, usually teaches me something new every day but is often mostly tiring. I love people so much that I’m always the first to add a new acquaintance on Facebook (yep I’m that awkward person), stalk someone on LinkedIn or even just have Gilmore Girls playing on TV in the background just so I can hear the comforting noise of people talking (really, ridiculously fast) when I’ve found myself home alone for an evening. I’ve blogged previously about feeling as if I wasn’t investing enough time into real relationships  and getting exhausted by unnecessary ties, and I thought I’d revisit this idea of needing the following: “5 friends you’ll tell anything to and 10 friends you could comfortable have dinner with. This is a great criteria, but what type of friends should fall into this bracket? And is it time to start defriending anyone that isn’t lucky enough to fall in this criteria?


1.       teacher's pet_instantThe friend that is just down-right better than you…

Confession: In primary school, I was the mother of all teacher’s pets. That unpopular child who asked for extra homework or harder maths so I could “challenge” myself and be that much better than everyone else. Yep, also the child who asked to be allowed to borrow books that were reserved for Years 5 + 6 kids when I was in Year 2 because I was pretty damn sure I could read them. *Cringe* That wasn’t easy to admit, but it made me realise a hard truth: you need to hang out with people you aspire to be in order to really go anywhere. Sure, I thought I was challenging myself as a pretentious little seven year old, but I eventually got pretty complacent when I told myself I was better than everyone else around me. Yes, you could take this down the hard path and feel deflated and discouraged every time that friend is better than you, or you could accept that when you surround yourself with people that are better than you, you are constantly humbled, always challenged to do better and have reason for continual and constant personal development. If you don’t have at least one friend who is genuinely better than you, it’s time to start finding one.

2.       pitbull_instantThe friend that challenges your perspectives…

Last week I lent a hand to a society running a leadership session at UTS (yes, I can’t seem to get away) and participated in a exercise that has stayed in my mind since. We were asked to identify with particular animals in the way we deal with conflict; the worker-bee who ensures everyone is happy, the chameleon who blends into the situation, the rabbit who escapes at the first opportunity or the pitbull who wins at all costs. I don’t think there’s any surprises as to which one I identified with. Just like pitbulls, I’m aware that I’m very stubborn and know what I want which is why it is SO important to have a friend that challenges my perspectives every day. It’s also important to realise that challenging perspectives doesn’t mean you change them, in fact it may, more often than not, give you further ground for what you believe in. These types of friends keep you on your toes, and make you have a reason for everything you do. They build your character and integrity.

3.       The friend who looks up to you…

Just like it’s important to have friends who are better than you, it’s also important to be someone that people aspire to, and have friends in your life who you can continually encourage and motivate. This definitely doesn’t mean walking out on the street with a sign: “looking for hopeless friends” or hanging out with a bunch of people that make you feel great because their life isn’t as together as yours. Rather, it means finding those friends who need a pick-me-up text message every now and then, or a hour of your time over coffee as you help them through job applications or relationship problems. You’ll find these people probably teach you more than you realise, and keep you accountable; if you know you’re someone that others aspire to, you’ll be far less likely to let the ball drop or let “catastrophes” knock you about and spend more time improving yourself, simply so they will follow and improve themselves.

4.       The older and wiser friend who tells you how it really is…

I’ve stressed the importance of a mentor more than once on this blog (in fact, you can find posts about it here and here  but I’ll say it again, having a friend that is older and wiser than you is crucial. I don’t mean having a friend that is 25 when you’re 22 (although that’s great too!) I mean having a friend in a different generation to you, someone 40+ who has different perspectives and isn’t afraid to be honest with you because they know it’s for your own good in the long run. I remember meeting up with my mentor a few years ago and being told to my face that I needed to get out of a relationship I had pronto, because it wasn’t doing me any favours. I remember crying and crying and feeling bitter towards her about the advice she’d offered, but I look back on that day now and feel SO grateful for her wisdom, life experience and willingness to be honest. Honesty sucks sometimes, but it’s time to grow-up and take it. Find that older friend today.

5.      Who You Want to Be_instantThe “why not” friend…

This is definitely not a friend that screams ‘YOLO’ at the top of their lungs every time you do something together, but more that friend who is free, flexible and fun and willing to try new things. If I didn’t hang out with anyone like this, I know I’d get stuck in a boring, constricted box, never leaping out to take risks, try something new or just fail and start again. Don’t get me wrong, this person isn’t lazy and has plenty of street smarts, but you trust each other enough just to give new things a go, and they give you the motivation to pick things up again when things go pear-shaped. This is where so many of life’s lessons come from. This friend is also able to bring you back down to earth when you start being as big headed as seven year old Caitlin, because they go with the flow and appreciate each day as it comes. Sure, you may need to balance this friend with a calculated risks type of friend, but they’re well worth the adventure!

Do you fit into one of these types for a friend you have? Or do you have someone in your circle for all five? Maybe I’ve missed some key friends – comment your ideas below!

This isn’t about shrinking the friendship circle, it’s about evaluating the purpose of the friends you do have and how you can grow, learn and share together. I watched a brilliant TED talk today that I’ve been hanging out to watch since their February convention. It’s about reclaiming adulthood and using your twenties as your defining decade, and whilst the entire 15 minutes are well worth your time, one part particularly resonated with me:

MegJay_instant“The urban tribe is overrated. Best friends are great for giving rides to the airport, but twenty somethings who huddle together with like-minded peers limit who they know, what they know, how they think, how they speak, and where they work… New things come from what are called our weak ties, our friends of friends of friends…”

Again, Meg Jay isn’t telling you to abandon your friendship groups, but don’t let your friends limit who you know, what you know, how you think and speak and where you work. If you have at least one of each of these five types of friends, I can guarantee you’ll be on your way to seriously redefining the twenties (or whatever decade you’re in now 😉 ) as the most important of your life.

You can watch the whole TED talk here and then think about the friends you’ll invest a lot more time in or spend time getting 🙂


[Apologies for the MONTH it’s taken me to write a new blog… ironic that I land my dream job in a marketing team looking after everything online including blogs, thus making me want to switch-off from everything online as soon as I leave the building! I’ll try do better!]


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