When establishing and reevaluating relationships, I have found it helpful to organize my perceptions of my friends. The type of friends I wish to have in my life possess an appreciation and attention to truth and kindness. They are engaging and infectious. They are open-hearted, both with others and with themselves.
In order to find these people and see these traits in others, I have developed and recommend a tiered method of finding quality people.
Tier 1. Honesty
Warning, this level may get rid of quite a few people. Imagine your friends and focus on those that seem very trustworthy. I don’t just mean the type of friends that will keep any and every secret, but those that discern and give feedback on the “why” behind every ask. These friends should not only value truth for themselves, but truth in general. So, a friend that very easily keeps your affair a secret without experiencing any internal conflict would also feel fine keeping things from you. So you must seek out those people who are critical of chaos and invalidity in its many forms.
Tier 2. Kindness
Each tier builds on the previous. It is impossible to be kind without these actions being based in honesty. Kindness without honesty is just niceness, and niceness can have a multitude of intentions and motivations. Kindness is far more altruistic. I have had plenty of nice people in my life. I, now, no longer refer to these people as friends. Seems a little harsh, but it weeds out the people that are expecting something in return. It gets rid of the people that just seem to hover, waiting on the moment for you to pay them back.
Tier 3. Personality
This tier is far more subjective. What do you value? What type of people do you want to position yourself near? For example:
I need my friends to be funny.
They need to be intellectually engaging and not just dwell on superficiality.
They need to be motivated and goal oriented.
And I need to be all of these things as well. In formulating this tier, I had to figure out what it is that I love about engaging with people. What quirks do I admire?
Tier 4. Vulnerability
This is the deepest tier, when all other tiers are met, that generates the strongest and most fulfilling friendships. Allowing yourself to completely open yourself up to scrutiny and challenge gives others the opportunity to truly see you. Some of the ugliest sides of ourselves we keep tucked away out of fear. Releasing that fear by engaging and pushing past it will help you see that the world doesn’t care about you. Harsh? Think about it. We hide away aspects of ourselves because we think people will care. That they will judge us. And that we will be deemed damaged by it. When you finally get out of your own head and realize that no one really cares as deeply as you believe they do, you can free yourself from emotional self-doubt. No one cares more than you do. Reaching this place with a friend can help you process through the inner demons that plague you.
Be the friend you wish to have.
Notice there isn’t a tier for common interest. Common interest can put two people in the same room, but it does not guarantee that these individuals possess the personal boundaries that make them suitable friends. A deeper dive into WHO the person is, not just what they like, will determine how you can enrich each other’s lives.
This method of finding friends is arduous work and requires self-reflecting. Ask yourself: Are you being a good friend? Are you creating a space for others to be vulnerable, truthful, and kind? Are you celebrating and appreciating their quirks and oddities?
You deserve to be surrounded by people who stimulate thought provoking conversation, who do not shy away from challenge but invite challenge as a way to potentially grow, who feel deeply but are not arrested by their emotions, and who can place their pride aside to show their humanity. In surrounding yourself with these people, from different perspectives and walks of life, you will develop a system that both challenges and supports you in ways that offer space for you to be your most authentic and genuine self.