Supporting your Friends – Beyond the Curriculum
It would not be presumptuous to say that our friends can indeed serve as our lifeline and support system, sometimes beyond our family as well. As per the well renowned and clichéd saying, “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. However, what are the implications of this saying in today’s contemporary times? Is there a need to redefine friendships as well as the values attached to such relationships in today’s fast-paced and changing world?
Redefining Friendships within the Contemporary World
With technology almost invading every sphere of our life, the role of the social media cannot be negated. In fact, such platforms of social networking have led to a revolution in the definition of social communication and interpersonal interactions of the contemporary world. It is indeed a reality that many of us actually give a preference to communicating via social media instead of a direct face-to-face communication.
Therefore, friendships are often measured based on the number of online friends from the virtual world, and communication is often the greatest through group chats! This is especially so for the teenagers and adolescents of the country, who may not be able to imagine life without these mechanisms of maintaining their friendships. The lines have almost completely blurred, with an increasing accessibility across the globe, thereby opening further avenues to build and maintain friendships literally across the globe.
Values and Roles of Friendships
Social development: After one’s family, it is our peer group which serves as a significant agency for our social development, as this is the social milieu which provides a context for us to explore and learn various social skills and overtures.
Developing empathy: It is through ones’ friendships that we can learn to develop an empathetic attitude, and to be able to understand perspective-taking within a social context.
Encouraging pro-social and helpful behavior: Further, being there for our friends helps us develop prosocial behavior towards others. This also encourages reciprocity in a relationship, while improving the trust and compassion within a friendship.
Impact on self-concept: Our experiences with our friends can have a significant impact on an individual’s self-esteem, self-image and sense of self. Especially during the phase of adolescence when the role of peer influence seems to be at a peak, seeking an acceptance within a peer group often assumes the greatest significance.
Skills for interpersonal functioning: Finally, it is our friendships which help us extend our interpersonal skills beyond the unconditional support offered by our families, as we learn through our experiences and explore various aspects of interpersonal relationships.
Tips to Serve as Strong Support Systems for your Friends
Be available: While it is not always possible to go out of your way to resolve a problem or a crisis being experienced by your friend, it is important for you to give an assurance of being there in as much capacity as possible at the time.
Avoid forming dependencies: This is essential both from your own perspective as well as your friends’ perspectives. It is not healthy to be emotionally, socially, or even psychologically dependent on each other.
Provide a listening ear: Often all that is needed is for you to be able to hear your friend out. Do not always be giving advice, but instead also try and be a sounding board for them at times.
Maintain clear boundaries: While friends are undoubtedly of immense importance, it is important to establish clear and strong boundaries, and not to let your own privacy be invaded. Set clear limits, and also at the same time respect the other person’s limits.
Don’t forget to have fun: Undoubtedly, there can be no substitute for the fun to be had with one’s friends. Therefore, do not hesitate to invest in your friendships, as true friendships can indeed last a lifetime, and can also serve as a life support in times of need!