Friends or Friendly – The importance of relationship boundaries

In the age of social media, we have come to think of everyone whom we interact with as friends. This can seem as harmless but it highlights a problem which does seem to have become more common – the inability to distinguish between being friends with someone and being friendly with someone. The reason this is important is because different relationships have different boundaries. These relationship boundaries determine how we interact with others, what we are willing to share with them, how much of our time they get and what we expect from them. Setting the appropriate relationship boundaries can spare you from a great deal of pain and hardship by preventing you from having unrealistic and unhelpful expectations. Of course, the person with whom you are either friends or friendly will also benefit from relationship boundaries because they get their expectations right too.

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Friend or Friendly?

You might be wondering what the difference between being friends with someone and being friendly is. I have outlined some key differences below:

When you are friendly with someone, you are approachable and polite but you don’t actually have to like the person. You may be willing to spend some time with them if it suits you to do so.

A friend is someone with whom you choose to build a relationship. They are somebody whom you like and enjoy spending time with. You make a conscious effort to spend time with them or, to get in touch by other means e.g. telephone. Your friend is not just there for the good times. When times are tough, for you or them, you are both there to support each other.

Why you must get it right

Accepting the wrong people as friends can be toxic to your health and happiness. They can bring your down, make you feel bad and use up your energy during their bad times; while offering you no support during your tough times. I have covered some of the potential problems in the following articles:

Understanding the boundaries between friendship and friendliness is critical to your happiness.

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5 Important reasons for relationship boundaries

The following are core areas where you really need to set healthy relationship boundaries. Making a bad choice on whether you are friends or friendly with someone can have serious consequences.

1. Trust

When you are friends with someone, you can trust that even when times are tough, your friend will be there to stand shoulder to shoulder with you. They will have your back and be prepared to defend you when others attack you unfairly.

The other way you can really trust a friend is that when you are in the wrong, they will have the courage to tell you the truth. They won’t butter you up. When you are in a hole, you need to stop digging. Your friend will be the one to step forward and take your shovel away.

Someone who is friendly with you will do things in reverse. When times get tough, they will have an excuse for making themselves scarce. When you need to be told that you are in the wrong, they won’t want to be the bad guy who breaks the bad news to you.

My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.

Henry Ford

2. Confidentiality and support

I live in a small town and have spent much of my life here. Gossip is the currency in this town. It is in most towns but it is most noticeable in smaller towns because we know everybody.

What never fails to amaze me is that when stories come out, they usually come from somebody who was considered a friend. The victim of the gossip had thought somebody was a friend and had trusted them to maintain their confidentiality. They had confided in someone whom they thought they could trust; only for their trust to be broken.

It is important for our mental health and esteem that we have people whom we can trust and confide in. It is like a form of talking therapy. Often, they don’t even need to say anything; they just need to listen. As we talk to somebody who genuinely cares and wants to support us, we often make sense of our problems ourselves. It is the compassion we receive, rather than specific advice, which makes the difference.

The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.

Ulysses S. Grant

3. Expectations

Regardless of whom we interact with, we have expectations. It is important that we have realistic and helpful expectations. Otherwise our expectations won’t be met.

Think for a moment of examples I have already provided:

  • If you expect someone to stand up for you when you are wronged and they don’t; how are you going to feel?​
  • If your friend fails to point out that you are in the wrong, despite knowing you are, and you get yourself into big trouble; how are you going to feel?
  • If you confide in someone and they fail to respect your confidentiality; how are you going to feel?

I am guessing that in all of these situations, you would feel bad. You would probably be angry with these people. You probably would have some right to be angry with them but you would have to accept some of the responsibility. After all, it was you who chose to have them as a friend. It is you who chose to have expectations of people whom were never capable of delivering on them.

Differentiating appropriately between friends and friendly and, setting your relationship expectations accordingly, will help to reduce incidents like these.

​How to Set Personal Boundaries

I have created a FREE Guide to teach you the importance of setting personal boundaries and; how to do so.


Get Your FREE Copy Here

4. Time Management

Time is a valuable resource and how you choose to spend it determines how much you will enjoy your life. If you choose to spend your time with the wrong people; you will greatly reduce the quality of your life and, the enjoyment your derive from it.

The people with whom you are friendly will want more and more of your time but they won’t want to spend that time on things which are important to you. They will want to focus on what is important to them.

A friend understands that they have no claim over your time. They appreciate the time that they get to spend with you. They are happy to help you where they can and will often go out of their way to help you. They don’t ask for anything in return but understand that you will be there to return the favour when you can.

5 minutes spent with a good friend is worth 1,000 spent with someone you are friendly with. Unfortunately, when we fail to set relationship boundaries, we end up allowing the friendly people steal so much of our time that we are left with an insufficient amount for our friends.​

​My Life; My Rules

​Boundaries are an essential component of a happy, healthy life which allow you to live your life in a manner that serves you best.


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My Life My Rules How to Set Healthy Boundaries ebook 3d Transparent

Conclusion

Friends can be a great source of happiness and joy. They offer you support and reassurance when times are tough and; when times are good, they are by your side to help you make the most of the moment and; create lifelong memories. In modern life, we tend to have the tendency to think that everyone is, or should be, our friend. However, that isn’t realistic. What makes friends so special is that they bring something to your life which others cannot offer. You can’t give your time, attention and energy to everybody. It is important that you assess who your real friends are so that you can spend more of your precious time, attention and energy with them. This will help to ensure that you have relationships which really add to your life and help you be the best version of you that you can manage. That doesn’t mean you must ignore or hate everyone else. You can choose to be friendly with them. Learning the difference between friends and friendly makes a significant difference to your life.