friends; social; mates; shy; shyness; lonely; aggression; assertiveness; bitching; harassment; values; anger; exercise; club; myspace;
A big part of life, some say the most important part, is having people to share things with, people to hang out with, people to talk to, and people to support you when you are going through hard times. Friends can be hard to make, can be a pain at times, but most of all they are a big part of being healthy and happy.
young people asked us
We went out to several schools and asked young people what kinds of worries they have about friends and friendships. Here are some of the questions they asked.
- What if you don't like one of your friends? How do you tell them when you're scared of getting bashed?
- What do you say to your friends if they are backstabbing you?
- My best friend doesn't treat me as a best friend at school, but at home on weekends she does. What should I do?
- One of my friends at school is a real bitch. She backstabs all of our friends including me and if we tell her we don't like her she will get her other friends to bash us up. What should I tell her?
- If you fight with a friend, how do you get back with them?
- Why am I a loner?
- If your friend does something wrong, what do you do?
- I am scared that my friends don't really like me, and they just pretend to. What should I do?
- I don't really like this girl at school, and I've tried telling her nicely, but she doesn't take the hint and I'm getting paid out because of her.
Real friends? Is that person really my friend?
|Does this person accept you as you are, or do they want you to be different in some way?
|Do you enjoy this person's company most of the time?
|Does this person listen when you need to talk about a problem?
|Does this person seem to understand you?
|Is this person really what you want in a friend?
|Does this person say good things about you?
|Is this person sensitive to your feelings?
|Does this person consider what you want to do when making plans together?
|Does this person make you feel good about yourself?
|Can you be honest with this person?
|Can you talk about your feelings with this person?
Count up the yes and no answers.
|Does this person put you down/insult you?
|Does this person ever threaten you?
|Does this person often say negative things about others?
|Does this person ever try to make you feel bad about yourself?
|Does this person ignore you when you need a friend?
|Does this person put you down if you don't want to do the same as him/her?
|Is your friend jealous or possessive of you?
|Does your friend pressure you to do things you don't feel comfortable about?
Count up the yes and no answers.
- If you mainly got 'Yes' answers in Part A, and 'No' answers in Part B this person is showing you many of the good qualities of a good friend. Lucky you! Appreciate the person and be a good friend in turn.
- If you got mostly 'No' answers in Part A and mostly 'Yes' answers in Part B, it may be time to think about what you really want in a friend. Think about the qualities that you want so that you'll recognise them when you meet a good friend.
A lot of people worry about how to support friends when they've got a problem.
What would you want if you needed support? Most people say that they don't want a friend to feel sorry for them or to have all the answers, but they do want someone who makes the effort to listen. What can help most of all is to know that you care.
- You can show this by spending time with your friends, and listening, really listening, to them. Show them that you're willing to hear anything, that you won't be disapproving or judgemental.
- Show that you are hearing what they say, eg "It sounds like you're really worried".
- Give them space to make their own decisions - don't tell them what to do or be too quick to give advice.
- What your friend will also want is your confidentiality. Don't tell others their private business.
Many friends have some secrets between them and that's fine. No-one should tell another person their friend's secrets.
Some secrets however, can be dangerous. If a friend is in danger and asks you to keep it a secret, this is a promise you should not give. If your friend is being abused, or is talking about harming himself or herself – talk to a trusted adult.
Some people like being alone some of the time. Others can feel lonely and don't want to be so alone, but they are too shy to approach other people.
Many people feel shy. Even people who seem really outgoing can feel shy on the inside.
- Shy people often tell themselves a lot of negative things like, "I'll sound stupid if I speak".
- Shy people can feel really self conscious, and worry about whether other people will like them. They are afraid of being rejected.
This can leave a shy person feeling left out and lonely.
For more about this have a look at the topic Shyness.
We don't always agree with our friends. That doesn't mean it's the end of the friendship. In fact, if you work through the conflict together in a positive way, it can lead to a better and deeper understanding of each other.
- Conflict can happen for many reasons. Sometimes we disagree because we have different interests, values, goals or needs. It's OK to have different ideas. We are all different.
- Sometimes we misunderstand other people or they misunderstand us. That's OK too. Conflict resolution is about understanding each other better and coming to a new agreement.
- There are various ways that you can use to solve conflicts. To learn about these check the topic Conflict and negotiation.
- Sometimes we have conflict because we feel a person has really been hurtful to us, intruded on our privacy, been disrespectful, or abused us in some way. The answer to this can be to be assertive - not aggressive - about our rights. Check out the topic Assertiveness – stick up for yourself. If the person continues this behaviour you might choose to end the friendship.
- People who are hostile or aggressive or use physical violence in their friendships will most likely find it hard to make and keep many real friends. Have a look at 'Living with violence'.
- Have another look at the qualities of a good friend. They don't include abusive acts.
- People often feel angry because they feel frustrated or feel that things aren't fair. However the way you react to feeling angry is your choice.
- If you use violence or abusive behaviour it's time to learn new and more positive ways of relating to people. See our topic Managing the anger in your life.
groups and peer pressure
Your peer group can give great support, fun and friendship. Your peers can bring new ideas from many cultures and backgrounds. Some will be friends for years or even a lifetime. Friends can have a profound influence on us and our lives.
Peer pressure can mean that you try new or adventurous activities but some peer pressure can bring negative things into your life, like not going to school, abusing drugs and/or alcohol, and experimenting with sex when you're not really ready. These things might go against your values. They could cause stress for you in that you don't want to do it but you feel pressure because of your friends.
They could cause arguments with your family. The trick here is to use assertive behaviour. Stand up for what you really want to do. You might find that others feel the same way, like Mandy and Lauren did.
"My friends got this gang going. It started off as just a bit of fun really. We talked about sex and stuff. There was all this bravado stuff happening. After a while it wasn't just talk, it seemed like everyone was having sex, or going to soon. There seemed to be heaps of pressure to do it. I felt embarrassed and unhappy about this but didn't say anything, just kind of laughed with the others. But after a while I talked to one of the other girls. She felt the same. This gave me the strength to realise I wasn't just a prude. I talked to the two who were putting all the pressure on. I thought they wouldn't understand but we're still friends. I feel so relieved. It turned out quite a few of us felt the same and we all backed out, without losing face"
"A lot of my friends smoke and they all tell me that they wish they didn't. This makes me feel that I shouldn't start. I hate the smell of smoke. I don't want to lose my sense of taste or smell because I enjoy my food too much. I really want to enjoy my life by staying healthy."
For more on this check out the topic Peer pressure. If you want to read about Drugs and alcohol, check out some of the topics in that section.
- Friends can come from anywhere. You might already have people in your life that you like and think that it would be good to get to know them better. Why not ask if they would like to catch up for a movie or coffee?
- Getting out and joining a social group or sporting team is a good way to meet people. Check out our topic Exercise for some ideas.
- Some people find their closest friends are work mates.
- You might make friends online. The internet is a great place to communicate with people, but there are some dangers with meeting someone face to face. Please read the topic Internet safety to learn about these dangers.
If you're having difficulty with friends and want some counselling to talk things over and sort things out there are several free counselling services in South Australia. Here are some ideas.
If you want to meet new friends you might try local interest groups (eg art, music or drama), recreation and sporting clubs or doing some voluntary work. Look these places up in your local telephone book, online, or contact your local council for information about what's going on in your area.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).