Written by Riley’s Way Council member Giavanna Gambino in partnership with the One Love Foundation
This summer, the One Love Foundation and Riley’s Way Foundation teamed up to highlight the roles empathy, kindness, and respect play in healthy friendships. Together, One Love and Riley’s Way trained a dedicated team of interns to write inspiring advice articles for the next generation of kind leaders! Each week their work focused on fostering authentic connections that build bridges (not barriers) in friendships rooted in empathy and compassion. Visit Joinonelove.org/learn and RileysWay.org to support our dedicated team of summer interns as they spread awareness about the importance of empathy, kindness, and healthy friendships with a new post each week on our blog.
Being able to have trust and confidence in your friend is one of the most important requirements of a strong relationship because true friendship means you are able to count on one another. Part of caring for a friend is honoring what they tell you, no matter the significance, with confidentiality and respect. A true friend should never laugh or mock, but listen with open ears and offer advice if asked. An example of having a trustworthy friend is being able to talk to them about a personal issue you are facing, knowing that what is said will stay between the two of you and that they will not judge you or the circumstance.
Equality is another super important ingredient in healthy friendships that often gets overlooked when one friend seems to have more say than the other. For example, just because one friend is assertive doesn’t mean they should dominate all of the decision making in a friendship. Likewise, a friend that is naturally timid should challenge themselves to speak up about the things they are interested in doing, like seeing a certain movie or eating somewhere new, without worry of being overruled. In healthy friendships, both friends should be able to make decisions together and compromise without being shut down.
Having compassion is when you are able to be empathetic and genuinely there for your friends on a daily basis and during times of need. Having compassion and empathy is a requirement for a healthy friendship because it’s important to have friends that you can count on to be there for you. An example of what a compassionate friend could look like is if your dog died and your friend came to your side to listen to how you felt in that moment of grief. In this scenario, the friend was compassionate by being present and listening to your situation and supportive by being there for you.
Honesty is a requirement for a strong and successful friendship because, at the end of the day, people usually will be more hurt when the truth is concealed than by the truth itself, whatever it may be. Whether it is lying about a simple thing like whether or not you like your friend’s outfit, or something more significant, being dishonest eats away at the foundation of a healthy friendship. Even though being honest may mean having more difficult conversations with your friend, it will make for a stronger and better friendship.
In successful friendships, it is always important to be independent of your friend and allow your friend to have their personal space as well. It is never healthy to always need the company of your friend and their constant attention. You should both have other friends and hobbies besides each other. Getting upset when you are not your friend’s “only friend” is a sign that independence is needed.
If you and your friend have trust, equality, compassion, honesty, and independence, you already have the foundation of a strong and healthy friendship. Even though it can be hard to recognize when a friendship is weak in some areas, it is always possible to improve yourself and your relationship with a friend. All you need is a willingness to do and be better.