Sunday, September 23, 2007

Just smile and nod, it's the polite thing

While there are lots of qualities we hope to find in our friends, (such as honesty, loyalty, empathy, and of course someone who is generally FUN to be around), there are three crucial qualities that make for an even better friend.

First, an ability to keep confidentiality a priority, second, dependability and thoughtfulness go hand-in-hand, and lastly, discretion - don't we all want someone who knows when to listen and when to offer advice?

A short term memory like a sieve is relatively helpful for the first qualification. Every time you tell me a story, it's like the first time. All your secrets are safe in my vault, because not even I have the combination.

Unfortunately, I can sometimes remember stories, but not who told them to me. This may result in your having to listen to me relate a story that sounds vaguely familiar, in other words, a twist on your very own story - although I will be oblivious to that fact. Just smile and nod, it's the polite thing to do.

However, it doesn't mean that I'll forget your birthday. That's what planners are for. I can't guarantee that I'll remember to look in it, but in general I will remember your birthday. One of my friends (and we've known each other for 18 years) has a birthday in October, but every time September 22nd rolls around - I call to wish her a happy birthday. I'm so thoughtful, I'm a whole month early!

If I say I'll do something for you, it's because I really want to do it. You just might have to call and remind me, that's all. I would love to make you a meal when you've just had a baby, or surgery, or the absolute worst day. I would love to bring you hand-dipped chocolates, your favorite magazine, or some beautiful stationery when you're layed up with a sick child, a migraine, a domestic snafu (ie. broken appliance, flooded basement), or just because. Just make sure to tell me to write it down, it ought to increase the chance of me remembering it by about 50%.

Do you remember the song from the movie Ghostbusters? The one that goes like this: "Who you gonna call - Ghostbusters!" I am that song. You're going to call me when the chips are down,
because I will help you, or at least I know someone who can.

As far as knowing when to listen or give advice, intuition and strong teeth are very useful. Sometimes you are just bursting with advice - you think you know exactly what your friend should do to solve her problems, but usually you should just bite your tongue, offer a listening ear, and make understanding noises. Most of the time, a better friend acts as a sounding board.

There are few instances when I step in and offer advice, so few they are limited to giving referrals (for pediatricians, specialists, and stylists), recommending household products, and telling you when to Get Gephardt.

I know you're smart and all that, but there are several times when you should definitely bite your tongue, even to the point of drawing blood.

Never offer advice in marital spats or lover's quarrels, (unless someone is being physically harmed) it will come back to haunt you. It is not the time to jump in with, "I never thought Dipwad was good enough for you anyway." Your friend will get over being mad at her significant other, but she'll most likely remember what you said about Dipwad and might even tell him, yikes!

Never impune her taste in clothes, even if she asks you to be honest with her. You may save her from a fashion faux pas, but things will never be the same. Seriously, do not fall for the old, "Do these jeans make me look fat?" trick.

Never try to one-up your friend's suffering. She will not take kindly to any sentence prefaced with, "You think that's bad, I...." This is your turn to smile and nod, it's the polite (& understanding) thing to do.

And one last thing, you must do all this while being 100% genuinely concerned and interested in your friend or none of it applies.

Anything I overlooked?
This post was written for the Mommy Zabs “These 3 Things” Group Writing Project. I found out about it after the deadline, but I wanted to write to this prompt anyway. Check out the other entries.


Summer said...

This is a great post Corrie. I thought about writing mine on friendship but didn't know quite how to go about it. I wouldn't have done as well as this anyway.
I have a few friends to whom I listen and smile and nod as they relate stories I've heard time and time again. But I don't mind really, they seem to add in new details every time. :)

mommy zabs said...

Truly great advise. This blog is great too. It sounds like with your experience you probably have much wisdom to impart to the rest of us!! God Bless you! Thank you for joining, even if late :) While you won't be eligible for the prize, I'll still post your link so others can read!

Kansas A said...

This is an excellent post! I think your "one-up" paragraph is perfect. I just wish I had the guts to send it to "what was a great friend and who is now not" person I know :)

Am'n2deep said...

Great post! I have been thinking a lot lately about the just listening vs. giving advice, or worse defending the opposite view--especially when someone is struggling and just really needs to be heard and accepted for their feelings. It's not about being right, it's about being a friend. Maybe I need some new friends. Wanna be mine?

b. said...

This is one of my favorite posts of yours ever. So wise....
ps. I really like you.

Corrie said...

Summer - I sometimes wonder if I'm headed for Alzheimer's already, but then I realize that it's just 'Mommy brain' (it can only hold so much, and I'm pretty near capacity now).

Corrie said...

mommy z - thx for the link. On the wisdom thing, not so much. I'm definitely a remedial student in the school of life.

Corrie said...

kansas - it just wouldn't be satisfying to send it, those kind of people never think you are talking about them:)

Corrie said...

am'n2 - glad to have you. Playing devil's advocate is hardly ever popular, eh? Sure, I'd love to be your friend, as long as you realize you may be smiling and nodding a lot;)

Corrie said...

b. - (I so stole your comments reply method-you know what they say about imitation), I love being wise, even if it's only 'virtually'

Hopefully, one day the wisdom will come for real.

Elizabeth-W said...

Okay so when we meet up in a few weeks I'm going to be totally neurotic now--Did I talk too much about myself? Maybe I shouldn't have told her her skirt was tucked into her hose...
Then again.......maybe I could 'remind' you that you offered to buy dinner for us :)

Great post!!!

Corrie said...

first of all - I never wear hose (for that reason)
second, I'm pretty much full of it and third, what was I saying...?

Is your mom & sis gonna come? Holy moly, I'm gonna have to watch my language.

athena said...

LOL, one of my best friends is a tongan, and when you have a maori and a tongan as friends smiling and nodding is near non-existent unless it includes sitting at the table eating. i swear we don't even listen to each other, it's just full on table tennis advice on who can speak the loudest. this is the only time you will ever see me with someone outside my immediate family being so loud and animated. kinda embarrassing come to think of it.

Corrie said...

Athena - are you saying it's only quiet when there's food involved?

Animation is great! I think it shows you're really comfortable with that person

athena said...

unfortunately that's how most polynesians were/are raised. meal times are for eating, my dad would say, not for talking. LOL. i remember trying to share something and my dad told me to "shut-up and eat." it might sound bad but it was actually quite funny (partly because i use to talk a lot of nonsense).

Corrie said...

My dad probably would've liked to tell us to shut up and eat lots of times.