Is there an agenda for friendship? The term “agenda” is so often used negatively (as in “hidden agenda”) that the idea of a friendship agenda might seem cold or even devious. An agenda, though, is just a plan; whether it’s devious, compassionate, or neutral is up to the creator.
Now, it’s probably not helpful to start writing out agendas, complete with to-do lists, for your friendships! In fact, friendships often seem to just “happen,” without intervention or initiative on our part. We might not give a thought to what causes good friendships to start, much less what keeps them going.
However, if you are interested in improving or expanding your friendships, it’s useful to think about just what it is that makes for a successful friendship. Exactly what actions or characteristics lead to friends getting along well? Take a look at this “agenda” for friends, nothing hidden!
1. People get along better when they don’t try to control each other. That’s a foundation of reality therapy that applies to friendships and other relationships.
2. Friends find common ground that satisfies both people. While you may have become acquainted with someone because you live in the same neighbourhood, it may not be till you learn of your shared interest in collecting pink teddy bears that you find a common ground that works for both of you. Something in the relationship has to work for both if it’s to continue as a satisfying, successful relationship.
3. There’s unconditional caring and regard for each other in a successful friendship. That is, the connection is not based on “if-then” (as in, “if she does this, then we can continue to be friends.”) Instead, the underlying basis is more like, “We’re friends, no matter what.”
4. Sharing is reasonably equal. While you don’t want to keep a tally, in a satisfying friendship, both people contribute, whether it’s sharing time, effort, fun, or vulnerability.
5. Each person is genuinely pleased when something positive occurs in the other’s life. That is, we find delight in the delight of our friends, without jealousy or resentment. A friend wants to see her friends happy!
6. There’s no place for manipulation and coercion in a satisfying friend relationship. Rather than, “I’ll do this for him so he’ll have to do that for me,” there’s, “I’d like to see him get this, maybe I can help make it happen.” Your actions for your friend are out of regard and a wish to delight, not a sense of obligation and “I have to.”
These agenda items apply throughout the whole gamut of friendships, from casual friendships to intimate loving relationships.
In the next few columns, I’ll offer a reality therapy perspective on agendas for other types of relationships, based on information adapted from Ellen Gélinas, senior faculty at the William Glasser Institute. We’ll look at agendas to help develop successful work, school, and coaching or mentoring relationships.
What do you think of these friendship agenda items? Do they apply to your friendships?
This article is the first in a series on agendas. The next article in this series is here.