Your post-pandemic people: Which friendships do you want to occupy your new social world?

What a treat is was to talk about this on live national television. A huge thank you to CTV's Your Morning for helping me teach psychological concepts to a larger audience.

While COVID has been traumatic and tragic for many of us, the pandemic did provide a moment for pause and reflection. It has given us a rare opportunity to re-evaluate and potentially re-structure many spheres of our lives, including our friendships. But, re-organizing our ‘friendscape’ does not have to be about keeping or purging – it can also be about allowing for different friendship tiers – a layer cake of different flavors, if you will, to be honoured in unique ways. Some friends will be in the foreground, some in the middle ground, and some will be in the background and all of that is ok. I’ve had conversations with clients who are a little rigid about friendships. “It’s either we are good friends, or we are no friends at all,” is the motto. I say, let’s be a bit lighter and allow for many different categories instead of defining friendships in two polarized boxes.

For anyone who wants some guidance as they re-structure their social world, here are five characteristics of good foreground friendships.

1) RECIPROCITY

As we all know, reciprocity is a balance between giving and receiving. And we’ve likely discovered that we must back away from the person who takes up all the oxygen in the room or who is too self-focused to ask you about your grandmother who just died last month. But too many of us overlook the detrimental effects of ‘giving’ too much. The person who over-functions, self-sacrifices, and bends over backwards is doing themselves a disservice and is also doing the friendship a disservice. Burnout is inevitable for this overly generous person and the receiving party may become enabled by the excessive caregiver. (For more on this, go to this post)

2) CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Conflict resolution is the cornerstone of a good friendship, especially when the conflict involves both parties. We want someone who will sit with us through heightened emotions and work towards a solution. We don’t want someone who ghosts us or avoids us during conflict because they feel awkward or uncomfortable. Our friends need to step up to the plate when the going gets tough – this type of honest and open communication is what we all deserve.

3) FLEXIBILITY – OPEN TO CHANGE

It’s normal to feel comfortable with the status quo. But people move, people change jobs, people get re-married. We want our friends to walk next to us during times of change and not hold us back.

4) KNOW YOUR FRIENDSHIP TYPE.

There are some people who like frequent contact and check-ins. There are others who are ok with going months or years without communicating with their friends but somehow, still cherish the friendship. You might want to hold close, the people who (challenge you a little bit but) have similar friendship style, goals, and values.

5) KNOW “YOUR PEOPLE.”

And last, we all have those individuals we label “our people.” Those people who we’ve admired over the years, who’s decisions have always resonated with us, who’s smile just brightens up the day somehow. Of course, these individuals are gems – keep them close.

HOW TO MOVE FORWARD IN FOREGROUND FRIENDSHIPS If you are ready to reach to those foreground friends, go for it. Don’t feel guilty about minimal (or total lack) of contact during COVID. Just address it and make the plan.

HOW TO DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM BACKGROUD (or NO GROUND) FRIENDSHIPS
Do not ghost or avoid anybody you wish to put in the background, please! The best thing to do is to politely decline an invitation here and there, letting them organically fall into the background. But hey, just as some people outgrow each other, you may (or may not) find yourself coming back together sometime in the future. Either way, it’s all ok. Give yourself enough compassion to do what’s right for you, especially in these times of continuous change and adjustment.

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.

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