What is “friendfluence“?
According to Carlin Flora, the author of the new book of the same name, friendfluence is “the powerful and often underappreciated role that friends — past and present — play in determining our sense of self and the direction of our lives.”
I think all of us — particularly mothers, who rely on other moms for support, advice, and a little sanity — understand that friendship is critical. And our HerStories: Tales of Friendship project is all about giving a voice to the endless ways that female friendship impacts our lives.
However, based on her research for her book, as well as several years as a writer and editor for Psychology Today, Flora has identified several facts about friendship that many of us might not know. And an awareness of these facts can help mothers to develop stronger friendships, to become better friends themselves, and to help their children be better friends as well. She was generous enough to answer my questions about her book in an online interview.
Here are several of her tips:
1. Don’t let small resentments build up and blow up. In friendships, women are more likely than men — because they are raised to be “conflict-averse” — to let small slights and insults go unmentioned.
But Carlin states that these emotional injuries do not disappear for women: “They are so afraid to mention small slights and hurts to friends in fear of a blow-up that the the negative feelings fester until, ironically, the friendship does blow up or is irrevocably damaged.”
2. Differentiate between “close” friends and “acquaintances.” In the age of social media, it’s easy to pay just as much attention to your best friend’s news on Facebook as a casual acquaintance’s.
Yet Flora cautions that treating all friends equally might not be good for anyone. According to Flora, “We have to remind ourselves that there is a hierarchy–and close friendships should be nurtured more actively than other connections.”
3. Don’t spend so much time on Facebook. Have you ever looked at your Facebook friends’ status updates and wonder why everyone you know is doing something fabulous, while your life is so boring and unaccomplished?
“Spending a lot of time on Facebook, according to a few studies,” states Flora, “is correlated with feeling envious of friends and less satisfied with your own life. We forget that most people only advertise the good stuff on social media–they don’t paint us a complete picture of their struggles and challenges.” In other words, remember your high school friend (probably) isn’t posting all about her failed attempt at dinner, her fight with her husband, or the 20 pounds she has gained since last year.
4. Teach your children that friendship skills can be taught and practiced. Flora suggests that we should teach our children directly about the importance of being a good and giving friend to others.
Flora found from her research that “some kids make friends naturally, because they intuitively understand how to insert themselves into games on the playground, for instance, or how to express disappointment with a friend without getting too angry or aggressive. Other kids need some coaching. The great news is that even just one friend can have a very positive impact on a kid’s mental health. All you need is one!”
5. Don’t tell your kid to ignore what everybody else is doing. Kids will always be sensitive to peer group norms. Telling them to ignore the crowd is futile, especially since peer pressure can be a good thing. If you have concerns about your child’s friend, Flora suggests that you “invite them over more and exert your own positive influence, rather than forbidding her from seeing them.”
6. It’s not good for kids if you ignore your own friendships. Flora advises that parents make time for their own friends and make sure that they spend time around their kids. “You’ll model the importance of nurturing friendships AND you’ll give your kids a close-up view of other lifestyles and occupations that might be different from yours but that might resonate more with them.”
By reading Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are, you’ll learn a lot more about how friendships affect our choices, day to day lives, and even our health. Stay tuned next week, when we’ll be offering a chance to win this book!
Today’s we’re also thanking our friends for supporting and adding so much to our lives! Be sure to go to Stephanie’s Mommy, For Real site or Facebook page and write a thank you note to a friend! Why are you thankful for your friends?