The Honest Pros & Cons Of Friendship (And What Friends Are Really For)

Photo: Zoran Zeremski / shutterstock
friends hanging out in car

Since it involves close relationships, friendship can be complicated. Beyond the optimistic expectations and associations that often come to mind early on, are pros and cons. 

Paradoxically, both provide keys to creating effective, satisfying relationships. Frankly, facing the realities embedded in each contributes to nurturing worthwhile and sustainable relationships that support what friendship is really for. 

Yet, the value and importance of friendship can be oversold, especially during these times of shifting access to other people, socially and professionally.

The illusion of its simplicity masks how expectations about friendship are often laden with unexpressed hopes and assumptions. They occur especially at the beginning when enthusiasm is high and open communication has yet to test how resilient the connection is.

For example, you may find yourself holding back from expressing your true self and what you’d prefer to receive and do. A tendency to tiptoe a bit inhibits trust-building by postponing being spontaneous and open. That includes avoiding being specific about authentic feelings and concerns. 

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In addition, there are overt and covert agendas, shared or not. Sometimes the participants in friendships are not even aware of their own agendas.

Finally, each person comes to potential friendship with various backgrounds, previous experiences, and needs. Fear of change could perpetuate habit friendships, such as those based primarily on one person’s neediness. That situation can feel safer for the needed person who wants to avoid being rejected or risk developing new relationships.

Such unproductive patterns seep into the relationship, limiting the potential benefits of more balanced friendships.

Though you cannot control or automatically convert an attraction or interest into mutual caring and commitment, you can bring a high enough level of self-awareness to create a friendship for mutual benefit over time. This also avoids behaviors and actions that can subvert the very outcomes you want.

Being alert to the pros and cons of friendship supports savvy choices, as well as bringing forth the concept of what friendship is really for. 

As you read the following pros consider how well your current friendships relate to each relevant one.

Pros Of Friendship

As I hope you already know, the experience and expression of friendship contain pleasures and opportunities. 

Examples of processes of friendship:

When your friendship is flowing relatively smoothly, you’ll notice how insights and enjoyment bloom. 

You are likely to be stimulated by open conversation and learning from one another. A mutual appreciation of one another’s strengths and charms also emerge, especially as specific examples are noted to one another.

Even conflicts tend to be addressed creatively and productively. All these processes encourage growth based on confidence-building and respecting one another’s values and interests.

Examples of products of friendship:

Processes of friendship release different products. When there is mutual support, friends feel reassured and safe. This comfort leads to a sense of relative calm in the frenetic whirl of living. 

More appealing are the pleasure, happiness, and joys in common activities and adventures as well as ideas and insights. 

Assistance with requested counsel and activities flow naturally, as long as there is a relative balance of giving and taking overtime. This guidance also encourages healthy behaviors related to choices and appropriate goals.

Friendships contribute to physical health and balance as well. 

That includes reducing stress and increasing confidence, coping with losses, and mitigating unhealthy habits. Emotional support based on mutual trust is fundamental. 

In the process, you’ll learn more about yourself and develop further interpersonal skills that strengthen other relationships. 

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Cons Of Friendship

I sense you’ve noticed that the cons or disadvantages of friendship also require time and patience. Worthwhile friendships evolve slowly, nurtured by attention and sensitivity to one another as well as empathy. 

Part of that is understanding each other’s complex lives, demands, and responsibilities, and adjusting expectations accordingly.

To do this once in a while, check-in and confirm your own assumptions about how things are going to avoid diminishing or weakening the friendship. Consider it a way to take the temperature of your friendship.

There is a risk of vulnerability in participating in even a good friendship. 

The connection could expose your own areas for improvement, which may be uncomfortable. But ultimately, that becomes a benefit or pro of friendship when you follow through.

Another aspect requires attending to freshening routines and patterns of communication. 

The more variety the better, the more conversation and less texting, the greater chance of understanding and growth. This is especially useful if there is an imbalance in successes and accomplishments which could lead to resentment or perhaps jealousy

In all, the requirements or cons of friendship take work and attention. But many actually contribute to making authentic, healthy friendships worthwhile.

Make friendships strong and sustainable. Stay alert to how much time and energy you can give to a friendship that’s truly open, honest, and balanced in give and take. 

Considering the finite hours in the day, being many people’s “go-to” friend is unrealistic and ultimately wearing and stress-provoking. What flexibility does your life offer for a feasible number of deep, authentic friendships?

To ensure friendships that you have and want are viable and fun, best to be frank with yourself and others about what is possible. 

Then you’ll be more likely to have the engaging, enjoyable experience of what friendship is really for: the bridge to healthy closeness, mutual respect, affection, and continuing growth of participants through learning and reasonable risk.

RELATED: Why You Struggle With Making Friends (And Keeping Them), According To Astrology

Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. She guides clients in accessing their strengths and making visions for current and future work viable. Obtain the bonus first chapter of her seventh book, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future and benefit from your invitation to a free consultation on her website.

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