Summer 2020 was a ride. A very unexpected and a bit scary ride. It brought to us the fluffy peaks of Dalgona Coffee, internalized hysteria over job future prospects, far and few spikes of creativity and endless longing to see a friendly face. Really, it’s something psychologists classify as the base of social harmony-friendship. It has its highs and lows and you must have at some point had to deal with the blaming, arguing, finger-pointing bits only to realize some love is tough love. Friends, in the end, are the people you fight for.
Growing up in the city, curious about the human condition will lead you to people of various genders, identities and preferences. Eventually, you connect with some of them. Everyone has a story to tell and experiences to learn from and may or may not play a part in the way you perceive things, your choices and principles. While we all fight our own battles it often takes an “Us versus Them ” form, with Them being anything from conservatives, radical organizations, the neighbourhood homophobe. A problem with seeing things in black and white is that we fail to realize a lot of our friends and families lie in the gray area between the two. And when the realization hits, the conflict can take a massive toll on our mental health.
So, how do we go about understanding this grey area?
A primary concept crucial to enhancing your relationships is consent. Something that is often left unsaid is the idea of consent when it comes to friendships. Approval, concurrence, boundaries are implied among friends and when these boundaries are misunderstood or overstepped it causes friction in the relationship. Although we may be very close to the people we love and trust, communicating our boundaries to our friends is always an important and rather overlooked part of growing up. So here’s a quick guide on understanding boundaries and being a better friend:
Identify your own boundaries
The first step would be to define your own principles and boundaries. Now these boundaries will undoubtedly vary from person to person. The kind of boundaries you want to set with your friends depends entirely on what you are comfortable with. Maybe you don’t want people in your personal space. Maybe you don’t want your sexuality discussed publicly. Maybe you don’t feel like bringing it up over a cup of coffee. Maybe you do want to talk to someone about it. Maybe you do try to befriend people like yourself. Maybe you don’t care. But these boundaries guide your decisions and choices, and ultimately the human connection and the quality of your relationships. What is needed, in actuality, is a sense of social accountability.
Understand your friend’s boundaries
While establishing your boundaries it’s also important to understand your friends’, understand where they come from and treat them with respect. Differences exist, depending on how you grew up and what you know. It’s easy to brush off ignorance as an excuse but if you try to understand why people are the way they are, you might be able to establish more genuine relationships with them.
Respect these boundaries
You might have friends that are non-binary, friends that are pansexual, friends that are aromantic and friends that are all of three. If your friends identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community, make an effort to learn about it. Don’t force them to talk about it if they aren’t comfortable, don’t casually out them others, don’t overstep their personal boundaries. Just be there for your friend and have their back.
Communicate the boundaries to avoid future conflict
The ability to communicate was a catalyst in human evolution. But we often only tend to notice our boundaries once they have been breached.
“That joke you made about me was kind of insensitive.” “The kind of constant interrogation they do about my sexuality makes me feel like I have neon arrows pointed at me.” “Oh, my friend should’ve had the basic decency not to out me.” This is not the ideal scenario but it is not black and white either. Once the boundaries have been communicated, everyone can learn something out of it.
A decade ago we didn’t understand terms like queer and non-binary. Then came the laughing, careless years of college and we ended up somewhere different, ended up being someone different. We will keep learning throughout our lives. It’s eye-opening and liberating, so don’t give up on people unless they give you a reason to. After all, friends are the family you choose.