One of the highest compliments anyone has ever paid me is this… “He’s real. He always treats you the same, no matter where you see him.”
That ranks as a high compliment to me because, when I think of my best friends in life, I realize that this is one of the characteristics which makes them great friends. They are REAL! Authentic. Genuine.
You and I have met people who act one way around some people and differently around others. I understand that certain situations call for certain decorum or protocol. But even within that, our attitude and demeanor can remain consistent. It takes someone who doesn’t feel like they have “put on airs” around those they think are more special and who treats people some would count as “less than” with respect to be real.
Another facet of being real which makes someone a great friend is the ability to be vulnerable… to expose their own weaknesses. Most people are too busy trying to convince themselves and others that they have it all together to be a great friend. They think that people won’t like them or accept them if they have issues or problems. But it is really just the opposite. People like it when someone is brave enough to show the “chinks in their armor.” It lets others know that they are like them… that they can relate.
It’s this openness and authenticity which opens the the door for great friendships.
Did you know that more people read and respond to the posts I make on here when I open up and share a struggle I’ve faced in life? Why is that? It is because we all want to feel like we’re normal in the face of what we often feel are abnormal situations. So, when someone who claims to be your friend shares openly about a challenge they have faced or are facing, you realize that you have something in common which connects you. And the bond of friendship is now able to form more strongly.
How Relationships Work
I didn’t know this for a long time, but learned it in college. Relationships form as both people in the relationship open up and reveal more of themselves to each other. Think about it this way…
I walk into a coffee shop where you are. We’ve never met, but I nod at you and smile. You smile back. We’ve both just opened up… very slightly. While we wait for our coffee, I say “Hello. How are you today?” You reply, “Hi there. Fine, thanks for asking.” We both just opened up a little more. I introduce myself, “My name is Allen.” You respond, “Nice to meet you, Allen,” but don’t offer your name. At this point, I opened up a little more, but you did not. Most likely, the relationship stops there and we go our separate ways.
But suppose you reply, “Great to meet you, Allen. My name is ________________ (please fill in the blank). I’m a general contractor. What do you do for a living?” Now you just opened up beyond the level to which I have opened up. This lets me know that it is safe to reveal a little more of myself to you because you went first.
The way that relationships grow, flourish and turn into great friendships is that both people continue to open up and are real with each other. The way relationships die is that one or both of the people does not reciprocate when the other person is real.
If you’ll stop right now and think about your best friends in the world… you’ll realize that what you share is time spent together opening up to each other. You share embarrassing moments and difficult details… but you don’t tell other people. You know each other deeply… because you’ve both been real, genuine, authentic with each other.
As we lay out a checklist for ourselves this week to see where our progress is on the growth chart of being a great friend, let’s be sure to add the quality of being real. Great friends are real. Are you?