From The Daniel Island News
Do you have many (ok, any) 50/50 friends?
By Steve Ferber
Aug 7, 2013 - 9:47:30 AM
A few months ago a good friend posed this question to me, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What exactly did he mean by 50/50?
To my friend’s way of thinking, 50/50 is the essence of a balanced relationship – a relationship where two friends balance their effort, their interest (in each other’s lives) and their talk time. Two people, two listeners, two questioners, two people who care deeply about each other, yet two individuals who recognize that, at times, one friend needs more nurturing than the other, as life circumstances dictate.
It also means two individuals willing to open up to each other, in a meaningful way – allowing each other to pull the curtain back on their private lives, and private thoughts, in a way that says, in essence: “I trust you to understand, and to listen to my triumphs and challenges, and not to judge me in any way. To just support me.”
That, I suppose, is a 50/50 friend. It’s not about literal talk time (though over time, I suppose, a 50/50 balance sounds desirable). Instead, it’s probably more about a genuine interest in the other person’s life, and daily travails.
Now, knowing that, I re-pose the question to you: Do you have many 50/50 friends? And how do you go about cultivating those relationships?
As a lifelong reporter, I was trained to ask questions, and that certainly has carried over to my social life. A friend once told me that I ask more questions that anyone he knows (I wasn’t sure if he was complimenting me, or criticizing me, so I decided to assume the former). My professional training aside, my desire in asking questions* is simply to learn – to learn more about what goes on in other people’s lives (as I often share, I already know what I’m doing, so sharing it with others isn’t particularly growth-producing).
For good or for bad, in social settings, my ear is attuned to what I call the “bounce-back,” that is, when a person bounces back a question to you, and listens with interest (side note: as I’m sure you’ve experienced, a bounce-back question doesn’t always connote true interest – sometimes it simply serves as a personal segue – for example, recall a time when someone asked you: “Have you seen any good movies lately?” and immediately told you about the movie they just saw, in notable detail).
On the subject of relationships, Dr. John Grohol (founder and CEO of PsychCentral) explained:
“Relationships tend to function best when they are in a state of balance (or homeostasis), however, the task of achieving a healthy balance in our relationships is more easily said than done — especially if we didn’t grow up with healthy role models in these areas.”
Said good friend and Island neighbor Lee Picciuto:
“A 50/50 relationship means that each party is genuinely interested in the other party’s experience – even if they do not personally have an interest in certain aspects of a person's life – i.e., I take care to inquire about my middle brother's hunting pursuits – not my thing, but it's a big part of his life, and in order to understand him, I need to get the full story . . .”
Offered psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker, writing for PsychCentral.com:
“Real friends are obligated to each other in a meaningful way. To be a friend is to accept the gift of another’s trust with the appreciation and trustworthiness such a gift deserves. It requires the willingness to devote time, energy, and thought to the other person’s needs and desires as well as to our own.”
Hartwell-Walker offers 7 tips for maintaining strong friendships: 1. Keep in contact; 2. Don’t keep score; 3. Keep it balanced; 4. Be loyal; 5. Remember their birthday (little things count); 6. Deal with conflict; and 7. Be a fan.
“Good friends feel equal in the relationship. When a friendship is healthy, roles shift easily. They share stories. They listen attentively. They treat and are treated. They look to each other for wisdom without feeling inferior for doing so. They share their opinions without feeling superior. Neither person feels taken for granted, put down, or put on a pedestal. True companions in life walk side by side.”
*of late, two of my favorite open-ended questions are: “What’s new in your world?” and “What’s best?” This second question flows from a passage in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” in which the author explains the illimitable difference between “What’s new?” and “What’s best?”
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