Positive and respectful relationships
A society is a large group of people who live together in an organised way via rights, laws, institutions, values, and a vast web of relationships.
Societies recognise that it is human nature to seek relationships with others. Our relationships are essential to our identity and well-being, but not always easy or free of conflict.
Positive and respectful relationships require effort to develop and maintain but the rewards far outweigh the effort, for individuals and the broader society.
What does a respectful friendship look like?
Friendships are relationships that we value and want to nurture and grow.
From the outside, a respectful friendship can be identified by positive behaviour, but it’s what we can’t see about a friendship that has the biggest impact.
A good friend makes us feel a sense of personal well-being and acceptance. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more likely to want to ensure that we enable others to experience similar positive feelings.
The signs that you are in a healthy and respectful friendship include:
- genuinely caring about each other
- enjoy hanging out together
- respect each other’s time as valuable
- interest in each other’s thoughts and concerns
- support each other through difficult times
- respect each other’s opinions and beliefs
- trust and encourage each other
- show gratitude for the friendship.
Healthy relationships require boundaries. A healthy and respectful friendship is one where we are able to maintain control over our own needs and values, and not be subject to unnecessary influence or judgement.
Boundaries recognise that we all have unique identities and allow us to separate who we are and what we think, feel and need, from those of others.
Constant people-pleasing may mean that your needs aren’t getting met. If you feel uncomfortable or unable to communicate your needs, this will have a negative impact on both you and your friendship.
Feeling able to speak up and talk to your friends about what is valuable to you is really important.
IT’S OK TO SAY NO
You have every right to say ‘no’ and to change your mind even after you have said ‘yes’. Your friends also have the same right.
For example, your friends all want to meet up on Saturday afternoon to see a movie, but you already have plans for Saturday. You don’t mind missing out on the movie and you encourage your friends to go without you. But they insist you should change your plans and come to the movie. At first this might make you feel needed, but they are ignoring your stated preference. You feel pressured and eventually agree to change your plans.
It is your right to say no and others should respect that.
Saying no to your friends can be hard but it does get easier with time and practice. A great way to start is by having a think about the rules you would like to live by and then practicing saying no.
- I don’t want to see that movie, but I hope you all have a great time.
- I don’t check social media after 9 so I won’t respond to messages.
- Thanks for asking, but I’d rather not talk about that.
- Can you move over a little? I feel a bit crowded in.
To set your boundaries in a friendship, tune into what makes you feel uneasy. No-one else can tell you how you should feel in any given situation. Your friends might not be aware that their actions are compromising your boundaries. Try and find a way to talk to them about how you feel.
Nurturing relationships through technology
Mobile devices mean that we can easily interact with our friends at any time. ‘See you tomorrow’ doesn’t mean you won’t contact each other until the next day.
This ability to extend interactions has changed the nature of friendships. We are much more connected to each other. When we see or hear something we want to share with a friend, we can do it. If we feel in need of support, we can reach out.
Friendships can be deepened and strengthened as we share more details about ourselves and our lives.
IMPORTANT: the rules that apply for having healthy relationships offline also apply to our online interactions.
Technology can be a double-edged sword. While it allows us to grow and strengthen our close friendships, it can also introduce problems.
Text-based conversations can be taken the wrong way when you can’t see the other person’s body language or facial expressions.
Personal information can be shared without permission. A private conversation can be shared with a group, as can personal images and videos.
If your friendship group also hangs out online, you should all agree on group rules to keep the interactions respectful.
- agree what sorts of photos can be shared online and whether you want to be tagged
- private conversations are not shared without permission
- no ganging-up, even if it seems like just a bit of fun
- be respectful of a person’s identity and don’t share hurtful or offensive posts
- look out for each other in interactions with other people and groups.
Healthy and respectful friendships are essential for a positive sense of self and well-being. The things that make us feel good about ourselves in real life have the same effect from our online interactions, and the reverse is also true.