The Japanese have a term, kenzoku, which translated literally means “family.” The connotation suggests a bond between people who’ve made a similar commitment and who possibly therefore share a similar destiny. It implies the presence of the deepest connection of friendship, of lives lived as comrades from the distant past.
Many of us have people in our lives with whom we feel the bond described by the word kenzoku. They may be family members, a mother, a brother, a daughter, a cousin. Or a friend from secondary school or university with whom we haven’t talked in decades. Time and distance do nothing to diminish the bond we have with these kinds of friends.
The question then arises: why do we have the kind of chemistry encapsulated by the word kenzoku with only a few people we know and not scores of others? The closer we look for the answer the more elusive it becomes. It may not in fact be possible to know, but the characteristics that define a kenzoku relationship most certainly are.
WHAT DRAWS PEOPLE TOGETHER AS FRIENDS?
A. Common interests. This probably ties us closer to our friends than many would like to admit. When our interests diverge and we can find nothing to enjoy jointly, time spent together tends to rapidly diminish. Not that we can’t still care deeply about friends with whom we no longer share common interests, but it’s probably uncommon for such friends to interact on a regular basis.
History. Nothing ties people together, even people with little in common, than having gone through the same difficult experience. As the sole glue to keep friendships whole in the long run, however, it often dries, cracks, and ultimately fails.
B. Common values. Though not necessarily enough to create a friendship, if values are too divergent, it’s difficult for a friendship to thrive.
C. Equality. If one friend needs the support of the other on a consistent basis such that the person depended upon receives no benefit other than the opportunity to support and encourage, while the relationship may be significant and valuable, it can’t be said to define a true friendship.
WHAT MAKES A FRIEND WORTHY OF THE NAME?
A commitment to your happiness. A true friend is consistently willing to put your happiness before your friendship. It’s said that “good advice grates on the ear,” but a true friend won’t refrain from telling you something you don’t want to hear, something that may even risk fracturing the friendship, if hearing it lies in your best interest. A true friend will not lack the mercy to correct you when you’re wrong. A true friend will confront you with your drinking problem as quickly as inform you about a malignant-looking skin lesion on your back that you can’t see yourself.
Not asking you to place the friendship before your principles. A true friend won’t ask you to compromise your principles in the name of your friendship or anything else. Ever.
A good influence. A true friend inspires you to live up to your best potential, not to indulge your basest drives.
Of course, we may have friends who fit all these criteria and still don’t quite feel kenzoku. There still seems to be an extra factor, an attraction similar to that which draws people together romantically, that cements friends together irrevocably, often immediately, for no reason either person can identify. But when you find these people, these kenzoku, they’re like priceless gems. They’re like finding home.
HOW TO ATTRACT TRUE FRIENDS
This one is easy, at least on paper: become a true friend yourself. One of my favorite quotations comes from Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be the friend you want to have. We all tend to attract people into our lives whose character mirrors our own. You don’t have to make yourself into what you think others would find attractive. No matter what your areas of interest, others share them somewhere. Simply make yourself a big target. Join social clubs organized around activities you enjoy. Leverage the Internet to find people of like mind. Take action.
As I thought about it, there are some people in my life I consider kenzoku. How many do you?
As we grow, we realize it becomes less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones.
Remember, life is kind of like a party. You invite a lot of people, some leave early, some stay all night, some laugh with you, some laugh at you, and some show up really late. But in the end, after the fun, there are a few who stay to help you clean up the mess. And most of the time, they aren’t even the ones who made the mess. These people are your real friends in life. They are the ones who matter most.
Here are 15 things real friends do differently:
1. They face problems together. – A person who truly knows and loves you – a real friend – is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else still believes the smile on your face. Don’t look for someone who will solve all your problems; look for someone who will face them with you.
2. They give what they can because they truly care. – One of the biggest challenges in relationships comes from the fact that many of us enter a relationship in order to get something. We try to find someone who’s going to make us feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last, and give us joy in the long-term, is if we see our relationship as a place we go to give, and not just a place we go to take. Yes, of course it is okay to take something from a relationship too. But both sides should be giving. It can only be a ‘give and take’ if BOTH SIDES are GIVING. That’s the key.
3. They make time for each other. – It’s obvious, but any relationship without any face time is going to have problems. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot in someone’s life. Never force someone to make a space in their life for you, because if they truly care about you, they will create one for you.
4. They offer each other freedom. – A healthy relationship keeps the doors and windows wide open. Plenty of air is circulating and no one feels trapped. Relationships thrive in this environment. Keep your doors and windows open. If this person is meant to be in your life, all the open doors and windows in the world won’t make them leave.
5. They communicate effectively. – It’s been said many times before, but it’s true: great communication is the cornerstone of a great relationship. If you have resentment, you must talk it out rather than let the resentment grow. If you are jealous, you must communicate in an open and honest manner to address your insecurities. If you have expectations of your partner, you must communicate them. If there are any problems whatsoever, you must communicate them and work them out. And communicate more than just problems – communicate the good things too.
6. They accept each other as is. – Trying to change a person never works. People know when they are not accepted in their entirety, and it hurts. A real friend is someone who truly knows you, and loves you just the same. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you. If you feel like changing something about your friend, ask yourself what change you can make in yourself instead.
7. They are genuine, and expect genuineness. – As Leo F. Buscaglia once said, “Never idealize others. They will never live up to your expectations. Don’t over-analyze your relationships. Stop playing games. A growing relationship can only be nurtured by genuineness.” Don’t play games with people’s heads and hearts. Remember, love and friendship don’t hurt. Lying, cheating and screwing with people’s feelings and emotions hurts. Always be open, honest, and genuine. (Read The Mastery of
8. They compromise. – Real friends meet in the middle. When there’s a disagreement, they work out a solution that works for both parties – a compromise, rather than a need for the other person to change or completely give in.
9. They support each other’s growth changes. – Our needs change with time. When someone says, “You’ve changed,” it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it just means you grown. Don’t apologize for it. Instead, be open and sincere, explain how you feel, and keep doing what you know in your heart is right.
10. They believe in each other. – Simply believing in another person, and showing it in your words and deeds, can make a huge difference in their life. Studies of people who grew up in dysfunctional homes but who grew up to be happy and successful show that the one thing they had in common was someone who believed in them. Do this for those you care about. Support their dreams and passions and hobbies. Participate with them. Cheer for them. Be nothing but encouraging. Whether they actually accomplish these dreams or not, your belief is of infinite importance to them.
11. They maintain realistic expectations of their relationship. – No one is happy all the time. Friends must keep realistic expectations of each other. Notice when you’re projecting something onto the other person that has nothing to do with them, like a fear from a past relationship, and then make an effort to let it go. Recognize when you’re looking for that person to do something for you that you need to do for yourself, like making you feel lovable or take care of your needs, and then release those expectations and do it for yourself.
12. They honor each other in small ways on a regular basis. – Honor your important relationships in some way every chance you get. Every day you have the opportunity to make your relationship sweeter and deeper by making small gestures to show your appreciation and affection. Remember, making one person smile can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. Your kindness and gratitude matters. Make an effort to really listen – not just wait to talk. See the other person as if for the first time. It’s all too easy to take someone for granted. Really notice all the wonderful things they do, and let them know what you see.
13. They listen, and they hear every word. – Giving a person a voice, and showing them that their words matter, will have a long-lasting impact on them. Less advice is often the best advice. People don’t need lots of advice, they need a listening ear and some positive reinforcement. What they want to know is often already somewhere inside of them. They just need time to think, be and breathe, and continue to explore the undirected journeys that will eventually help them find their direction.
14. They keep their promises. – Your word means everything. If you say you’re going to do something, DO IT! If you say you’re going to be somewhere, BE THERE! If you say you feel something, MEAN IT! If you can’t, won’t, and don’t, then DON’T LIE. Real friends keep promises and tell the truth upfront.
15. They stick around. – The sad truth is that there are some people who will only be there for you as long as you have something they need. When you no longer serve a purpose to them, they will leave. The good news is, if you tough it out, you’ll eventually weed these people out of your life and be left with some great people you can count on. We rarely lose friends and lovers, we just gradually figure out who our real ones are.
Be the change you seek!
#Get Your Brain Back!
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