Hello, and happy Friday to you!
Friendships work because two people discover that they enjoy spending time together, and the more time they spend together, the better they understand each other. One of the best aspects of long-standing and particularly close friendships is that we take pride in our complete knowledge of the other person.
Knowing how your friends feel about certain things allows you to anticipate their responses to given situations in a way that reflects how you feel about them; remembering things about their preferences shows that you care. Here’s a very basic example: my friends know that I can’t stand Keira Knightley, so when they look through a list of potential films for us to see at the cinema, they tend to skip anything with her name in the credits.
This understanding of another person is great for things like choosing how you spend your time together, picking out excellent birthday presents and preventing them from ingesting things that they’re fatally allergic to. We recommend books, films, music, websites and even other friends based on our understanding of how the people we love are likely to respond to stuff, and this can be an amazing thing.
Knowing someone really well can also be a bit of a trap, because after a certain amount of time we start to assume that we can anticipate their reactions to almost anything, but the thing is that people can always surprise you. Think about it from your own perspective: you as a person are constantly changing and growing, forming new opinions based on your experiences of life, and developing your perspective on the world every single day. Your friends are doing exactly the same thing, and what might have been true of them a year ago may no longer be applicable. (“I thought you loved How I Met Your Mother?” “I did, but Lily’s starting to grate on me a bit. Can we watch Grand Designs instead?”)
It is a mistake to assume that you can predict with one hundred percent accuracy how your friends will feel in a given situation. Particularly in extreme circumstances like bereavement or stress, people can react in all sorts of ways that do not reflect their day-to-day persona. If we limit our imaginations and expect a certain type of behaviour from our friends, we are doing them a disservice. Our friends deserve the opportunity to think and feel whatever comes naturally to them, and if it isn’t what we were expecting then we should just respond out of what we can still be sure of: our love and respect for them.
If it were you in that situation, you would want the same thing, wouldn’t you? If you woke up tomorrow and decided that you want to completely change your career (for example), you wouldn’t want your best friend to cry “but you’ve always wanted to be a sales data analyst!” You would want them to say “tree surgery sounds awesome”. It does sound awesome, actually. I may have missed my calling…
Have an utterly delightful weekend.