The holidays are a rough time for people. Combined with the overt consumerist mentality, the packing in of family members into your not-big- enough house, and your friends seemingly “forgetting” to invite you to their Christmas party– being in your early twenties during the holiday season is hard. Let’s not dispute that with so much love in your life, you can also face the weight of other people’s baggage. I know I can get caught up in that nonsense quite a bit, and it ends up hurting my relationships.

Friendships require work, too. And let’s skip the “this isn’t true for me” rhetoric, okay? At one point or another in your life, you probably have had an issue with one friend or another, and you’ve probably racked your head asking “What do I do to get through to this person?” Well, not to fear! I am here to provide some guidance for this 2019 Holiday season. So Merry Christmas, Happy late Diwali, here’s 5 tips on how to be a good friend.

I need to preface this by saying that I am not a therapist, but just a girl who likes to process communication tactics and mechanisms to improve the relationships in my life. I am by no means an expert. So take what you will from this article with a grain of salt.

Be really real with yourself
Are you having an issue with a friend? What’s the issue? Take a step back, and reevaluate if it’s really you or them. Stop talking trash– hear me out– just for a second, and ask yourself what you want to gain out of this friendship. If the answer is that you need to shape up and make a compromise, then be the adult and do that. Our early 20s are so difficult because we are going from being children to becoming full-fledged adults. So try to keep that in mind when addressing issues

Set Boundaries
Recently, Twitter was all aflutter because of a boundary-setting controversy. It began with a therapist suggesting that friendships need boundaries too, and everyone went too far with it. While I agree that friendships don’t necessarily need the robotic and well-rehearsed boundary speeches that therapists have with clients, the most discomfort comes from friendships when there is miscommunication. Friends don’t usually want to hurt their friends. This article from Vice highlights the importance of setting boundaries, how to set them, and how to maintain them too. One way I do this is to journal everything out first and then piece together with a loved one who knows me best just what exactly I expect from my friends. Sometimes it’s hard to know what you need from your friends before you get hurt. Identify that pain, and address it using good boundary setting mechanisms.

Be open to feedback
On the opposite end of boundary setting, you also have to be okay with getting feedback on your friendships. It’s difficult and uncomfortable to acknowledge that you might have done something wrong, but just like being a good partner, being a good friend is about growing as a friend. This article is a good resource on how to have that conversation with a friend with whom you may be having a rough time. It’s really easy to get defensive when someone calls you out, but it’s important to keep that defensiveness to a minimum in order to achieve reconciliation. There are a lot of Instagram accounts that I personally find really helpful with examples and tactics on how to approach difficult conversations. The two I’ve used are @thebraincoach & @nedratawwab; these Instagram accounts are a wonderful and accessible way to prepare yourself for a difficult conversation.

Recognize that not everything is fixable
You don’t need to always keep everyone in your life at all times. Some people ebb and flow. You can love them all the same, but you don’t need to constantly fix problems that are straining to you. And if something is not fixable at the moment, and it takes too much out of you to fix it, then it’s okay to take a break. Turn to your support network, and ask for their guidance. You do not need to do everything yourself.

It’s okay to not be friends anymore– after you try to fix it
Look. I’m 22 years old. And at this point in my life, in a huge, transitory phase, I have come to realize that not everyone is meant to make it to the finish line with you. And that’s okay. The most important thing is that it doesn’t need to be some dramatic falling out. If you have tried and tried again, and the friend just won’t respect your boundaries, then you need to ask yourself if it’s still worth it. I am a firm believer that if there is negativity in your life, then you need to find the solution for it. And if the solution is reconciliation– great! I hope that it is. If it isn’t, and you just need to move on, then move on. Life is too short to keep being friends with people who bring misery to your heart.

Friendships are wonderful things. They are bonds that make you grow, and we– rightfully– put heavy stock in them. Friends are chosen family, and that means something. So, this holiday season, respect yourself. Respect your friends. Set boundaries, ask for boundaries from your loved ones, and love one another enough to be honest. That’s what the holidays are all about right? Hard conversations that we would rather ignore?

Jokes aside, you don’t deserve to be in relationships that are not benefiting you. I hope whoever this article reminds you to text understands your love for them and works with you on coming up with a solution.

Merry Crisis Solving!