Year 7 boys on the Middle school stairs in casual conversation

Friendships with (the right) attitude

By Peter Furey, Growth and Wellbeing Coordinator (Middle School)

Friendships are a central part of our daily lives and I am always delighted to observe the connections that form as boys progress through the Middle School together. These associations may be the result of common interests or classes held together; sometimes one student introduces his friends and they hit it off, or friendships are formed when boys travel on the same train or bus. Some boys discover their best mates early on; others maintain a wide selection of friends through school. Regardless, these friendships provide support, encouragement, challenge, counsel, motivation and connectedness.

Our closest friends are also highly influential in our lives. One of my favourite quotes comes from American entrepreneur Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” That is, the people closest to you shape who you are, and are often responsible for defining your way of thinking and your decision making – an idea so simple and yet so poignant. Our choice of friends is a crucial aspect of our personal development

When you feel compromised or uncomfortable by the words or actions of a friend, ask yourself whether this friendship is worth maintaining. In the classroom, do you really want the boy who distracts you as a friend? In the playground or on the sports field, is the boy who makes unkind comments or teases others worth associating with? On the flip side, is the friendship strong enough that you could speak to your friend about your concerns?

A recent article in the Age titled ‘Why I ended my toxic friendships’, by psychologist Sally Austen, caught my interest. It had some sage advice about when it might be time to end a friendship: “when they take advantage of you; when they hurt you physically or emotionally; when there is always chaos around them; when you seem to be avoiding them; or when they never seem to be pleased for you”. These questions are worth asking yourself.

Perhaps the most salient point is that our best friends should be the ones that bring out the best in us. Often this comes down to their attitude, so ask yourself whether your friends’ attitudes are worth catching! Ultimately, it is important that we have similar values, standards and philosophies to our friends, otherwise we can find our personal wellbeing and growth compromised by unhelpful friendships.