The other day, a friend sent me this video, from Jay Shetty’s Facebook Page; Don’t let your friends change your mind. I watched it and I immediately thought of my friends who are on the dating scene in particular. The video is aimed to demonstrate how our peers can influence our opinions of people with whom we see potential, and encourages viewers to be sure of themselves. It is a positive message.
What stood out to me though, was the ways in which we can unwittingly influence our friends opinion of someone, making them question their own judgement. Actually I have seen this scenario play out on plenty of reality television shows too, such as married at first sight. It might be that the person is not instantly attracted to their match, however feel reassured when friends or family imply directly or indirectly that their match is attractive, and suddenly the person who was initially disinterested becomes way more open to the idea.
Unsurprisingly, however worryingly, the phenomenon also works in reverse. A person might be excited about their match until someone close implies a lack of attractiveness or a better option. Then suddenly and subconsciously the person starts distancing themselves from their match and usually can’t even really explain why they have suddenly lost interest.
Social status matters to most people, on some level, however small, which means we have a responsibility to encourage our friends, regardless of our opinion of the potential pairing. Of course, if you have genuine safety concerns you should voice them, if however your concerns are based on appearance, job title, housing or material possessions, perhaps keep your concerns to yourself for a while.
As explored in the video, each of us are unique individuals, and all sorts of things play into what we do and do not find attractive and acceptable. Perhaps you might not want to date someone shorter than you, or someone with more income for example, but your friend might be perfectly ok with it. In fact they may not have even considered these things until you plant the seed.
Most of us do want our friends to be happy, which means being happy for them. It also means accepting and encouraging their autonomy and believing in them to make the best choices for themselves. While my initial thoughts went straight to my single friends, this advice doesn’t stop there.
What if your friend wants to give up her legal career to chase her dream of being an actor or he wants to sell up and move into a caravan? It is ok to talk through these decisions with your friends to see how far they have thought it through, but try and think of positive things to say, or redirect the conversation back to how THEY think and feel about it.
Honestly, we don’t all want the same things and that is ok! We all face challenges and most things turn out alright in the end. We all have separate paths and separate journeys even if they are parallel for a while, and we didn’t see their decision to turn vegan coming.
If you don’t agree with the choice, you don’t have to pretend that you do agree with it… you just have to ask yourself why your opinion should matter and if it is valid. It may take some mindfulness, as we don’t even consciously know when we are giving disapproving signals. Say your friend shows you a picture of her latest online love interest and you make a face… sometimes that is all it takes. I’m sure you’d hate thinking your friend missed her perfect match because YOU don’t like beards, for example? Instead, you could comment on his eyes and ask what they think of the photo? Remember you are not living their life, so you don’t have to go through whatever changes your friend is making.
The bottom line is just to let your friend know that you believe in them and support them, and will be there whatever they decide and however it turns out. Also be aware of when your own choices are being influenced by others and ask yourself if their opinion is valid before you take it on board!
Remember opinions aren’t facts, and at the end of the day, yours should only matter, to YOU!
Your Best Friend ForNever