Friendship: A Handbook Part 4
How to Create Lasting and Authentic Friendships for Young Adults with Autism
Congratulations! You have succeeded in finding good sources of friends (Part 1), you have identified a few people who might be great candidates for friendship by trading information (Part 2) and you succeeded in that tricky step of moving from acquaintance to true friend (Part 3)! At this point you might be interested in deepening your friendship. Everyone needs someone they can confide in and can rely on. Someone they can go to for advice and who will also come to them for help. This is true, authentic, meaningful friendship.
Not all our friends need to move to the level of authentic friendship. In truth, you only need ONE deep friendship! And that’s a good thing, because the key to a true friendship lies in opening up to another person. Some might call this making yourself vulnerable. This stage of friendship is built on mutual trust. How do you get to that point with a friend?
In truth, there is no formula to get to authentic friendship, but I can offer some advice. You can test the waters by sharing a small, personal detail with a friend and gauging their reaction. For example, you might tell your friend something slightly embarrassing about your childhood: a belief like you thought there were little people in the TV performing your favorite show just for you, or that you were afraid of the dark. If your friend reacts by sharing something equally embarrassing or they comfort you and tell you that everyone thinks things like that, then you may have the makings of a lasting friendship. If your friend tells you that your disclosure is “stupid” or makes fun of you in some other way, you might not want to deepen this friendship. If your friend shares your embarrassing story with others without your permission, this is another sign that friendship may not be a good idea.
If you are happy with your friend’s response, this is the first step to advancing a friendship and can be a green light to continue. An important word of caution: authentic friendship involves BOTH people sharing confidences. If you have shared several things with your friend and they are NOT returning the favor, you should evaluate whether you wish to continue sharing.
Another aspect of authentic friendship is being there to help your friend. For example, if your friend is moving, you could offer to help them pack. If your friend is looking for a job, you might ask if they would like some suggestions about job openings or an introduction to someone you know in their chosen field. Letting a friend know that you are willing to help them can be a good signal to them that you’d like to deepen the friendship. But, again, this should be a TWO-WAY STREET. If you are always offering to help your friend and they never offer to help you, stop and think about deepening the friendship.
Making, keeping, and building friendships is hard work. But having a true friend is so worth it!