Bring your Heart to the Holidays!

The holidays conjure up all kinds of thoughts and feelings, usually ones that are close to our hearts. Some people fondly recall holidays and holiday traditions celebrated growing up while others would just as soon forget. In friendship perhaps we can find the place where we can be true to ourselves, no matter how we choose to celebrate, or not, the holidays.

For many of us friends are like family. Sometimes they are our family, especially for those living far from their families. With friends we can co-create new holiday celebrations and traditions. These celebrations can be imbued with traditions friends want to share with each other and honour from their own families. At this time of year, we have an opportunity to share our personal beliefs, values, and lifestyle choices with each other through various rituals of celebration.

“Peace is the understanding that though we are each one different, we are all made of the same exquisite stuff.” ~ Leigh Standley

The winter holidays and New Years are wonderful occasions to connect with new and old friends by sending greeting cards far and wide. If you do send out cards, it can be fun to include a letter sharing the story of your year, especially for those friends you do not get to see very often. And, of course, pictures or picture cards are great too! Include ones of yourself for those friends you get to see every few years.

Another way to celebrate the winter holidays is to get together with friends and do or make things — cookies, truffles, decorations or meals. Perhaps you all give collectively to a charity. Or maybe you volunteer together. Whatever you choose to do, doing it with your friends can certainly grow your sense of connection, joy, love, beauty and pleasure of this time of year.

The holidays are often an emotional and painful time for those who have had personal losses. Just being there for friends can be a tremendous support as they make sense of what this time of year now means to them. If a friend has recently experienced a loss, some ways you can support them through the holidays are to: respect how they choose to move through the holidays, listen to their feelings, help them create a ritual to honour the memory of their loved one, or make a donation in the memory of their loved one. Sometimes just making a call or writing a note to say you remember can mean so much.

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they do when they stick together.” ~ Verna M. Kelly

One thing we suggest for all occasions is that it can be helpful to be clear about your expectations of your friends, especially around the holidays. Let them know what you need or want. And get curious, find out about their expectations. Clarity increases the chance that you and your friends will truly enjoy the holidays together!

At this special time of year we can demonstrate, in many ways and through many gestures, that we are keeping our friends close, in our hearts.

As you set out to celebrate the holidays, consider:

  • How can you bring genuineness and authenticity to your holiday celebrations?
  • What do the holidays mean to you now? To your friends? Friendships?
  • How do you stay connected to your friends during the holidays?
  • Do you have holiday traditions you honour with your friends? Are there any new traditions you want to create with a friend(s)?

Copyrighted 2013: The Smart Art of Friendship- Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert

Friendship and Career Transitions

“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” ~ Khalil Gibran

Friendships, like all relationships, are more vulnerable at some points than others. Our work life is one of those things that can pose challenges to our connections with our friends. From the moment we finish school to begin working until the time we decide to end our careers to retire, our work can present challenges as well as opportunities for our friendships. Going through career transitions, being promoted, demoted, let go or moving away for a job are only some ways that our work can impact our friendships.

Consider whether you’ve experienced these work issues with your friends and which were the most challenging for your friendships:

  • Having different core values towards work, different levels of ambition and/or different definitions of success,
  • Making different decisions about starting a family for example, one friend eases up on work to focus on children and parenting and the other friend focuses only on career growth,
  • Spending long hours at work, your job or business which means less free time to spend with friends and having to choose which friends you want to be with during your free time,
  • Having a job that requires travel or a move abroad and the impact of the distance on your friendships,
  • Being able (or unable) to celebrate each others successes such as promotions, landing a new job, a salary increase or bonus, new roles or responsibilities,
  • Struggling with being there and with knowing what to say when you or your friend are fired, demoted, lose a contract, lose a valued role, or decide to retire,
  • Experiencing differences or a change in income levels, different ways of relating to money or different choices about how to spend money.

Each of these work-related changes and transitions have the capacity to be points of friction in our friendships. These points of friction are wonderful opportunities to discover where there is vulnerability and strength in our connections with our friends. They are also wonderful opportunities to deepen our friendships, develop our listening and communication skills, have “hard” conversations, and practice being authentic and empathic.

If you are the one going through the work change or transition, consider the impact on your friend(s) and friendship(s). You have the choice to take responsibility for helping your friendship during this transition. Plan on having a conversation or taking some action that will keep your friendship intact and even strengthen it through the change or transition. Your friend may not know what to say, what to do or how to acknowledge the career or work change you are experiencing. Telling them and letting them know is is one way you can demonstrate to your friend that your friendship is important to you.

Consider how you feel about a friend’s work change or transition. Jealousy, envy, confusion, fear, sadness, and ambivalence are just some emotions we can feel when our friends go through their career transitions. Becoming aware of how you feel and acknowledging it to yourself, or better yet to your friend, can go a long way to strengthening your friendship.

Listen, listen and listen. Listen to your friend and be understanding of what your friend is saying. Also, listen to yourself and notice what you are sensing, intuiting, and experiencing in yourself during your friend’s career or work transition. You might realize something important about yourself in the process.

Show caring and respect for your friend and friendship during their career change. Making time for your friend when she or he is going through a work transition is a gift in and of itself. Checking in with how they are doing or inviting your friend to get together are some ways to show you value them and want to be there.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” Muhammad Ali

Copyrighted 2013 – The Smart Art of Friendship

Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert