You need a support system, but can you trust women?
I ran into an acquaintance recently who I hadn’t seen in a while. We quickly caught each other up on our families, and she mentioned that her nine-year-old daughter was giving her fits. I nodded, knowingly. “That’s when their hormones start up,” I shared. “I bet she’s also experiencing drama with other girls at school, isn’t she?” She looked at me like I was psychic. I went on to recall stories of my girls when they turned that magic number nine. It was a hurtful time; girls were so mean!
Sometimes interacting with other women is scary. We’ve all been there at some time or another—some girl is creating drama, and suddenly connection isn’t such a hot idea. The good news is as we mature, there are fewer of us who take part in this kind of stuff. But definitely not all. That’s why I say, “Proceed with caution!” If you find yourself connecting with a woman who is gossiping, run—don’t walk—to the nearest exit. Even if she’s talking trash about someone you don’t like, chances are she’ll eventually talk trash about you too.
Rules of Engagement
Over the years I have worked with, served, taught, mentored, spoke to, and counseled hundreds of women of all backgrounds. I’ve learned through trial and error how to be a friend and observed those that do friendship well. I’ve come up with some general rules of engagement that will help you pick some good friends and be a good friend in return.
The Number-One Golden Rule
I’ll start with the most basic. We learned this in school or from our moms early on, but it represents a very good boundary for our behavior! The golden rule is to do to others what you would have them do to you. If you want someone to keep your secrets, keep hers. If kindness is important to you, then be kind. If you would like some practical help here and there, then offer and follow through with practical help. Fill in the blanks from there.
Keep this in mind as you converse with others. As women, we have a tendency to talk too much. Oh, the words we say, every day, in lots of ways! But we all have two ears and one mouth. Listening is twice as important as talking. Ooh, this is a good reminder for me! I have so many stories, and I like to tell those stories to make connections to this and that—show others how much we have in common! But I like to be listened to, so I have had to teach myself to shut my mouth and listen to others.
Rule Number Two: What’s the Back Story?
Novelists are always on the lookout for creative ways to bring in the back story. This is the prelude to what you’re reading in the book, the reasons or the road to how the character got where they are physically and emotionally in the story. The same goes for real people; there’s always a back story.
I have learned to never make assumptions based on first impressions. Some women are shy. Some women want to be friends, but want to first observe if you’re trustworthy or not. When I speak, it’s often the women who don’t make eye contact with me during my talk that approach me afterwards to ask questions.
You’d be surprised how many women are carrying burdens that come across as indifference to others. Those who come across as confident, engaged women can actually be harboring feelings of self-doubt just beneath the surface.
Things aren’t always as they appear. We don’t always have the facts. That fabulously dressed brunette sitting by herself with a don’t-approach-me look has a story. She probably isn’t stuck up. She probably doesn’t think she’s better than you. She might be shy. Or she was abused as a child. Or she and her husband had an argument on the way there. Or she has ten dollars in her bank account and no groceries in the fridge. You never know what is behind the blank stare or the up front attitude. But it might be worth it to try to find out the back story. It just might be very similar to your own.