Every friendship squad has a culture. Even yours. Each friendship group holds a set of (often, unspoken) values, attitudes and practices. This matters because "culture" determines the health of a group of people. If the culture is toxic, the relationships became dysfunctional. If the culture is healthy, the relationshipS become life-giving.
Here is an example of a healthy squad culture I observed in a friendship group that began in middle school and has carried through 12 years:
SET OF VALUES
-Spending time together face to face.
-Showing up to the important stuff to show support.
- Speaking honestly with each other.
SET OF ATTITUDES
- "We are willing to travel to each other so that we can spend time together".
- "We will drop anything to support each other through the tough times".
- "We are not afraid to speak truthfully with each other even if we disagree".
SET OF PRACTICES
- Planned weekend trips, visits to each other's apartments, spending holidays together, etc.
- Attend family members' funeral, makes every effort to celebrate each other's birthdays in person, help each other move, and show up to big events to show support.
- Speak honestly (with careful thought and love) to the friend who has compromised their integrity, well being, dreams or priorities.
Some examples of toxic squad culture would include:
- Chronic cancelled dates to hang out
- Saying what the other(s) wants to hear
- Dominating personality that calls the shots
- Unwilling to be inconvenienced to help
Healthy squad culture will make you feel like you have a safe place to belong. Toxic squad culture will keep you guessing if you are "really in the group" or not.
Healthy squad culture will make you feel supported as you pursue new adventures. Toxic squad culture will make you feel paranoid that your friends will disapprove of your pursuits.
Healthy squad culture will make room for new friends to join the tribe. Toxic squad culture will keep the doors closed to newcomers.
Healthy squad culture will address issues with openness and compassion. Toxic squad culture will discuss issues behind each other's backs and with judgement.
Healthy squad culture will make sure every one has a voice. Toxic squad culture is controlled by a dominating personality who throws a fit when he/she doesn't get their way.
Healthy squad culture commits to showing up to each other's lives. Toxic squad culture is too busy to make the effort.
Many women have described their friendship groups to me which often sound terribly toxic. I am always amazed what women are willing to put up with. When I ask them, "Why do you still hang around these people?", the answer is nearly always the same:
"I have known them forever."
Tennessee Williams said,
We cannot stay in a unhealthy friendship group for the sake of "history". When we choose to remain in a "toxic squad culture", we short change ourselves. We need to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us to be the best version of ourselves.
It's never too late to start a friendship group that will have a healthy culture. No matter how old you are or what season of life you are in, there are plenty of people in this world who want support, encouragement and honesty too. It will take bravery to step away from a toxic group of friends and it will take even more bravery to go out and make some new friends. But. It's worth it.
Culture determines future. If you want to have a healthy future, then you need to have a healthy group of friends to walk the journey with you.