Clear-Weather Friends

"We're BFF's but if you ever have problems with me, keep them to yourself."

Posted Aug 07, 2016

A fair-weather friend is there when things are going well for you, but disappears during your rough patches.

A clear-weather friend is there as long as it’s smooth sailing, but if you ever want to process a disagreement, suddenly you’re the enemy.

Being a clear-weather friend is natural. More than we notice, we gravitate toward friends who support and endorse us. Something in any of us seeks mutual-admiration-society friendships. Life is hard enough with friendship as a safe haven from threats.

Few of us choose to stick with friends who constantly badger us. Nor should we. If there’s one thing the world has lots of, it’s people. So if a friend relentlessly rubs you wrong way, it’s wise to make new friends.

Still, friendships can never be as eternally clear as the skies you get in Yuma, Arizona. In any friendship there will be adjustments to make, decisions about where to stretch out your elbows to feel free and where to tuck in your elbows to make room for each other.

Give and take can’t be avoided, nor can we expect it to be automatically decided who should give and who should take. Realists recognize that sometimes friendships get cloudy. In any real friendship there will be some pea soup weather to navigate, through conversation, processing – even strong disagreement.

Here are a few tips for assessing whether you’re dealing with clear-weather friends – or are being one yourself.

He-who-smelt-it-dealt-it formulas: Clear-weather friends consistently assume that any problem you bring up is your problem, not theirs.

Proud principles: Clear-weather friends typically claim to have embraced some theory or moral principle to justify their un-receptivity to negotiation. To deflect feedback they’ll remind you that you can’t change anyone and so you should adjust your attitudes about them, that acceptance (yours of them) is the highest virtue, or that processing is always fruitless.

Principled pride: In their defense, clear-weather friends embrace the high principle of “believing in yourself,” meaning don’t ever challenge their beliefs. They exult their “pride” without recognizing that pride is also one of the seven deadly sins.

Defenses on ready alert 24/7: Clear-weather friends have an arsenal of all-purpose defenses against challenges and it’s always at the ready. For example, they accuse people of “attacking” them or being “rude,” or being a "drama queen". They’ll take criticism to absurd extremes to shame the critic. For example, “You didn’t like what I just said? Fine. I’ll just keep my opinions to myself always, since obviously, you don’t care what I think.” Or they’ll play the victim, playing up their disappointment and hurt: If you don’t accommodate them on everything, what kind of a friend are you anyway?

Instant table-turning: Clear-weather friends will systematically ignore suggestions, instantly drowning them out with suggestions for you as in, “Fine, whatever, but let me tell you what’s wrong with you.”

“Immoral” emotions: Clear-weather friends are quick to diagnose you for being emotional when you challenge them. It makes them think they’re being compassionate when they’re really just discounting what you say. They say things like, “Wow, it sounds like you’re angry/mad/frustrated/disappointed/hurt/offended,” as though if you have any of these feelings your credibility is zero.

Quick slides into the judge’s chair: Clear-weather friends take their credibility with you for granted. When you pose a challenge, they think they act like they’re the neutral judges who get to decide whether your challenge is admissible. It’s like playing a game with an opponent who declares himself the umpire whenever it suits him.

Their friends oscillate between compassion and frustration: If you’re friends with clear-weather friends, you’ll sometimes think, “poor things, they’re really vulnerable and sensitive. I ought to go easy on them. Shame on me for stirring up trouble for them,” and “Wow, they’re really indulgent. They think they get to call all the shots in our relationship.”

“You owe me your trust”:  Clear-weather friends assume that because you’re friends you should just trust them on everything even when it means distrusting your own judgment. In so many words they say, “How dare you believe yourself over me? We’re friends. That means you owe me complete confidence always.”

Your criticism never gets heard: One way or another, you never feel heard by clear-weather friends. Your suggestions, feedback or even your questions about how to handle some difference between you always falls on deaf ears. The subject always changes to what’s wrong with you and why you’re unqualified to bring up anything they find inconvenient.

To be fair to others and honest with yourself, consider whether you’re a clear-weather friend. Don’t just assume that it’s a problem others dish out and that you’re the victim of it.

Indeed, being quick to assume that you couldn’t possibly be a clear-weather friend is another symptom of being one.

If you are one, work on it – not just to be a more honorable friend, but for your own sake. Do you really want people near and dear to you who you have invited to keep you in the dark about what they really think?

Because that’s what clear-weather friends end up doing. When you make the other person wrong for bringing things up, you don’t persuade them that they’re wrong, you persuade them to keep you in the dark.