You and your friends could set records for time spent nattering. But broaching tricky topics (like, say, their tendency towards a last-minute cancellation) can seem a more challenging vocal feat than nailing an Adele track. It is possible, though. ‘Ask yourself: “Will you feel relieved afterwards? Might the honesty strengthen your relationship? Are a few minutes of discomfort worth the gain of halting a habit?”’ says psychologist Sarah Rozenthuler, author of How To Have Meaningful Conversations: 7 Strategies For Talking About What Matters. If the answer is yes, here’s how to speak your mind while still feeling like a great friend.
Differences in income – the friendship wage gap – can make everything from buying drinks to hen dos feel as uncomfortable as a scratchy bra. And Covid hasn’t helped: a new report found that the money gap between lower- and higher-income households has grown during the crisis. While bill-splitting apps such as Splitwise allow for fairer tab-sharing (it divvies up who’s had what and sends virtual IOUs), admitting you can’t afford something requires a frank, two-part approach. First, be honest. ‘I’m desperate to spend time with you, but [insert pricey activity] is simply out of my budget right now.’ If you’re worried they’ll take it personally, mention other things you’ve had to cut back on (ie, you’re not eating out at all this month; you’ve also cancelled a family trip). Then follow with a Plan B that’s entirely within your means: ‘Why don’t you let me cook for you on Tuesday/we can have a girls’ Netflix night.’ Everyone loves an organiser – and the more you plan activities, the more control you have over what you spend.
On the flipside, if it’s your mate’s frivolous way with money that you’re worried about, drop good money habits into the conversation: ‘I’m trying to not buy any clothes this month – want to join me?’ or ‘I’m listening to a money podcast that’s really saving me money’ (check out Money 101 or Cash Chats With Andy Webb). This low-pressure way of talking, flagging up new apps, discount codes or ways to increase your credit score can make money less intimidating. And – bonus – it could make you both richer.
We all have one friend who hasn’t been on time since you sat your school exams, bails at the last minute, or who you always schlep to see. Don’t stew silently: it’s more effective to raise the one-sidedness. ‘Start by saying that you really value the friendship and want to talk about something that’s been making you feel a specific way,’ says life coach Ruth Kudzi. For example, ‘When you’re late/cancel at the last minute/never call me back, I feel like I’m not important, and it makes me question our friendship.’ ‘Expressing how it makes you feel gives them a reason to change,’ Ruth adds. Their response will likely reveal a root cause: challenges at home, draining work, perhaps your meet-up locations are tricky to get to (ask what you can both do to make it easier). They may have simply overloaded themselves with commitments – in which case, a funny gesture – such as buying them a diary – makes a point and keeps things light-hearted.
There was a time when hangovers and remedies were your friendship group’s biggest health issue. But as life gets more serious, true comfort calls for words. ‘We can’t heal from what we don’t acknowledge, so it’s crucial to speak about painful events, such as miscarriage or depression, even if you’re unsure how to bring it up,’ reassures Sarah. “’I’m here if you need anything” or “Do you need company?” are perfect if you know someone well.’ Kind gestures help, too: offer to do a food shop, cook dinner, help with admin. In the months after a diagnosis or a period of grief, check in – particularly on the anniversary of significant events. Offering to talk can sometimes be as important as actually talking.
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