The Many Layers of Friendship and Establishing Boundaries

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Friendships are initiated by having reformed connection with other individuals that hold common interests. Not only do they become people we spend time together with, but they also shape one’s character because of their prevalent influence both in a negative and positive manner. Society has enforced an idea that “by conforming to the norms of the group, we are more likely to be valued as a friend” (Sage, 2011, p. 622). However, there is a certain threshold to giving yourself up to the pressure. High school is known as the timeline where you get a glimpse of people’s emotional maturity and level of consciousness. As I mentioned previously on assignment two, “During senior year of high school, provincial exams had taken over my schedule, thus giving me limited time with my friends” (Bautista, 2019). Even up to now, I have become disengaged from my peers because I often study in the library by myself to catch up on my lectures. I no longer am certain who my friends are, for they have been exposed to immoral behaviour such as bad-mouthing people. Perhaps it is because my peers have been associating themselves with different people and changing their personalities due to the “response to a variety of external factors, including normative life experience” (Hudson, Fraley & King, 2015, p. 491). I am often unaware of what to do in order to help them because situations like this make me uncomfortable due to the idea that someone might be doing the same to me. It is evident that speaking badly of others and spreading malicious stories can be easy; some individuals, however, are not aware that this only serves as a reflection of who they truly are and only causes harm to people around them.

Defining the boundary between right and wrong is very difficult because society has integrated the idea that we have to conform to other people’s standards, regardless of ethics, just to feel included. It is “a priority for most adolescents to form close friendships and achieve social acceptance” (Klimes-Dougan et al, 2014, p. 396). Conformity is something that happens regularly in our society and we are often not aware of it. Self-awareness is a characteristic that is important in establishing ethical morals and being an authentic leader because it often includes “reflecting on your core values, identity, emotions, motives, and goals and coming to grips with who you really are at the deepest level” (Northouse, 2018, p. 203). Ever since I was young, I have been a firm believer in an idea that speaking badly of others only reveal bad things within ourselves. However, the peers that I am surrounded with gossip regularly about other people because it is a ‘comfort mechanism’ for them. It is very hard for me to express my feelings regarding the problem because out of everyone, I was the only one who was uncomfortable and had seen the wrong in the issue. Everyone else was encouraged and started spreading malicious rumours about other people as well. Although I do voice out my opinion from time to time, they never seem to listen and occasionally puts a strain within our friendships. I always question their beliefs and wonder if it is necessary to be verbal about it. It does not help that I often feel restricted when it comes to having the courage to tell my peers on what they need to hear because I do not want to be portrayed as an antagonist within my group. Over time, I had learned the skills of walking away and selectively listening to certain things because regardless of what I say, they will still continue to bad-mouth others. My group members certainly lack constraint analysis which is “the ability to identify constraints and limiting factors” (Northouse, 2018, p. 48). Our limiting boundaries are the restrictions that we set by choice in order to maintain dignity and respect from others. It is evident that society has taught us that a way of upgrading one’s self is through downgrading others, and sadly, it has been prevalent more and more each day.

Bad-mouthing others have been an issue across all ages and many people often deem it as normal because they simply cannot confront the individual, so they rope in others in order to feel good about themselves. According to Northouse (2018), authentic leaders have the ability to “open themselves up and establish a connection with others” (p. 200) which is why it is easy for people to confide about their anger and insecurity about others. Despite knowing that what they were doing was wrong, I chose to be blinded with the idea that they have been my supporters and friends for a long time. Nonetheless, even though I was not part of the conversation, I became an enabler by simply walking away. By not doing anything, they might have taken that as an implication to continue their behaviours and demote individual’s self-esteem in order to boost one’s self. I failed to accomplish the responsibility of putting a stop at the behaviour that is causing emotional harm to others even though I have every opportunity to do so. Even though I was not included in the issue, I unconsciously authorized my peers to bad mouth people, and by doing so, I was no different to them. Friends are part of a social group that is supposed to encourage you to be the best version of yourself and not the other way around. It is difficult for find peers who will accept the real you. According to Oswald and Clark (2006), satisfying “interpersonal relationships are vital for people’s mental and physical well-being” (p. 333).

Therefore, many individuals choose to conform to meet the demand of a social group in order to be accepted and be known. It has always been difficult for me to take initiative on advancing “the overall human good and value of the organization” (Northouse, 2018, p. 53) because I do not want to seem like the person who always opposes on everything regarding their opinions. Growing up, I have been known to making everyone’s problem my problem because I wanted to protect the people that I cherish from experiencing life’s up and downs. However, as I age, I realized how difficult it is to keep solving problems that were not mine to begin with because not only does it cause emotional pain to myself, but it gives an opportunity for others to take advantage and depend on me for every problem that they can encounter. I personally believe that as long as I know my core values and I am not the one doing anything wrong then it should not be my problem to solve. I simply cannot help everyone, and I am much more at peace since I had stopped fixing everybody’s life.

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Individuals have the tendency to gravitate towards thinking about themselves and what they think is right. Every choice that a person makes, regardless of whether it is large or small, it will have an effect on other people around them. Friends are supposed to help distinguish what is wrong and right; by choosing to walk away whenever they start bad-mouthing people, I became a bad influence towards them. My actions senselessly affected my peers because instead of guiding them on the right track, I tolerated their behaviours in order to preserve our friendships. Even though I was not part of the conversation, I helped provoke their bad behaviours and became insensible about it. Ethical leaders are supposed to be honest about situations because if not, it causes people “to lose faith in what the leaders say and stand for, and their respect for leaders is diminished” (Northouse, 2018, p. 350). Also, I had carelessly hurt the people they were gossiping about because instead of taking actions on stopping my friends from tarnishing someone’s reputation and image, I did not do anything. Instead, it gave others a perception that I also do it. Every tolerance and decisions that we make reflect on our core values and what we believe in. It is certain that in some situations, decisions should be made while thinking of others’ needs and less about ourselves because it can produce better outcomes overall.

Gossip is often derogatory towards other people and can involve spreading hurtful judgments. It often connects us to others and indicates that we are sharing stories within our own social group. Most people disregard the issue by simply ignoring it because it is the most convenient and easy solution. Drawing knowledge from the skills approach, social judgement skills enable leaders “to work with others to solve problems and to marshal support to implement a change within an organization” (Northouse, 2018, p. 50). Some people are inclined to gossip and sometimes, it is hard to do anything but to let it slide. Reformulating my personal leadership challenge from ‘All they do is bad mouth others. I don’t know what to do about that,’ to ‘All they do is bad mouth others. I want to help stop it,’ implements an idea that I want to understand and find solutions on how I can help prevent further issues. Firstly, individuals tend to bad mouth others in order to feel good about themselves temporarily. In order to help, I would ask my friends what the problems that they are experiencing and try to uplift their self-esteem using compliments and praises instead of judging others negatively. Also, people do it in order to belong to a group. With the intention of guiding my peers to a better path, I would show them how much easier it is to belong on a group based on personalities and not maliciousness. Lack of true character always reveals itself in the end.

By staying quiet, individuals make an unconscious choice of portraying the issue as insignificant. At the beginning of this course, my personal leadership challenge was focused merely on myself and how I chose to be oblivious on the emotional harm it can do to people. Modifying the challenge from ‘I do not know what to do’ to ‘I want to help stop it’ shows the growth of myself as an individual. In the beginning, I was using the consequences of potentially losing friends if I told them how ethically wrong their behaviours are as a reason to be ignorant of the issue. Even though I was aware of how much it can damage one’s respect and trust for my group of friends, I chose to walk away because I did not know what to do. However now, I want to acknowledge the problem by finding explanations and solutions on how I can help my peers. I want to help by “being aware of one’s own perspective on issues and at the same time, being aware of the perspective of others” (Northouse, 2018, p. 44) which is known as the ‘human skills.' It was wrong of me not to recognize the feelings of others in the beginning just to assure myself that I would still belong in a group. Now I want to put my peers on the right track and be a good influence and not an enabler. I would not want my friends to continue to promote negative actions and be seen as someone who is not respectable.

It is difficult to make a difference in society without first changing their way of thinking. Being mindful of the consequences of being an enabler helps prevent the damage of respect on my peers but also towards me. I would not want to be seen as someone who depreciates other people just to uplift my self-esteem and that can be seen if I continue to disregard the matter and not to do anything. Also, I want to be driven by a strong belief that ‘we can do better together than separately.’ It is hard to change actions if no one is there to guide you, hence why my new way of thinking will push them into believing that they are not alone in this issue and will never be. Words just prove insecurities and judgment, but it is the actions that contribute to the representation of who they are.

Challenges help individuals grow emotionally because it makes them stronger and better able to handle problems that confront them each day. Issues like handling friends who constantly bad-mouth people is an experience that helped me evolve into a better individual because it made me realized that my beliefs are strongly embedded and how I did not compromise and change any of my values in order to conform to others. Nonetheless, gossiping is a behaviour that is inevitable; it can bring satisfaction at the moment but can be toxic in the long run. People have the habit of confiding to others about their feelings because it “cause temporary increases in happiness” (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006, p. 57). Even though it is impossible to selectively choose a topic to talk about with your peers, there is no harm on trying to be more conscious and disciplined. Instead of walking away, I would turn down my group’s opportunity to pick others apart and change the subject to things that commonly interested us. As Bill George mentioned, leaders who develop compassion and heart learn to be an authentic leader because it refers to being “sensitive to the plight of others, opening one’s self to others and being willing to help them” (Northouse, 2018, p. 201). I would also be more persistent and reveal how morally wrong their actions are because they are repeatedly hurting other people just to gratify their worth. Talking badly about other people can be seen as a way to avoid looking at something wrong in ourselves. People get into the habit of thinking that they do not need to change anything about themselves, but to become a better person, we have to be open to improvement.

Changing an individual’s response to a challenge might be difficult to do at first because it is an action that we have grown accustomed to. Many times, an issue that someone is dealing with goes far deeper than what is being shown on the surface level. Regarding my personal challenge, my peers constantly denigrate others on a daily basis just because that person has agitated them. But in reality, they might be dealing with more profound struggles like lack of self-confidence and self-love; through belittling others, they are able to boost their self-esteem. Therefore, it is important to begin the new actions as soon as possible because everyone has insecurities, and some are more prevalent than others. Having good friends whom we can rely on for advice and security help improve our sense of confidence and make better decisions in life. Furthermore, by following through my new actions, my conscience would feel more at ease because my peers are less susceptible to bad behaviour. There is a possibility that by pointing out their mistakes, it can ravage our friendship because they can easily mistake that for destructive criticism. However, as I previously mentioned, I have always walked away or selectively chose which conversations to listen to. I have condoned my peers enough for their wrongdoings and it is time to make a change for the better.

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