I have listened to Jenn and Trin’s Friendshipping podcast for a couple of years now. I adore it, mostly for their amusing and endearing banter, but also for their compassionate takes on listener questions about doing friendship—I enjoy their emphasis on this idea that friendship is a verb, because I agree. So when I heard they had turned their podcast into a self-help book, I pre-ordered the hell out of it—and I was also fortunate enough to get to read it early thanks to Workman and NetGalley.
Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends is a very straightforward book, divided into three parts per its subtitle. From its tone and overall language to its art design (by Jean Wei), the target audience is millennials—I suspect older generations will find Jenn and Trin’s brand of humour too youthful, whereas Gen Z and younger will look at them as “oldies.” This is a book for people of an age that is used to moving for work and school, to navigating the Internet but still holding it slightly at arm’s length, to embracing nerdiness as something that we still think is uncool (even though it is now mainstream). I’m not saying younger or older people wouldn’t benefit from this book, but it knows its niche and goes for it, which is probably for the best.
Indeed, I think this book will appeal to people who are looking for friends or friendship advice but who are skeptical of more polished, adult-looking self-help books. The chapters here are very conversational, with plenty of sidebars with practical tips. This isn’t a book I would recommend reading from start to finish—rather, you can dip into it for reference as and when you need help with various situations.
I love the inclusive nature of the book. There is a section dedicated to pronouns, for instance. They talk about healthy boundaries in friendships. They acknowledge that friendships are difficult work, sometimes, and that more often than not the issues in a friendship are the result of both parties, not just one. They talk about what to do if you are the toxic friend.
If I personally didn’t get that much out of this book on my initial read, it’s only because—and I am totally bragging here—I am very satisfied with my friendships at this point in my life. Indeed, for about the past 3 years, I feel like I have finally cultivated the types of healthy friendships and acquaintances an adult should have in her life: I have found close friends who support me and who let me support them; I am beginning to get more comfortable at making new acquaintances and expanding my circle ever so slightly. So I am lucky enough to report that I am happy, at least in that sense, and at least for now.
But friendship is something you do, not something you have indefinitely. I am sure I will face rocky moments of indecision, and when I do, this will be a good book to have on my shelf. Jenn and Trin’s wisdom comes from the fact that they don’t pretend to know it all—you will find practical advice in this book, tips for starting difficult conversations, that kind of thing, yes, but the majority of this book boils down to a single thesis: be kind to your friends and potential friends. And although I can’t remember if they say it in the book, perhaps the single best thing I have learned from Jenn and Trin’s podcast is that there is a difference between being nice and being kind. Sometimes in our attempts to be nice, to not ruffle feathers or make people upset, we do no kindness through dissembly. Sometimes telling an uncomfortable truth is kinder. Kindness is not always easy to figure out, just like friendship isn’t always easy to put into practice.
I think the best way you can decide if this book is for you is to listen to an episode of their podcast. The book is the podcast, just curated and then frozen in carbonite; the podcast is the book on a weekly release schedule with more discussion of snails and Animal Crossing. As I said at the beginning, I don’t think this book is for everyone, and that is ok and probably for the best—self-help books should target a niche. For some people, though, I suspect this book will give useful succour and guidance, and that pleases me.