Taylor Swift's girl squad has come under fire from critics who claim its promotion of "squad goals" encourages exclusivity and alienation. Actress Chloe Grace Moretz was one of these critics and she turned down an invitation to join it.
Fans of Swift have defended the pop singer and argued that the squad champions female achievement. Wherever you stand on the issue, we can all benefit from being part of a network. Even Jesus had his own group of close friends. A group of 12 close friends might be more than many of us can manage, but there are some things we can do to surround ourselves with people we can rely on.
Step 1: Socialise
To build a squad in the first place you need to put yourself in situations where you're going to meet people. You're likely to meet people who share similar interests to you when you attend events that you enjoy. Once you've decided on the locations, prepare yourself with a few conversation starters if you're prone to getting nervous around new people. But ultimately be yourself. You want your friends to be supportive of the real you.
Step 2: Give it time
First impressions can be lasting impressions but they're not always a true reflection of who someone really is. We all have bad days so it's wise to avoid writing someone off just because sparks didn't fly or because they did something you didn't like during your first meeting. Keep in mind that making friends takes time and effort.
Step 3: Share values
Your squad doesn't have to be exclusively full of people who think the same as you but shared values are the foundation for supportive and successful relationships. If we surround ourselves with people who value the same things we do, then they can keep us accountable for our actions and we can rely on them for sound advice.
Step 4: Communicate
Communication is vital for any relationship to prosper. There's a limit to how supportive your squad can be if you don't open up to them. But don't just use communication as a way to inform them about your needs and ask them for help, express your gratitude for their friendship and find out what they need from you too.
Step 5: Embrace squad shine
Some of the best friends we'll ever have are the ones who challenge us. Don't be disheartened if everything is going well for the members of your friendship group and you feel like you're not matching up, use their achievements as inspiration.
Step 6: Stop thinking the grass is greener
Avoid looking at the apparent success of other people's friendship groups. It's irrelevant if your girl squad doesn't look anything like Taylor Swift's. What's important is that your friendship group is filled with people you can rely on, who encourage you and who you also support. We can risk damaging, and even losing, valuable friendships if we're constantly comparing our friends to other people's.
Step 7: Manage your expectations
At times we can feel unsupported because we expect too much from people. If our friends are preparing for a landmark life event such as the arrival of a baby or marriage, they might not have as much time to listen to our minor complaints about work which will be largely insignificant in comparison.
Step 8: Be open to new members
Growth is inevitable and it helps if our friendship groups reflect that. New experiences can lead to new friendships and we shouldn't be afraid of updating our networks as we change and develop. Equally, although it can be hard to accept that friendships have run their course, attempting to hold on to toxic or damaging connections isn't good for either party.
Step 9: Make time
In addition to giving our relationships time to develop, we also need to invest time in them. Our busy lifestyles can mean that we see our friends a lot less than we should. It might sound a little regimented, but setting aside regular time to meet or speak with friends can help ensure that we avoid this as much as possible.
Step 10: Forgive
Just like communication, forgiveness is another essential element to maintaining meaningful relationships. We're all guilty of making mistakes and our friends will be no different. We need to be able to move past disagreements and overcome conflict if we have any hope of sustaining relationships.
Step 11: Listen
If we've built a network with people who share our values and value us, then there's a high probability that we'll do well to listen to what they say. We don't always have to agree but in times when we don't, it's worth meditating on this: "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." (Proverbs 27:6)
Step 12: Be honest
You shouldn't think that you have to hide things from your squad if your relationships are authentic. Your friends should be some of the people who you feel most yourself with, so knowing that you can be honest about what you're thinking and how you're feeling with them is important.