Thoughts on Socializing and Criticism

I really want to be better at making friends. One conundrum I have is that the easiest way to do that is to focus on discussing things you both already agree with. It's naturally easier to coordinate and work together on those things, and most of what I've seen of actual healthy interaction falls into this category. The problem is that I also feel it encourages stasis in attitudes and behaviors, and that it encourages, at best, looking the other way when your friend does something wrong rather than actually intervening. And at worst it leads to defending friends over others regardless of whether those friends are at fault or how much harm they have done. And I don't think that's overall a good thing. I think a lot of people rightfully criticize privileging friends in these ways when they see this behavior in others, but then perpetuate these things themselves to keep their own friendships running smoothly. And if a standard is one that we only hold other people to, but not ourselves, then it's not a very useful standard at all. At the same time, I think there's a very real issue with the way conflicts of this sort are usually handled--like I think there's a reason that most people reserve this kind of direct criticism only for strangers or ex- or soon to be ex-friends. But I feel like there has to be a constructive way to handle these kinds of disagreements, without choosing either to ignore these issues or to antagonize all of one's friends into becoming ex-friends. I just don't know what that would be, hence why I am reluctant to criticize people I'd like to continue spending time around (and also because I dislike confrontation to begin with).

But I will say I'd like to be able to better give and receive these kinds of criticisms and have everyone involved feel that they're being treated fairly. I mean part of it is that I don't want to have to choose between having values and having friends, but the other part of it is that I know I'm not perfect either and if people felt more comfortable criticizing me, then that could help me to understand their positions better and adopt better values myself. I think part of the problem is the tendency to think of people as good or bad people rather than thinking of them as holding various positions, some of which may be good, others of which may be bad in the same person. It's just like knowledge. It isn't the case usually that one person is more knowledgeable than another about every conceivable thing, but rather that both people know some things that the other person doesn't. Though I can understand the reasoning behind it, I think the teacher-student paradigm presents a false hierachy, because it's not that one person is an active teacher of another while the other passively absorbs information, but that we all have the capability to both teach and learn from each other. And that's why I wish I knew better strategies for criticizing people and for helping other people feel more comfortable with constructively criticizing me. Because I think we all have things we can teach each other about how to be better people.