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The 3 Little Words Every Friend Wants To Hear

Spoiler alert: They're not what you think.

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A woman in grey coat and blue jeans is waiting for someone at the cafe
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A few years ago, I had lunch with an old sorority sister of mine. As we caught up, she told me about how she had spent the past decade battling chronic pain and was finally emerging on the other, healthier side. Throughout the course of her struggle, she said, she had lost friends, most of whom grew tired of her canceling plans because she hurt too much to go out. “I’ve learned that the best thing someone could say to me is, ‘I get it.’” Because to her, those three little words encompassed both the give-and-take and the enduring nature of a true friendship.

To her, “I get it” meant:

“I understand.”

“It’s okay -- I’ll still be your friend, even if you bail.”

“I can see you’re struggling and I’m here for you.”

…all wrapped up into one succinct, reassuring phrase. No judgment, no guilt.

This convo recently sprung to mind while I was attending another friend's 40th-birthday bash. A mutual friend of ours had canceled last minute via group text due to puking kids. "I get it," Birthday Girl told me later that night, beaming with her margarita glow and sparkly silver heels. "Life happens. Besides, even if she's making it up and she just doesn't wanna shlep out to the ‘burbs on a freezing snowy night, I still get it!”

Look, I’m not saying you should plaster a fake smile on your face and whisper-scream, “I get it!” if your sister un-invites you to see Hamilton because her new Tinder hookup wants your seat. You have the right to be legitimately pissed if a friend bails on you at 6pm on Saturday night with the flu…then posts pics to Insta of herself at a party at 9pm. And we all have that one Flaky McFlakerson friend who can reliably be predicted to ghost, be it Spin class, Happy Hour or GNO. But for everyone else, let’s start practicing a little more grace when that, “Ugh, I’m soooo sorry but I have to cancel plans” text pings through.

Maybe her twins do have lice/she is coming down with a cold/her car did break down ... maybe they don’t/she isn’t/she’s naked in bed with her spouse and a bottle of wine, getting Hygge with it as you speak. (Yes, we know. Hygge is pronounced "hoo-ga" and not "higgy" ... but still.) For whatever reason, your pal doesn’t feel like she is able to show up, so now it’s your turn to show up as a true friend and assure her, “No problem. I get it. Let’s reschedule.”

Renata Bregstone, 45, from Glencoe, Illinois, admits that when a good friend cancels at the last minute, she might feel annoyed and disappointed at first, particularly because “I’m Type A and fairly rigid in my ‘planning regime,’” but it’s nothing a few deep breaths and reflecting on all of that friend’s good points can’t cure. That said, when a pal constantly pulls out of plans for no seemingly real reason, “I think it’s time to either confront your friend, or revisit the relationship and decide which bucket this friend belongs in....reliable, not so reliable, or maybe just a cool person to hang out with on a rainy day.”

And hopefully, when it’s your turn to occasionally beg for forgiveness because you’re exhausted, or your sitter cancelled, or it’s rainy and gross out and you just wanna chill on the couch and kill brains cells watching The Bachelor, she’ll remember and let you off the hook.