Green Means Go!
From our humble beginnings as carefree kiddos playing, “Red Light, Green Light” on the school playground, the color red has been associated with warnings, alarms, or coming to a full stop. Red lights signal us to stop our cars on the road, red tape is used to caution us from proceeding past a certain point, red signs indicate danger, and in relationships red flags refer to warnings to get out before we become attached to a person that may be emotionally, mentally, or physically dangerous. While it is important to recognize red flags in relationships, this should not be our sole focus. What if we directed more of our attention to recognizing the Green Flags?
What are Green Flags?
Humans are social beings. Inherently, we seek connection with people who help us feel understood, loved, and appreciated. This connection is vital to our mental, emotional, and physical health. Red flags are warning us of potential danger ahead, while green flags solidify safety within our relationships, allowing us to proceed without anxiety or concern.
How do we identify Green Flags?
Recognizing green flags may feel confusing for those who have experienced toxic relationships or have experienced trauma within relationships. These negative experiences may make it difficult to trust one’s perceptions and relationship choices whether they are romantic or platonic in nature.
One of the first steps to recognizing safe relationships is to be aware of how your mind and body react in the presence of a person. Some helpful questions to ask yourself:
Am I feeling anxious?
Is my body tense?
Do I feel uneasy, nervous, or worried before or after I have a conversation with this person?
Do I feel better or worse after spending time with this person?
What do Green Flags look like?
Green flags will vary person to person; it would be impossible to list all the potential green flags, but here are a few to look for:
Reciprocity, Relationships that are Not One-sided: Both of you put in the effort to maintain the relationship – making plans, reaching out to each other equally, and sharing the emotional load.
Respecting Boundaries: A healthy friend understands the need for limitations in relationships and respects the boundaries you set. For example, you can openly share your thoughts and opinions, or even share that you can’t hangout because you’re going to be spending time with other friends.
Support and Excitement: You can share achievements and know your friend is genuinely happy for you. Additionally, they ask you questions, show excitement, provide you the space to share your excitement, and want to talk about life changes and accomplishments with you.
Encouragement and Emotional Investing: Conversations go beyond talking about our favorite TV show or the latest water cooler talk; you talk about goals, dreams, hopes and even the struggles and sorrows of life – the good, the bad, the ugly.
Active listening and Empathy: They remember things you have shared, attentively listen to you, ask you questions, try to understand what you’re sharing, and take a genuine interest in your life.
Acceptance: You feel free to be you. Have you heard the expression “being on”? Truly being accepted in a relationship/friendship would allow you to be who you are without concern around whether you’re being judged.
Honesty: They are honest with you. While it’s important to be accepted for who you truly are, a healthy friend will be honest with you even when honesty might be hard. Sometimes we equate support with agreement, but a healthy, supportive friend will challenge you and tell it like it is…without judgment.
While it is important to be aware of the potential of red flags in relationships, making an effort to look for the green flags may lead to meaningful, lifelong connections that enrich your life. Learning to find that balance between seeing the red and green flags is no easy feat and will surely take some practice, but the rewards that result from being intentional can be very long lasting.
Savita Jaswal, RSW