How To Be a Better Friend
Friendship is a wonderful thing. A good friend can do so much for our well-being, helping to reflect back all the best parts of ourselves (not to mention helping us highlight the parts that we'd like to work on), and securing our sense of belonging. Good friends can cheer us up on difficult days, help us out of a bind, offer a fresh perspective, encourage us to be brave, make us laugh, call us out when we need to check ourselves, and go along with some of the more questionable ideas on our bucket lists. It’s a special kind of relationship that doesn’t get as celebrated as a romantic partnership, but can be far more enduring – and it is not to be taken for granted. Because the core of a friendship is less in the “doing” and more in the “being”. A true friend is someone you feel completely safe with – to be silly, to be real, to be radically honest about everything that’s going on with you. And being a better friend to somebody else is about cultivating that safe space for each other. If you’re looking to put a little more heart and thought into your friendships for stronger, and more long-lasting relationships, here are some tips to help you.
When you’re together…
Listen! Truly, actively, listen. When people share their thoughts, feelings, and problems with us, it feels great to be able to give advice to our friends and hope we can help them out. But it’s easy to veer into “fixer” territory, and in doing so, make things more about us and our own assumptions than what our friends need from us. Unless someone is specifically asking for your advice, most of the time, the only thing your friend really needs is to feel seen, heard, and understood, with you holding space for them to do so. Validate their feelings and ask questions about what they are telling you, to deepen your understanding.
When you’re apart…
Send love notes! There’s no need to force it, of course, but if something reminds you of a certain friend – maybe an in-joke or a specific memory – don’t hesitate to tell them. Send them a photo, voice note, or a simple “thinking of you” message, and don’t dwell on how quickly they respond to you, or whether they do at all. Share it for the sake of putting it out there and spreading the love, with no expectations in return. A small act of love can really make someone’s day and shouldn’t come with any conditions attached.
When you haven’t spoken for a while…
Accept the ebb and flow. Friendships grow and evolve as our life circumstances change. And that’s ok. The beauty of friendship, unlike family ties or partnerships, is that there are no preconceived obligations, vows, or responsibilities – just a mutual delight in each other’s existence. Keep hold of that feeling, from however far, and don’t taint it with guilt, fear, or judgment. Good friends can go months or even years without seeing each other and then pick up as if nothing has really changed.
When you’re feeling guilty…
Do things out of love. Gifts, visits, phone calls, check-ins, lending a hand with things that they're struggling to handle alone – these are all wonderful ways to show people you love them, but only when they come from the heart – not through obligation, guilt, or a misguided need to “perform” your friendship. Your friendships will each have their own love languages, so lean into what works for each of your friends – even if that sometimes means honoring some with a little more space.
When you’re struggling…
Trust them to be your safe space! Being a good friend isn’t just about holding space for other people. It’s also important to allow people in, ask for help, and let yourself be carried when you aren’t doing so well. Sometimes we are good at intuiting when someone is struggling, and sometimes we’re too busy with our own “stuff”. Ultimately, none of us are mind readers, so it’s ok to reach out to your friends and say, “Anyone free for a chat? I’m not doing so well.” If you’d like a friend to be there for you during a tough time, give them a chance to.
When they are struggling…
Be compassionate. Sometimes we need to assert a bit of tough love, but sometimes we need to recognize, understand, and appreciate where a friend is currently at on their growth journey – and then meet them there. It can be hard to watch someone we love make questionable choices, or settle for something we know falls short of their worth – but you don’t know what internal obstacles they are overcoming. Just celebrate where they are and how far they have come, and make it known how grateful you are for their presence in your life.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Friendship Importance Around The World: Links To Cultural Factors, Health, And Well-Being; An Exploratory Study Of Friendship Characteristics And Their Relations With Hedonic And Eudaimonic Wellbeing.
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