What is one kind of relationship that can…
- Be an immense source of happiness and fulfillment,
- Teach you vital social skills,
- Help you define your priorities,
- Offer you support through thick and thin,
- Significantly reduce your feelings of loneliness and isolation,
- Give you a reality check every now and again, and
- Help you create social change?
You guessed it: Friendship!
Like any other thing in life worth having, it takes time and effort to cultivate friendship. But a good friend is a valuable asset in life: your friends know your secret aspirations, petty annoyances, and every daily win and loss. They’re your memory bank, moral compass, and reassurance that you aren’t the only person who’s equally passionate about Bridgerton, dad shoes, and VSCO.
You should also know that being a good friend helps you make good friends, and good friends make life so much better! The better quality friendships you have, the less isolated you’ll feel. The less isolated you feel, the happier you’ll be.
In our current world of social media and social distancing, it’s good to remember that friendship is still a matter of the heart, not heart emojis, and as such must be handled with care. Here are our best tips for how to be a good friend.
What do good friends do for each other?
Accept each other.
We all want to be accepted and loved for who we really are. Accept your friends as they are, as an individual, unconditionally. Don’t try to change or manipulate them into being someone they’re not. The hallmark of a true friendship is feeling as comfortable together as you do when you’re by yourself.
Sometimes, your friend might do something that you don’t necessarily agree with. You don’t need to support the situation, but always support the person.
Show up for your friends.
Showing up for your friend means being fully present and engaged. It doesn’t take a lot, and it shows that you care. When you show up, you’re showing your friends that you’re as invested as they are.
When you’re fully present, you’re able to listen attentively and notice things that you wouldn’t ordinarily if you were only half paying attention.
When you’re fully engaged, you’re showing genuine interest, care, and concern. That means you’re responding appropriately and asking questions.
Part of showing up is being sensitive. By reading the room, you’ll be able to tell when it’s okay to be goofy or when it’s time to be serious. That’s how you develop trust. When you and your friends have a trusting relationship, it’s easier to share hard truths with each other.
Good friends care enough about their friends to tell them the truth, no matter how difficult it may be. Understand that any misunderstandings can be resolved over time.
It’s also important to show honesty in a tactful way—always strive to deliver unpleasant truths as kindly as possible. There’s a difference between being conscious of your friend’s feelings and letting them ruin themselves over the long run. For instance, have they developed a bad habit of skipping out on classes? Let them know that you’ve noticed, ask them what else is going on in their lives, and offer tips to help them move past harmful behaviors.
Loyal friends are all about sticking around even when things get rough. Good friends don’t badmouth each other behind their backs. Instead, you and your friends should feel comfortable sharing your concerns with each other, discussing your differences with respect, and standing up for each other.
When we sense that others are loyal to us, we feel comfortable enough to let our guards down and be vulnerable. Show loyalty by giving your friends the space and safety to be who they truly are.
Show your support.
Good friends support one another. This means you listen to everything they say intently, then offer support in any way you can. They improve their friends’ lives through friendship.
It’s nice to remind your friends that you’ll always be there. This means checking in with them regularly, making sure they’re doing okay, and being there to cheer them up when they’re going through something rough.
You can do this by:
- Cheering up your friend when they’re upset
- Offering little gestures, like picking up coffee and snacks, that make your friend feel special
- Celebrating the wins
- Being there to support the losses
- Keeping your word, and acknowledging it when you don’t
Share your story.
Discovering similarities with other people helps us live happy and healthy lives. Discussing our differences helps us develop perspective.
When you share your story, even if it’s not immediately obvious, you’re helping those closest to you grow. Friends help us define ourselves, and we share meaning with others through our stories.
And perhaps most importantly, share your gratitude and appreciation every chance you get.
Good friends are generous to each other. Generosity doesn’t always involve money, either.
- Take your time. Ask your friend, "How are you really feeling today?" Let them talk while giving your undivided attention. Lean in. Stay there. Hold a supportive space for them. Give it that extra five minutes.
- Pay a meaningful compliment. If you know your friend has been working hard on something, take the time to encourage them with a genuine (and specific) compliment.
- Use good manners. It’s easy to say please and thank you, and it goes a long way in making others feel appreciated.
- Go the extra mile. When your friend asks you to help proofread their U.S. History essay, do it like it’s your job. Grab a red pen and review the essay with a fine-tooth comb. Give them tips on how to improve their sentence structure, or how to develop their arguments more clearly.
- Do the little things. Make or bake something for your friend, and surprise them with it. Make a Spotify playlist for you and your friends. Leave nice comments on your friends’ social media posts.
And finally, when someone does something kind and generous for you, accept it with gratitude and thanks.
Understand and respect their boundaries.
Introverts make up an estimated 25 to 40 percent of the population. Chances are, you might have one or two friends who are introverted. You might even be an introvert yourself!
Am I an introvert or an extrovert?
Think of your “social battery.” The difference between introvertedness and extrovertedness comes down to how you recharge:
- Introverts recharge their batteries by hanging out alone.
- Extroverts recharge their batteries by being around others.
One of the biggest challenges that introverts face is learning to set healthy boundaries. Boundaries are guidelines that define things that are okay and not okay to us. So, when we don’t set clear boundaries, they’re more likely to be violated.
One great way you can help your friends by respecting their boundaries. If you’re not sure whether you’re violating a boundary, pay close attention to their verbal cues and body language. Of course, you can always just ask how they’re feeling. Your friends will appreciate you for anticipating their needs and boundaries.
Stick to your word.
When you tell your friends you’ll do something, do it. If, for some reason, you can’t do what you said you would, acknowledge it.
Here are a few ways you can show people that you’re dependable:
- Keep your promises. If it’s big enough, just one broken promise can seriously shake the foundation of your friendship. When there is a pattern of broken promises, it’s very difficult for the friendship to recover.
- Be on time. Time is our most precious resource. When you show up on time, consistently, it sends the message that you care.
- Stay accountable. Your actions, good or bad, have an effect on others. If you want to be somebody others trust, you need to take responsibility for what you say and do.
And most importantly, be consistent. When you speak and act with consistency, you’ll prove that you’re reliable and dependable.
Apologize when you’re in the wrong.
It takes a big person to admit when you’ve done something wrong. Don’t be afraid of admitting to your friends that you messed up. It happens to all of us. Someone who can swallow his or her pride and admit they’re in the wrong is a great friend.
A sincere apology can go a long way toward mending a relationship. Refusing to give a sincere apology can lead to anger, resentment, and eventually, the end of a friendship. If you value your friendship, it’s wise to step up and accept blame for your mistakes, and resolve to do better next time.
Friendship is one of the best things in life. It’s one of the most valuable and rewarding parts of life. However, it doesn’t come easy—it takes a lot of effort from both parties to maintain a good, healthy friendship! Even so, it’s worth the effort to build strong bonds with our friends. So, continue being a good friend and your life will be far better for it.