Friendship is different for everyone. The qualities and ideals that we look for in others may depend on how much we value and respect ourselves, our family, our education, and so on. I’ve narrowed it down to eleven concepts I believe are most important in being a resilient and great friend:
1. Learn to love yourself.
If you’ve been reading my blog thus far, you have heard me say before that all of your relationships stem from the one that you have with yourself. If you love and respect yourself, you know how to love and respect others equally. Before you can be a good friend to someone else, you have to be your own best friend first. Self-love improves and forms the love that we are able to have for others. This process really does begin within and if you cannot acquire love for yourself, it’s not possible to love another from a positive and sincere place. First and foremost, if you want to be a good friend, you need to have an authentic and confident state of well-being.
In order to be a good friend, you have to be an excellent listener. Be authentic and actually listen to what another is saying. There is a difference between someone being there and hearing what you say and when someone actually pays attention and focuses on you.
Don’t interrupt. You may want to share something but wait until the appropriate moment to chime in –no one can stand being spoken over. You’d be surprised with how many people don’t realize this.
Put down your cellphone and put your full awareness on the conversation. I’ve been trying to work on this when I’m with friends –I give myself a no phone rule –keep it in your purse or pocket until you’ve left. This shows that you care more about the person in front of you than the Internet or someone that is not present. Give full attention and awareness –it shows how much you value them.
3. Speak from the heart.
Being true and upfront about your feelings is so important. I’ve found that by just being honest with those in your life, it is less stressful than tiptoeing around and being careful not to offend anyone. Why would you want to be friends with anyone that isn’t being one-hundred percent truthful with you? It’s a lot of wasted time and energy when you’re not being straightforward. Did your friend say or do something that upset you or made you really happy? Tell them and don’t be afraid to express yourself –that’s what friends are for! There is also a way to be direct that is both respectful and does not come off as callous –be wary of how your audience is reacting. If they’re starting to get defensive, probably a good idea to be a bit gentler in your approach –not everyone is used to others being so forthright.
Give genuine advice. Are you not a fan of your friend’s most recent conquest? Is your friend being unreasonable about something? Do you feel they were in the wrong in a situation? Be direct and supportive with your advice. If you are asking for advice, chances are you want the truth; so be sincere and speak from the heart. Sincerity attracts the like.
4. Be supportive.
You do not always have to hang out or see someone in person to be supportive –instead, you can encourage your friends emotionally. Especially with various outlets of communication, you can always make time to be a reassuring friend. Being supportive can have various meanings, but to me it is to be a good listener and be dependable. This can be done in different ways depending on who you are as a person. I’m definitely not the type of person that is able to stop whatever I’m doing to visit a friend in need –I’m in my late twenties and that’s just not feasible any longer. However, if one of my friends needs to vent or needs advice, I am always willing to take a few minutes to be there for them. Take a step back, be empathetic, be aware of what your friend needs, and follow your instincts.
5. Be conscientious.
Nothing is worse than having a friend that doesn’t understand boundaries. This just goes back to the fundamental basics of human contact. Just because you are close to someone, does not mean that limitations and etiquette no longer exist. Be polite! Speak with your friends, do not talk at them. Share time speaking and ask questions –a conversation is never one sided. No one wants to hear your voice the whole time they are with you.
Respectfully ask when someone would like to hang out and if they are available –do not tell them or be insistent. Feel the water and be aware of what type of person your friend is and respect who they are –you may not agree with everything, but that’s okay. The older that you get, the less free time we have; so treasure and value the time you get to spend together and take what you can get. There are some friends that I only get to see once in a blue moon, but I appreciate every moment spent with them.
6. Build trust.
Trust is the rich, lush soil for any relationship –it needs a solid foundation for it to grow. If you rely on someone, you feel safe and comfortable with them. In order for any secrets to be shared or any fondness to develop, a sense of security must be put in place. You’re not going to want to be around someone that makes you feel uncomfortable. Building confidence in others is effortless by listening and being respectful. If you’re loyal, keep secrets, and mutually share, you’re in the process of building trust. Just be yourself and the more natural you feel, the better the communication will be!
7. Remember birthdays and special dates.
When certain people remembered my birthday (outside of Facebook) last week, I was ecstatic. I’m pretty big on birthdays, but even if you’re not, having someone acknowledge the day you came into the world feels pretty fantastic. You don’t have to be Leslie Knope (from Parks and Recs) and celebrate the first time you shared waffles together, but just be mindful and attentive to the important moments in your friend’s lives –they will appreciate you more for it.
8. Be respectful.
Everyone is not going to think or believe the same way that you do. It’s okay for others to have different beliefs and differences in opinion. It is possible to be friends and care for someone that has opposite views. I have had a friend for fourteen years and he and I could not be more different in politics, religion, and everything in between. He is still one of my very best friends and just because I do not agree with him on everything, does not mean I do not respect his outlook. To be fair, the opinions that we feel strongly about we normally avoid the subject completely because we both know that we will fight till the death on them. Just be considerate and respectful of those around you and never try and change who they are. You can disagree fully while still accepting who your friend is as a person.
You don’t necessarily have to forget, but you must always forgive. Never hold grudges. I’ve realized that forgiveness can be fussy and you really have no control over it. The way to forgive is for your love for another person or yourself to overlap the anger or hurt. It’s easier said than done and it definitely does not happen overnight. Though, the more thought and intent you put into forgiving rather than holding onto anger and hurt, the simpler it becomes. Holding a grudge is like putting a huge boulder in the way of your path –it’s just blocking your way and it doesn’t let you move past until you break it apart and walk over it. I wouldn’t say that you should forget –learn your lesson about why something that someone said or did made you upset and discover that about yourself. You and your relationships can become deeper because of it.
There is nothing more important than laughter. Laughter can form friendships, mend fences, and strengthen love. Make sure to laugh and have fun with one another. If you can joke and tease and not sweat the small stuff, you can always get through the challenging moments. Always remember to smile and in turn, make those around you glow as well.
11. Share your life.
The whole purpose of friendship is to have someone to share your thoughts, your dreams, and your fears with. So ultimately, you have to find somebody that you have a natural connection with. Personally, I have a lot of acquaintances but for me to actually open up to someone, you have to be an extremely special person. As you share your dreams, goals, and viewpoints, your friendship grows richer and more rewarding because you cheer each other on and encourage each other’s growth. It’s wonderful having these friends that support you all the way. If I didn’t reveal a special part of me, we wouldn’t be such great friends. So share a part of yourself with another –more often than not, you will be accepted unquestionably and loved all the more for it.
All of these ideas are interconnected –they usually go hand in hand with one another in any relationship. Be genuinely yourself and the rest comes naturally. Friendship is similar to a puzzle –the more pieces of yourself that you share, the more pieces you get in return, and when you step back after years of creating, you realize it’s become this beautiful masterpiece that you share with another like-minded individual –and you cannot get anything better than that.