How to be good friend might seem painfully obvious to everyone reading this, but for me, it was something I had to learn. I didn’t have good role models for being a friend in my household as a child; my parents didn’t socialize much either at home or otherwise.
I spent a lot of time bumbling through friendships over the years (and many thanks to all of you who suffered through it!). Here are a few things I learned along the way:
1. Recognize what your friends need from you. This can and often is much different than what you think they need from you.
For example, I love giving advice. It makes me feel like I know stuff, and I genuinely feel like I’m being helpful. I’ve come to learn that this is not a trait my friends value in me. What they’d rather have is someone who will listen, non-judgmentally, to their problems.
Give your audience what they want.
2. Make time for your friends as your life gets busy. Between work, romantic relationships, and running errands, friends can get the short end of your schedule. Make sure you nurture your friendships.
3. Be loyal. This can mean many things, including keeping secrets. Would you want your friends to tell your problems to the world or post on Facebook about them? No? Then don’t do it to your friends.
4. Be respectful. Different people think about the world differently and have different perspectives. If you don’t respect your friends’ views, you shouldn’t be friends in the first place. Some people easily respect different political and religious views, for example, while others do not. Without respect there can be no true friendship.
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5. Show up. Accept invitations and make a point of extending them. Yes, you text and keep on Facebook, but there’s nothing like sitting down face-to-face to have an authentic conversation.
6. Be there. If you have friends with major health problem, be sensitive to their needs and don’t vanish from their lives. Ask what they need from you. Some people like to talk about what’s going on, while others don’t. Be there in the way they need you to be, even if it is uncomfortable for you.
Similarly, be there in the way your friends need you to be when they go through a divorce, lose a job, etc. It might be tempting to steer clear since the conversations can be awkward, but that’s when your friends need you the most.
How do you maintain your friendships?