As I have gotten older, I have a smaller circle of friends, but I feel like I have closer relationships with those friends. When we’re young, we consider anyone we know to be a friend. Case in point: the typical teenager has 300 “friends” on Facebook.
Your true friends are the people you call when you have big news or just want to gripe about your day. They stick with you through thick and thin – the good times and the bad.
Are you truly a good friend? Could you be a better friend? Here are 9 ways you can strengthen your relationships and become a great friend:
Stop giving advice
Sometimes your friends may just want to vent. They may need your support. You may think that being a good friend means telling your friend how to solve all her problems. However, your friend may start to feel like you’re lecturing her. Let her bounce ideas off of you. Try to offer your opinion only when a friend asks for it.
Excerpt from A Completely Balanced Life:
“Take the time to understand the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of someone before offering advice. Recognize what makes a person unique and encourage their strengths and talents to help them reach their potential.”
As human beings, we tend to judge. Your friends may make decisions you don’t agree with, or have bad habits you don’t like. No one is perfect. And, as the saying goes, you need to walk a mile in your friends’ shoes to understand what they have been through. A true friend accepts people for who they are.
Make time for your friends. We can get caught up in work, family and other obligations. Set aside time for your close friends. Both you and your friends will benefit from the time you spend together.
One of the most important traits of friendship is dependability. You want friends who are consistent and trustworthy, rather than flaky and unreliable. To be a good friend, you need to mean what you say and follow through on your commitments. True friends are the ones you can count on – in good times and bad – no matter what.
Celebrate the good
Friends want to celebrate with you when good things happen. Sometimes, we can be jealous of our friend’s success. Acknowledge your jealousy, then put it aside and be happy for your friend. Real friends are there to cheer on the triumphs of others and share in their joy.
Be there for the bad
This is the true test of a good friend. Fake friends are there for the parties and celebrations. Real friends are there during the difficult times. Your friend may be going through a job loss, divorce, death in the family or depression. True friends stick out the tough times, too.
The art of listening is hard. You may think you’re listening when you’re really not. You may already be thinking about what you want to say instead of focusing on your friend. In addition, your friend may not always say what he means. You may need to listen closely to understand what is really bothering him.
Close friends are honest with each other. You need to be honest about how you feel. Being honest is not the same as being blunt or hurtful. You can nicely tell a friend that her outfit isn’t very flattering. Or if your friend has been drinking too much lately, you can tell him you’re concerned about it. If your friends know that you have their backs and are looking out for them, they know that your criticism is meant with the best of intentions.
Do little things
Take the time to do little things for your friends. Send a text message to a friend who’s having a rough day. Drop by a friend’s office with a cup of coffee. Invite a friend to lunch, or offer to watch her kids while she goes grocery shopping. Little gestures and acts of kindness can mean the world to a friend.
Creating strong, lasting relationships takes nurturing and hard work. Good friendships require balance – give and take on both sides. Could you be a better friend? What tips do you have for being a true friend?