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Monday, April 23, 2012

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Friend

The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to 
have a friend is to be a friend.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson



We have been talking about relationships for the past few weeks. I don’t know about you guys, but I have had many acquaintances in my life, but relatively few that I hold in my heart as true and close friends. And, I am sure the same is true for how people feel about me. Even the most solitary of us need friends in our lives because it gives us gives us some balance and someone to turn to when we’re feeling lonely, in need a listening ear, or just want someone to celebrate with us. If you’ve ever had a really great friend, you’ve noticed all the things they did with you, for you, and on your behalf.

Whether you’re learning to be that kind of a friend yourself or just concerned that you need to polish up your “good friend” skills, here are a few ideas that will help you establish and maintain positive, fulfilling friendships. Because let’s be honest, if you aren’t both being served by and in a relationship, it isn’t going to go the distance.


Getting Better

Here are a few suggestions for nurturing our friendships.

1. Just like in most areas of our lives, listening is the key to meaningful and useful communication. Be a good listener. We all have had times when we just need to vent our feelings or frustrations. When we make the decision to listen rather than offer feedback or suggestions, we are practicing one of the most important behaviors a good friend can do. Keep your ears, mind and heart open.

2. Support your friends. Truth, trust and honesty are most assuredly the cornerstones of any healthy friendship. However, there are times when honesty is less helpful than providing emotional support. Let your friend know you’re there for him and that he can call you at any time. There will be times that we must choose between being empathetic and sympathetic, and being “right.”

3. Always honor your commitments. Have you ever had friends who sometimes show up 5, 10, 20, 30, 45 minutes late, or not at all? Or even a few who are chronically late? It is important that we become someone our friend can always count on. Be dependable and predictable in your friendship. Doing so will ensure you’ll never have a shortage of people who care for you. We honor people by respecting them, their stuff and their time.

4. Spend time together. Make time for your friend. Make an appointment if you need to; use your calendar or smart phone. Do something fun, have dinner, paint the living room, work on the car, or just hang out. A good friend wants to be together and makes time in their busy schedule to do it. Be creative in the planning of activities and you’ll make great memories together.

5. Avoid offering criticism. Providing criticism to someone you care about rarely turns out well in the long-run. Even though you may have formed an opinion on something your friend said or did, it’s probably best to refrain from telling him of his errors. If the occasion arises that they ask you directly for feedback on a situation where you believe they have made a mistake, choose your words very, very carefully. Saying something like, “I might have done it another way” sounds less critical and more helpful than, “You shouldn’t have done it that way.” People need to have the truth spoken into their lives, but we must tread carefully, or they will shut down and refuse to hear anything being said. Always remember to speak the truth in love.

6. Keep your friend’s secrets and problems confidential. Although this should be an obvious point, it is often the most difficult to put into practice. Under no circumstance should you reveal anything about your friend to others who ask, even if one friend puts you on the spot regarding another.

7. Avoid dumping all your life’s concerns and challenges on your friends. Confiding in each other is important, but try very hard to refrain from using your friends only for venting about your own negative feelings and situations. 

8. Keep the energy surrounding your time together as positive as possible. Moderate your conversations so the friendship doesn’t get too bogged down with frustrating or negative energy. If it begins to feel like you are only talking about negative stuff when you’re together, try setting time limits. For instance, say something like this: “For 15 minutes I’m going to talk about my frustrations with work. For the following 15 minutes you can vent, and then we can go have some fun.” Respect the time limit you set to discuss your gripes.

Be the Best

Being a great friend will bring you moments of great joy (and sadness), years of comfort, and decades of treasured memories. Try to consciously implement a few of these strategies into your relationships. You’ll feel like you’re the best friend ever and those you care about will begin to think so, too!

A friend accepts us as we are yet helps us to be what we should. ~ Unknown

Thoughts? What would you add to this list?

Related posts

The building blocks of Good Relationships
1. Be Authentic
2. Be Responsible
3. Be Sticky
4. Be Mission- and Value-minded

Need more work on your communication skills? Check these related posts.
1. Just Look
2. Use Your Words
3. Seek Clarity
4. Respond in Kind

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beija-flor/511667626/sizes/z/in/photostream/

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