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“That’s when I realized what a true friend was. Someone, who would always love you – the imperfect you, the confused you, the wrong you – because that is what people are supposed to do.”~ Anonymous
Blair and Serena (Gossip Girls). Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte (Sex in the City). Romy and Michelle (Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion). Meredith and Cristina (Grey’s Anatomy). Key and Peele (The Key and Peel Show). And, Bert and Ernie (Sesame Street).
These BFFs know what it takes to be a good friend. A good friend is there for you during the good and bad times – and all the times in-between. A good friend knows you, maybe better than your own parents, siblings, and partner. He or she knows what to say (and do) to make you feel, at least, a little better. This person is there for you through thick-and-thin. He or she is your “road dog,” “ride-or-die,” “bodyguard,” “advocate,” “truth-teller,” and “fierce defender” – all rolled up into one. Ultimately, a good friend feels like a family member.
How to be a good friend
But, learning how to be a good friend can be hard, challenging, and tricky too. Yes, good friends add value to your life, and they have a funny knack of making you feel connected, loved, appreciated, and, well, human. But, if you get a bad apple or a bad batch of apples, it can lead to gut-wrenching pain, disappointment, confusion, and anger. The truth is there’s nothing worse than a bad friend.
Unfortunately, however, a lot of people just don’t know how to be a good friend. These individuals thrive on drama, chaos, and confusion. And, their friendships are fleeting, disloyal, and betrayal-worthy. In other words, these friendships are superficial – created solely to show others that they’re bursting at the seams with friends. They are young, beautiful, and popular. You? Well, you are simply a pawn in their quest to be “Instagram and Facebook Famous.” These friendships never last and are often wrought with bad experiences and trauma.
Don’t be like that
Don’t be that kind of friend – learn how to be a good friend. Good friends are trustworthy, loyal, loving, honest, and supportive. In particular, good friends know how to:
- Listen without judgment
- Be genuinely happy for their friends
- Be authentic
- Be there for their friends
- Forgive and forget
Be the type of friend who makes others feel good, and who brings out the best in them. Be the type of friend people remember – for all the right reasons.
If you simply don’t know how to be a good friend, don’t fret. This article will give you some pretty incredible pointers on how to be the friend you’ve always dreamed of.
Refrain from sharing your two-cents – unless asked
Don’t dish out advice to your friends or give them your perspective, unless they ask for it. Just listen. Be supportive by allowing them to make their own decisions. Does that mean you shouldn’t say anything? Absolutely not.
You can ask your friends questions that will get them thinking, such as, “What do you think that means?” “How does the situation make you feel?” “What are some positive ways you can handle the situation, and which way or ways are you leaning towards?”
You can also offer words of encouragement by saying, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” Or, “Is there anything I can do to help?” The key to this step is to avoid sharing your two-cents – unless they ask for it. Just let them know you’re there, if they need you; don’t give them unsolicited advice, because it could cause a rift in your friendship.
Be (genuinely) happy for your friends
You’ll also need to be (genuinely) happy for your friends when good things happen to them. Jealously and envy can destroy a good friendship. No one expects their friends to harbor ill-will towards them. They’re our friends, after all – the people closest and dearest to us.
Why wouldn’t they be happy for us when we are blessed with good fortune? Unfortunately, however, since the beginning of time, bad friends have secretly delighted in (and in some cases caused) their friend’s downfall. Seriously. It’s sad, but not out of the realm of possibilities.
People who support you when bad things happen to you but aren’t there to celebrate your successes, are bad friends. Don’t be that type of friend. Be one who is both supportive, when need be, and sincerely happy for your friends, when good things happen to them.
Note: The best way to tackle this step is to put yourself in your friend’s shoes. In other words, try to view it from their perspective. What does that mean? It means “get out of your feelings for a while” and concentrate on what is happening with your friend. If you must wallow, do it once you get home – not in front of your friends. You’d want them to be happy for you, right? Same applies to them.
Be honest about who you are and how you feel. There is nothing worse than fake friends. You know, the ones who behave one way with you and another way with other people. For instance, a friend may pretend to abhor partying, while in your presence, because you don’t party…but they party like a maniac every day of the week when around other friends. That’s not being real. No one wants to hang around people who are constantly changing who they are to “fit in” with others.
The best friends are the ones who are real, who are comfortable in their own skins. So, to be a good friend, all you have to do is be yourself. Don’t “put on airs” or pretend to be someone you’re not. Because, honestly, that’s just not cool. Good friends are honest and relaxed around each other. They accept each other as is. They don’t have to pretend to be someone they’re not to get them to be or stay friends with them. They can be ‘real’ around each other.
You can’t be a good friend to others if you abandon them on a regular basis. Who wants to be friends with someone who is constantly canceling plans or who doesn’t have time to talk to them? No one. Most people, especially young adults, are busy. They have college, work, love interests or a partner, social events, and household (and possibly parenting) responsibilities.
Life can be super crazy for a 20-something-year-old. I get it. But, the worst thing you can do is neglect the people who have been there for you in thick-and-thin. It’s just not cool, and it makes you look like a bad friend. Your friends love you, so they want to hear from you and be a part of your life. Don’t shut them out, you may need their love and support one day. So, make time for them – even if you only have a little time to spare. For instance, schedule a breakfast with one friend or a group of friends at a quick-service breakfast restaurant like Panera or Holler and Dash. Or, meet-up at your local coffee shop, or even the grocery store (you can grocery shop together) that way you can kill two birds with one stone – visiting with friends and completing a household task! A good friend makes time for their friends, because they matter.
Forgive and forget
Lastly, be a good friend by forgiving your friends when they mess up. Everyone makes mistakes but those mistakes don’t have to define your friendship – unless you want them to. So, be willing to work through any issues you have. Be willing to listen and forgive. Every friendship hits rocky patches from time-to-time.
If you haven’t experienced challenges, you may want to take a deeper look at your friendship, because something may be “off” and you may not even know it. Being a good friend entails showing your loved ones you are willing to go the long haul with them – even when your feelings are hurt.
The thing is, these “trials” can make your friendships stronger and healthier. It’s all in how you address and cope with the issues. The worst thing you can do is give up on a good friendship because you’re experiencing difficulties. That’s life; don’t walk away from a good friend, rather, get back on the horse and try again.
About the Author
Dr. R. Y. Langham
Ph.D. in Family Psychology
Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
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