Would you say that you’re a ‘good friend’? Do people come to you for love, support and adventure? Or are you constantly finding reasons to complain about your friendships and those around you?
While making (and keeping) friends may seem less of a science and more of an instinctive behavior, the truth is that friendship is an art form and something that needs to be developed
But that’s not to say I’m going to send you off to friendship charm school. Although that does sound kind of fun. Instead, I’m going to offer you some simple solutions that when added to your repertoire will help you maintain strong, healthy and nourishing relationships with your friends and loved ones.
Are you ready for them? Here we go!
Tip #1: Listen more than you speak
I’m terrible for greeting my partner at the door like an excitable Labrador and then proceeding to spend the next 20-minutes chattering away about my day. I don’t even pause for breath.
And while my partner is very understanding about this (I work from home, so I get a bit lonely sometimes), this doesn’t really give me (or anyone else) permission to yap away for hours on end.
Life is about balance. But on this point, I think the balance should be a little more in favor of listening rather than speaking. Imagine a scale where words carry twice the weight as a moment of silence. In this model, it takes but a sentence to tip the scales in favor of speaking. I want to restore balance to listening.
So the next time you ask a question, wait for the answer. Let the person tell the full story, illustrate their complete response. And then, when you feel that your words can add value, speak.
Tip #2: Keep your promises
There’s nothing worse than the type of friend who leaves you hanging. Whether it’s a coffee catch-up or a meeting at the mall, they always manage to shirk their promises and leave you feeling frustrated and disappointed.
This is why a vital component of strong friendships is the ability to trust each other. And part of this trust can only be developed if you stay true to your word and keep your promises. You’re not going to convince your friend to go out on a limb and put their trust in you if you can’t even make it to a monthly catch up.
If you make a promise, keep it. Easy as that.
Tip #3: Give advice, but only when it’s asked for
Have you ever had a really, really bad day and called a friend for a bit of a sook session, only to find that they kept offering you advice rather than support?
“You should tell them this,” they say.
“Oh, lemon juice will fix that right up!” they declare.
And all the while you’re seething, thinking that this isn’t what you wanted.
Nobody likes a know-it-all, especially when what you’re actually looking for is support, not advice. We’re all smart enough and beautiful enough to find solutions to our own problems and if we can’t, to ask for help. But what we can’t do is give ourselves a big bear hug and whisper ‘it’s going to be okay’, or ‘they’re all cows!’ That’s what friends are for. Unwavering, dedicated and loyal support. Always.
By offering advice when it’s not asked for, you’re ignoring the needs of your friend. If they want your advice, they’ll ask for it. Otherwise, don’t give it. Cuddle them, hug them, make them breakfast in bed, but keep your wisdom to yourself and save it for another time.
Tip #4: Sisters before misters
Okay, so we’re all guilty of putting our new loves ahead of our friends on the odd occasion. Completely natural, don’t beat yourself up for it.
However, there’s a little something called the Honeymoon period and this is also your friendship leniency period too. It’s when your friends will roll their eyes, tease you and miss you but they’ll put up with your antics. Once this period ends though, you have to pull yourself back in line.
Your friends come first, no matter what. They were there for you before your boyfriend or girlfriend was, and will probably still be there for you if the relationship ever ends. They’re the ones that hold your hair back when you puke, and stay on the phone with you for hours when you’re feeling upset. And they’re the ones you should prioritize.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean ditching your partner for your friends all the time. Instead, seek a balance. Set aside time to spend with your friends, or incorporate the two. Answer your friends’ calls (even if you’re with your partner) and basically, just make an effort. That’s all that is required of you.
Tip #5: Don’t trash talk
We live in a very, very small world. If you don’t believe this fact, watch how quickly a juicy rumor circulates. This same rule applies for nasty gossip and trash talk. People seem to adore spreading trash talk around and won’t hesitate to tell your friend something you told them in private. It’s just how things work.
For this reason, it’s just easier to avoid saying anything bad about your friends, loved ones, or heck – anyone really. Because at some point or another, they’re going to find out. And is it really worth the angst, guilt and anger when the truth gets out? A moment of anger or frustration does not justify saying something bad about someone.
If you’re really, really frustrated and just have to get it out, why not write them a letter? Vent all of your anger and explain what the said/did to make you feel this way. Then, write a letter back to yourself, pretending to be them. Apologize for hurting you and try to explain things from their perspective.
This might sound like a weird exercise to do, but it really just helps you put on their shoes for a moment and release all of your pent-up emotions.
Once you’re finished with both letters, burn them. Fire safety at all times, of course.
Tip #6: Be your own BFF
And last but not least, don’t forget to be your own friend too. You’re never going to find and keep the right kinds of friends if you don’t love and respect yourself.
This is quite an odd concept to get your head around, so here are some suggestions for improving your relationship with yourself:
- Have ‘alone’ time every day
- Refuse to say anything negative about yourself
- Treat yourself to small indulgences like manicures, pedicures and massages
- Eat the right foods to nourish and nurture your body
- Move your body ever day. Your body loves it!
- Get fresh air every single day. If possible, add in some sunshine
- Find some favorite affirmations like “I am strong, brave and capable” and “I am beautiful” and repeat them every day
- Be comfortable making your own way, and your own path, in life. Don’t follow the crowd ‘just because’
Finding ways to love and accept yourself more will make you a better person to be around. You won’t have to try so hard to find and keep friends, instead people will be drawn to your positivity, playfulness and confidence. Be the sort of person you’d like to hang around.
Friends are there to love us, support us and enjoy the experience of ‘life’ with us. We choose who we spend time with and why. It’s all within our control. So take back control of your friendships and rediscover the lost art of friendship – your life will be all the better for it!
Cover photo: tumblr.com