If this is a dating column, why am I writing about friendship?
Two reasons, actually.
1. Before you can actually be a good partner, you have to know how to be a good friend because all great relationships begin with the fundamentals of knowing how to be a good friend. A lover is just a friend you want to have sex with:)
2. If you try to do things out of order (try to find a relationship without first building strong friendships with people of the same gender) the people you date will wonder why you don’t have any close friendships. People will judge you by your friends, and if you don’t have any close friends, they are going to wonder if it’s because you’re not someone people want to get close to.
Everything I’ve written below can also apply to those you date.
When I think about my closest friends, all of them do what is on this list. Some of my friends live across the country, some of them live in a nearby city, but all of them know exactly what it takes to be a good friend. I think that some people are taught these lessons, and others learn from experience. For those who are still trying to figure out how to find good friends and keep them, I think the secret is to be a good friend. When it comes to friendship, often times, like attracts like. So if you know how to be a good friend, you will have more chances of attracting other people who would be good friends as well. Below are 5 simple ways to be a good friend.
1. Don’t talk badly about other people, especially those you mutually know.
At first glance, you might be thinking, How does that make me a bad friend if I’m talking about someone else? When you put others in a negative light, those listening will know that you are a person who cannot be trusted. You are airing out your complaints to other people instead of to the actual person. When someone talks badly about another person, what goes through my head is this: If they can talk about so and so around me, then they can turn around and do the same thing with me if I’m not around.
Of course there is a way to share and ask friends for guidance. Just make sure all other parties are not placed in a negative light, and that your purpose is to be constructive and not to put another person down. You can say something like,
“Janet told me I’m a little brash. Is there any truth to that? Please be honest.”
This is constructive, whereas this is not constructive:
“Janet told me I’m brash! I can’t believe it! I mean the other day her husband was in the room and she was yelling at him like a two year old. Their marriage is falling apart. Rumor has it he’s filing for divorce. She has no room to talk.”
2. Take interest in their life.
Some people do this naturally. What do I mean by taking an interest in someone’s life? What I mean is that in a conversation, there should be mutual sharing, and this should be facilitated by both parties asking questions.
If you have a friend who only answers your questions and does not return the favor, you’re going to feel like the friendship is one sided. You’re always the one asking if she got the promotion, if her sick daughter is well, if she’s started that cake making class. What does she do? She answers and doesn’t ask you about your life or mention anything in your past conversations.
These are the kinds of friends that end up just becoming my acquaintances. I don’t feel like making an effort on friendships that are one sided, so these people get less priority in my life. If you want to be a good friend, you have to take an interest in the lives of others. You have to want to know more details about their lives, and you do this by asking questions and paying attention.
If your friend told you she’s nervous and feeling a bit down because her mother in law is in the hospital, the next time you see her, ask her how her mother in law is doing. Ask her how she’s feeling about the whole situation this week. Has anything changed? Is there anything she wants to talk about? Is there anything you can do for her?
Don’t expect people to volunteer information after they’ve asked you something. It’s a friend’s job to inquire because inquiry shows a true interest and a selflessness that people value.
3. Respond to texts, voice mails, and emails promptly.
The length of time you take to respond to a form of communication from a friend is directly proportional to how high they feel they are in your priorities. Some people make the excuse that they are busy, and this is true for most people, but there is a simple way to solve this problem. Respond immediately, even if it is just to say, “So sorry, I’m swamped this week! Can it wait a couple days? If not I can call you on my lunch.”
A response to talk later is better than no response at all. When someone doesn’t respond, it feels like you’re getting ignored. This response above works well because you are giving the person the option of you calling them the same day (if it’s an emergency- physical or emotional) and it helps you gauge how immediate the need is. Either way, your friend doesn’ t feel ignored. Nobody likes to feel ignored. So even if you put it on your to do list: “call Sue,” Sue doesn’t know it’s on your list. All she knows is she did not get a response.
4. Make an effort to INITIATE meetups and phone calls.
If you’re the kind of friend who only responds to invitations, phone calls etc…, you are not an ideal friend, even if you always say yes or always answer the phone. Nobody likes to be the friend who is doing all the contacting and making all the effort. It shows you are not that invested in the friendship, and it also shows you’re not willing to do any of the work. If your friend is always the one coming up with ideas or inviting you to concerts, or making the effort through texts and phone calls, your friend will feel like she is imposing and you could care less if she disappeared. Would the friendship continue if she did not make an effort? Probably not.
Friendships, like any relationship, take maintenance. Someone has to come up with plans, someone has to make the invite, and someone has to text and call. Make sure you are sharing in the work and taking some of the responsibility of initiating. It could be as simple as doing some planning for the fun events you want to attend.
“Let’s go check out the new band playing at the Comet Cafe! Are you free Saturday?”
5. Listen, support, and offer positive advice, but don’t give unsolicited advice or opinions that put your friend in a negative light.
As a general rule, most people don’t want unsolicited advice or an opinion if it is attacking their character, marriage, how they live, what they do, how they raise their kids etc…
Basically, if it makes a person look bad in any way, don’t offer it unless they ask. Friends don’t usually want advice. They want an accomplice. They want someone to agree with them. If you don’t agree, I’m not suggesting you lie. I’m just suggesting that you truthfully and lovingly tell them you don’t agree, but then withhold sharing your negative opinions or advice unless they ask for it.
We need friends to listen, to support and to encourage. If you are the kind of friend who does not have a filter when it comes to being tactful, or if you too readily give your opinion (negative), you will turn off many people. It’s important to be honest in friendships, but it is just as important to be sensitive and think before you speak. Don’t tell your friend, “That’s a terrible idea!” Say this instead: “Hmmm, what do you think about doing this instead?”
Don’t tell your friend, “You know, if you do that to your kids, it’s going to do this to them.” Let them be the parent. You are not the parent. You are the friend. Know your role. Don’t give her marriage advice unless she asks. Don’t give her parenting advice unless she asks.
The time to speak about negative things is when those things affect you. Then you can feel free to speak the truth in love.
Practice these five simple things and you will be on your way to attracting good friends and being a better friend in return.