We all assume we’re great friends, but how do you know? Maybe it’s time to go back to basics and work out how to be a friend in the best possible way.
Do you know how to be a friend? Of course, you do. You’re nodding along, confident in your answer. If you asked your nearest and dearest, would they agree?
Let’s be honest, nobody is perfect. From time to time, you might let your friendship responsibilities slip. You might neglect a close friend because you’re having a relationship issue or cancel a few nights out because you’re tired from work.
These things happen. Occasional lapses such as this don’t make you a bad friend overall. What you should do is ensure that you know how to be a friend in the best way possible. Then, if you feel like you’re slipping, or you see someone close to you going through something tough, you can be there and do what you’re supposed to do—be their friend. [Read: How you can stop being a selfish person]
The back to basic lessons on how to be a friend
To help you out, because a lot of the time the basics are things we simply can’t remember, here’s how to be a friend.
#1 Learn to listen. Of course, you know how to listen, right? Probably not. Most of us don’t. We simply let the words flow into our brains, hear them, and then flow back out. Really listening means taking the words in, understanding what they mean, but also being able to read non-verbal cues too, such as body language, as well as tone of voice, speed of speech, etc.
Most of us overlook these things. Usually because we’re too distracted by our phones or someone cute who’s walked past. We all do it.
If you want to learn how to be a friend, the best friend possible, learn how to listen. Stop and really take the time to pay attention to what is being said, and what isn’t. Sometimes you must read between the lines to get the full story. [Read: Do you love talking and hate listening?]
#2 Never be scared of honesty. There are ways to say things and not to say things. As a good friend, you should always be truthful, even if you think what you have to say may cause your friend upset or distress. A good friend is always honest.
If you have something to tell your friend which you know they’re not going to like, approach it with sensitivity and caution. Find the right time. Don’t simply come out with it and expect them to deal with it. Then, you always offer to support them afterwards.
Learning how to be a friend isn’t always about the good stuff. Sometimes it’s about having to deal with difficulties in friendship too, but doing it for the right reasons, with the wellbeing of your friend at the center of everything you do. [Read: Why don’t people like you? The 20 most common reasons]
#3 Be loyal at all times. Of course, you can have more than one friend, but offer your loyalty to all of them. Never backstab, talk behind their backs, and gossip for the sake of it. Whatever you have to say about your friend, you should be comfortable saying to their face. They should do the same with you.
If someone is talking about your friend in their absence, stick up for them, and defend them. That is what makes you a good friend.
#4 Understand that you don’t need to agree on everything. One of the biggest mistakes that people make in friendship is assuming that you have to agree on everything, otherwise you’re simply not compatible as friends anymore. That’s rubbish!
We all have our own opinions and quirks. Friendship is about understanding these and accepting them, even if they’re not the same as yours. Accept your friend for the wonderful human being they are: opinions, quirks and all! [Read: 15 signs a friend is using you and draining your happiness away]
#5 Never allow your friend to be alone in times of need. You should never allow them to be alone when they’re down/upset/angry/grieving, or anything else negative. A good friend will be able to instinctively know when their friend requires support, even if they tell you they’re fine. Don’t listen, they’re not fine. Turn up to their house with ice cream, wine, beer, pizza, whatever works.
#6 Accept your friend’s choices and don’t judge them. Your friend may at times do or choose things which you don’t like or agree with. For instance, perhaps they enter into a relationship with someone who you don’t like. That’s not your business. If this person is genuinely doing something to hurt your friend, air your concerns. You should never cause your friend to choose between you and whatever they have invited in their life, person, or choice.
Accept their choices, support them, and be there for them if it does end up going wrong without judgement.
#7 Learn to let arguments go and forget grudges. When you learn how to be a friend, there is no space for grudges or petty arguments. It’s completely normal to have disagreements from time to time. Air your differences, let them go and move on. Grudges have no space in a friendship and will simply turn toxic over time. [Read: Your guide to grow up and face life like an adult]
#8 Never allow jealousy to enter the equation. Let’s be honest, we all have moments when the green-eyed monster pays us a visit. There is no space for this to fester and grow in a friendship. If you are jealous of your friend, you’ll start disliking them. That’s not the right basis!
Instead, be happy for your friend when things go well, support them when things aren’t going as they planned, and expect the same in return. What goes around comes around. If something good happens to your friend, take heart in the fact that something will be around the corner for you too. [Read: 13 signs of bad envy to tell if someone’s jealous of you]
#9 Be vulnerable and allow them to see the real you. A good lesson on how to be a friend is to ensure that you’re always being real. If you’re holding up a mask, putting on a show, or pretending to be something you’re not, how can you be a good friend? It’s impossible, because you’re not being you. Allow your walls to drop and let this person into your life, just as they’re doing with you.
Friendship can be scary, just as romantic relationships can, because you’re giving something a part of you that they could decide to hurt you with. All you can do is risk it and see where it goes. A real friend will not hurt you.
#10 Never let ‘things’ get in the way of your friendship. We live in a world obsessed with material gains. Most of us want the latest iPhone and fashion, and while normal, it’s not normal to let material things get in the way of your friendship.
Friendship isn’t a competition over who has the best phone, who is skinniest, most fashionable, most popular, or who has the best car. When you learn how to be a friend in the most genuine way, you let material things go. [Read: How to be a good friend by following the BFF code]
#11 Do your best to never let them down. There might be times when you have to cancel plans, and that’s fine; just make sure that you’re not doing it on a regular basis. Do your best to never let your friend down as far as humanly possible. Again, expect the same back in return. This doesn’t mean you force yourself out of the house to meet them if you’re feeling sick, but it does mean not making needless excuses.
When you learn how to be a friend, start with the very basics and understand what friendship is at its core. When this effort is reciprocated, it’s one of the best feelings in the world!