It’s not hard to find suggestions for how to become a “better” person. Whether it’s toning your body, training your brain, or adjusting your attitude, you can probably find an app, a YouTube video/podcast series, or at least a dozen books that could guide you in the right direction. And most of us do strive to better ourselves in some way, no matter where we are in life. However, there is one area for development that might be the key to a whole slew of related life changes for the better. What’s this magic path to living a better life? Simple, it is becoming a better friend.
Ten Ways to Become a Better Friend
Here are ten suggestions for enhancing who you are and what you bring to a friendship — or any other type of significant relationship.
- Communicate with others with honesty and with tact. Be willing to voice your own perspective and your genuine feelings, but do so from a place of kindness and sensitivity to the feelings of others.
- Always be a person of your word and stand behind the promises and intentions you make regarding your commitments to other people. Be the kind of friend that people are able to trust implicitly.
- As a corollary, be willing to trust your friends, as well. Most of us feel good about ourselves when others are able put their trust in us; many of us take pride in being perceived as trustworthy. Spread the positive feelings by being willing to trust others. Too many people have difficulty trusting that others will be there for them – take a leap of faith and model for others how trust can be given and trust can be earned.
- Show up for others – metaphorically and literally – when you say that you will. Be willing to put yourself out for a friend knowing that there may be a time in the future when you need your friend to put himself out for you.
- Recognizing that all of us have a shortcoming or two – and accepting that as part of human frailty – is a significant aspect to enduring loyalty. Don’t give up on friends who falter or who might not be as readily present in your life as you might like. By being loyal to your friends, you are building a strong support network. We don’t always know when we might find ourselves freefalling through life – have a network of friends who are there to break your fall usually is much more likely to occur if you’ve been loyal to your friends over time.
- Practice and master the much valued gift of empathy for others. Be willing to put yourself in another’s shoes and drop any need to convince others of the “correctness” of your own perspective. Imagine the world from the position of another and you will soon learn the value of this skill in building relationships built on a sense of shared understanding.
- Learn to be present with a friend and to listen without feeling the need to interject just because there’s a pause in the conversation. We grow through learning and if we aren’t willing to listen to others, we can’t learn any more than we already know – or are trying to teach others!
- Don’t assume your way is always the right way! Grow your ability to observe the world from multiple perspectives. This will help you become more empathetic with your friends and it will also help you let go of any judgments or biases you might tend to bring to interactions with others. Empathy and non-judgment are two essential skills that are like fuel to the fire of deepening relationships.
- Be there for your friends when they are coping with the bumps in the road that they might meet; but, equally important, be there for your friends when they are celebrating their triumphs. Everyone knows just how much misery loves company, but remember that most of us love to be surrounded by the people who care about us when we are celebrating our accomplishments, as well. Don’t begrudge, resent, or envy a friend’s good fortune or hard work pay-off, join the party! There’s enough pain to go around in this life, so don’t miss the chance to revel in the joy that your friends might experience in their lives.
- Learn how to laugh at the humor in life – and, most importantly, learn how to laugh at yourself and stop taking yourself so seriously. Yes, life is “serious business,” but without finding a space for joy, lightheartedness, or wonder, you’re investing way too much energy in the “business” of life. Not only do you need to see the humor in life, you also need to be fun to be around. Being the responsible one might be your role in a friendship group, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be fun to hang with. We have enough drama in life on the job or in our families – let go of any tendencies to be a “drama queen” among your friends.
Social Relationships are the Key to a Well-Balanced Life
People are driven to connect and build interpersonal ties with others for the purposes of comfort, security, and belonging. In fact, social engagement enhances our self-esteem and leaves us feeling better about the world and our place within it. Not only do we enjoy intrinsic rewards from social interaction, we also rely on our ability to build communities in order to advance civilization; today, these include online and virtual communities. Throughout history, social organizations have grown increasingly complex as our ability to “tame the world” has increased. Historically, community collaboration allowed people to enjoy benefits and reap rewards that individuals or even families could not generate on their own. Today, this mutual reliance on others speaks to the faith we have in others’ ability to help us meet our needs – whether this for material goods or emotional connections. In fact, friends can offer love and support to you when you cannot offer it to yourself.