Do you feel like you could be a better friend? This article walks through seven simple ways you and I can be a better friend to those we value.
“Hi!!!” she said as she saw me approaching. Her face was grinning with brilliant white teeth and her eyes were wide with excitement. ‘Oh dear!’ I thought. ‘Just think, Elisa. JUST THINK!’
“Hey there!” I replied. I felt a nudge of discomfort as I approached her. She oozed with positivity and life. And there I was internally recoiling.
Because I couldn’t remember her name.
Does that ever happen to you? Or is it just me?
I need to be a better friend
I’m so forgetful. I forget names (constantly). I forget birthdays and special events in people’s lives. And I even forget relationships – “Tell me again, was that guy your brother? Husband? Dad?
It’s not good. And I want and need to be a better friend.
But I know that, in order to be a better friend, I’ve got to be intentional about it. Or things won’t change.
Especially for someone like myself who enjoys solitude and really struggles to build deep relationships with other women. I’ve got to really step out of my comfort zone in this area.
So I wrote this post primarily for myself. But I know I’m not the only one out there who could use some help with this. So I figured, you might appreciate these tips too! Here are some things that I’m doing (and need to start doing) to build meaningful friendships. Maybe you can join me on this journey too!
7 ways to be a better friend
1. Be Intentional
– Know your ‘why’
Why do you want to be a better friend? What caused you to start reading this post? What do you feel is lacking in your friendships? Take some time to think about this point and be honest with yourself. No one is judging you about what you’ve done in the past. Don’t feel guilty. You’re here now reading this, so that means that you’re moving forward. And in my book, that’s amazing!
Getting clear on why you want to be a better friend will help when it comes to setting goals for your friendships in my later point.
– Make a list
Who do you want to build a deeper friendship with? Why do you want to build a better friendship with this person? What do you get from this relationship? What do you give to this relationship?
Make a list of the people you want to build a deeper relationship with. It could be one person, or fifteen. Just make a list of their names and why it’s important to you to build your relationship with them.
– Set goals
I’m a goal setter (not by nature, but by choice). I’ve discovered how amazing things happen when you set goals as opposed to when you just drift through life. And you can set goals in every area of your life – including your friendships.
So if you’re serious about growing in this area, you need to set a goal.
What goals can you set for yourself in this area? Brainstorm things you want to achieve in your relationships. Is it a regular meeting or a phone call? A monthly playdate? An annual retreat? Or a quarterly girls night in?
Think about the reasons why you want to be a better friend and the kind of actions you can take in order to get there.
If your reason is to be more available to your existing friends, maybe a goal might be to cancel or delegate a responsibility that is taking up your time.
Say your reason is that you find yourself dealing with life’s curveballs alone and you’d like some friends to share life’s ups and downs with. Then perhaps a goal can be to find a way each week or month to serve someone else regardless of the inconvenience.
Set a friendship goal and then break down the steps you need to take to achieve it.
2. Discover your friend’s love language
If you’ve heard of or read Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages, then you’ll be familiar with the phrase ‘love language’. My husband hates this phrase, and although it is a bit sickly sweet, it has wisdom!
If you haven’t heard of The 5 Love Languages, I’ll briefly explain.
The 5 Love Languages
Chapman, in his book The 5 Love Languages, suggests that we all give and receive love in different ways. Some people feel loved more through a hug or a pat on the back rather than a compliment. Other people feel loved more when someone helps them with a task than when someone gives them a gift.
Chapman says that there are predominantly five ways in which we give and receive love. And often, the way someone “loves” another person is an indicator of how they would like to be loved or how they receive love.
For example, if you really appreciate when someone gives you a gift, you might give gifts more frequently to others because that’s how you communicate that you love and appreciate someone.
The five love languages Chapman identifies are;
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time and
- Physical touch
Speak your friend’s language
Perhaps you’ve just looked at this list and thought, ‘Yes, I know how I prefer to be loved!’. Or maybe you thought ‘I like all of them at different times’.
Many people have more than one love language and often change their love language at different times or phases in their lives.
If you want to know your friend’s love language, pay attention to how they show love to others. If you’d like to be blunt you could, of course, ask them to take the 5 Love Languages quiz themselves! Just click here and download a PDF version of the quiz to hand to your friend.
Once you know your friend’s love language, make a list of things you can do that would make them feel really loved. You’ll be a better friend if you can speak your friend’s love language.
3. Be for real, for real
Just be open and honest. The best part of a deep friendship is as much in the tears as it is in the laughter. Being vulnerable with another person shows that you trust them. Friendships are built on trust.
This is probably my biggest struggle when it comes to friendships. I can be very honest and open about my problems a few weeks or months after they’ve passed. But opening up and being vulnerable during a difficult period is painful for me.
I guess they don’t call it stepping out of your ‘comfort zone’ for nothin’!
Sometimes we need to get uncomfortable with our vulnerability so that our friends can be the shoulder we need to lean on during hard times.
When we open ourselves up to being helped, we are saying ‘I trust you’. And that can speak volumes to a friend.Friendships are built on trust. So let's be real.Click To Tweet
4. Get together
A long-distance friendship won’t grow and deepen as much as one where you meet often and in person. Make it a point to get together face to face. Schedule times on your calendar in advance.
Otherwise, life will ‘just happen’ and before you know it, six months or more have passed and the kids have grown up and things have changed. Grow WITH your friend, not apart from them.
5. Learn about them
Study your friend’s likes and dislikes. Learn about them and deepen your knowledge of their preferences, their past and their values.
Try and commit things to memory, especially if they matter a lot to your friend. When you make it a point to remember things about your friend, it shows that you care about them and the things happening in their life.
This is a task we’ll always have on our plates as we strive to be a better friend to those close to us. There is always something new to learn about those closest to us!
6. Create a tradition
What do the sitcoms Cheers, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and Friends have in common? Traditions.
In all of these instances, it was a favourite hang out. A pub, cafe or home.
But traditions come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. It can be food related, a holiday destination, a park bench. The ‘what’ and ‘how’ of traditions matter very little. What’s important is that it occurs.
Traditions are important in building and deepening relationships. They provide a familiar environment where people can begin to get comfortable and feel at ease. And when people are at ease, they are not as concerned about keeping up appearances or maintaining an emotional wall of defence.
They can just be themselves – warts and all. And it’s at these times that we can really get to know one another. There’s no pretence. Just raw friendship.
What tradition can you start with a friend (or a group of friends)?
If you’d like to read more about traditions, check out my post on how to love your VIP’s.
Being a good friend isn’t just about making time for your friend on your own agenda. Life happens. And not on our own schedules!
Sometimes our friends need a shoulder to cry on or a helping hand with babysitting or moving house. And it might not be at a convenient time.When life throws your friend a curve ball, you need to be ready to drop everything and step up.Click To Tweet
Yes, it will be inconvenient. Yes, it may cost you financially. And yes, you may even have to ugly cry!
Being a good friend sometimes means being a bridge over troubled water – even if it gives you a little backache!
But a good friend will appreciate your support and help. And the assistance you give is priceless. Because it deepens your friendship in a way no caramel latte or girly flick ever could.
You can’t put a price tag on being by your friend’s side in their time of need. When you step up and sacrifice, you’re investing in a relationship that could pay back dividends you never imagined. A best friend for life.
I’ve got a treat JUST FOR YOU!
Because I want to help you become a better friend, I created a printable resource to help you get intentional about your friendships. Just click on the image below to download it now!
Which of these 7 ways to be a better friend resounded most with you? Is there one that you’d like to act on in your friendships? And in what other ways can you be a better friend? Let me know in the comments!