Want to know how to be a better friend? Gaining and maintaining friendships connects you with other people and builds you a solid support system. Keep reading to learn how to improve your friendships.
In this article:
- Communicate Honestly, but Tactfully
- Practice Empathy
- Be Yourself
- Listen and Be Present
- Show up for the Good Times and the Bad
- Trust and Be Trustful
- Forgive, Not Judge
- Be Self-Aware
- Don’t Power Trip
- Manage Your Expectations
- Maintain the Balance
- Pick up Where You Left Off
- Lighten Up
- Be a Better Friend to Yourself
- Go out Together
- Send Surprise Gifts
- Learn Something New Together
- Show Gratitude
- Make a Friendship Memory Bank
- Be a Better Long-Distance Friend
- Show Your Friend You Accept and Support Them
How to Be a Better Friend in 21 Steps
1. Communicate Honestly, but Tactfully
When having conversations with friends and romantic partners, it’s important to express your thoughts and feelings honestly. At the same time, be sensitive to what your friends are going through and speak from a place of genuine love and clear intentions.
When something is bothering you about your friend, talk to them openly and tell the truth, even if it’s something they wouldn’t want to hear. Don’t be that person who keeps things inside and lets resentment fester until you blow up.
2. Practice Empathy
Healthy friendships require empathy to survive and thrive. A lot of people who want to prove to others that they’re right tend to forget to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
There are times when one only thinks of what they get out of something, then are surprised why no one sticks around. You need to nurture your friendships if you want them to grow.
3. Be Yourself
Honesty is important in any relationship, and an important way to be honest is to be yourself. This isn’t an easy feat when society tells you that you must fit in to belong.
Many people conceal parts of themselves due to a fear of rejection. Then, they wonder why they have a hard time making friends.
Real friendships are based on the willingness to show yourself completely. Being open with your flaws and struggles allows others to drop their guard and become more vulnerable.
4. Listen and Be Present
Saying “I don’t have time” is a common cop-out in relationships. When you care about something or someone, you make time for them.
Being a better friend means knowing how to listen without the need to fill the room with a conversation. Often, your friends just want to be heard.
The rule of thumb is: unless your friend is specifically asking for advice, they probably just want to be listened to.
When your friend does need help and support, show up and let them know you care for them. Extend a helping hand.
This goes both ways. When it’s your turn to need that help, they’ll give the same effort for you.
5. Show up for the Good Times and the Bad
If you find yourself being envious or resentful because you haven’t made the same strides, look within yourself so you can work on removing that jealousy.
6. Trust and Be Trustful
Solid friendships are built out of trust. Stick to your word and your commitments to others to send the message that you’re someone they can trust.
At the same time, trust your friends, too. Not everyone, especially not friends, is out to get you and betray you.
7. Forgive, Not Judge
Your way isn’t always the right way. Being open to multiple viewpoints helps you become more empathetic and less judgmental of other people.
Understand and accept that people move in different paces and wavelengths. Accepting this reality makes it much easier for you to accept other people’s progress and give them the space they need to grow.
On that note, don’t stop being someone’s friend because of one or two mistakes. Holding a grudge is also a form of judgment and can cause unnecessary hurt for everyone involved.
8. Be Self-Aware
So much conflict in relationships happens when people have poor conflict resolution skills and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Being aware of how your behavior impacts others and accepting the consequences removes the shock when mistakes do happen.
When you do something wrong, admit it, and apologize for your mistakes. Then, strive to make up for it.
Of course, being aware is just one piece of the puzzle. You also have to do the difficult work of striving to improve yourself.
You’re the common denominator in all your relationships. When you can take responsibility for yourself, people will want to be around you more.
9. Don’t Power Trip
True friends are supposed to be on a level playing field with one another. Asserting dominance isn’t a good way of making and keeping friends.
While that may have worked for you when you were younger (especially if you have an alpha personality), adults prefer a more cooperative way of building friendships. Treat your friends as if they’re equals, and they’ll treat you the same way.
10. Manage Your Expectations
Having unrealistic expectations of your friends is a major cause of resentment and disappointment in relationships. Don’t expect your friends to do things you can’t or won’t do yourself.
Focus on being a good friend to other people with no strings attached and create an environment where you truly cherish the good things people do for you.
11. Maintain the Balance
Friendships should be two-way streets. While you do need to vent from time-to-time, make it a point to show interest in your friend’s life first before unloading your problems.
When your friend is venting, listen attentively, and don’t make it all about you. Be considerate to your friends and be open to learning new things about each other.
There are moments wherein the balance is leaning more on one side. These situations happen even between good friends and only becomes a problem when the dynamic becomes a consistent part of the friendship.
In this case, it’s only a matter of time when something happens, and you’ll need to take immediate steps to reassess your relationship.
12. Pick up Where You Left Off
Even if it’s been quite a while since you last spoke to your friend, don’t hesitate to contact them and try to pick up where you left off. This is now much easier with the prevalence of social media.
A lot of people still think about their friends but are afraid the other person won’t feel the same way because it’s been so long.
Sometimes, life just takes you in different directions. The sooner you both realize this, the better off your friendship would be.
This decreases your guilt for not connecting more often and can push you to reconnect as soon as possible. When you manage to do that, then you’ll have a lifetime friend.
13. Lighten Up
A good friend knows when to laugh at yourself and when to take yourself seriously. Find space for fun, games, and a good laugh.
Even the responsible friend in the group can learn to give space and loosen up a bit.
There’s enough drama in life as it is. Don’t be the source of one among your circle of friends.
14. Be a Better Friend to Yourself
Before you can aspire to become a better friend to others, you first have to learn how it is to become a friend to yourself. After all, you can’t give what you don’t have.
Treat yourself the way you’d treat a friend. Be kind to yourself, especially if you’re feeling down and negative.
Having a healthy relationship with yourself will translate to a happier and healthier you. From there, you’ll be able to become a better friend and provide the kindness and acceptance your friends need.
15. Go out Together
Like any relationship, friendships need quality time and effort to grow. Being present on social media is different from spending time in real life, so log out and schedule a next night (or day) out.
Do something you both enjoy doing, whether it’s going on a road trip, trekking, or even just going to a movie. If time is an issue, maybe a quick catch-up during your lunch break can work.
16. Send Surprise Gifts
Sending surprise gifts can be a great way to let your friend know you’re there for them. Whether they’re going through a rough patch right now or you just haven’t been as present in their life as you’d like, a small gift can express how much you care for them.
There aren’t any set rules on what kind of gifts you could give or how much you should spend. The important thing is that you’re giving something you know your friend will appreciate.
17. Learn Something New Together
If your personal goals are to be a better friend and improve yourself, hit two birds with one stone by learning something new with your friend. It can be a new recipe, language, or any other skill you both want to learn.
Whether you take classes or just self-study, the time you spend with each other is a great way to know the other person more. You’ll also build meaningful memories from the time you share.
18. Show Gratitude
Sometimes, we’re so used to being in each other’s lives that we forget to appreciate the people around us. Showing how thankful you are to your friend is a simple way to be a better friend.
Let your friend know how much they mean to you. Thank them for their friendship and the good things that have happened because they’re in your life.
If you’re finding it hard to express your gratitude verbally, try another method that works for you. It can be in the form of a letter or gift.
19. Make a Friendship Memory Bank
You can celebrate your friendship and all the wonderful memories you’ve shared with a friendship memory bank. It can be in the form of a photo album or even a video.
Your friend will certainly appreciate this kind gesture and effort. It’s a great way to make them feel valued and cared for.
20. Be a Better Long-Distance Friend
Whether you’re physically far away or your schedules just don’t jive, you can still be a better friend from a distance. Make the most of social media and be there when your friend needs you the most.
The first step to learn how to be a better long-distance friend is to check up on them and let them know you’re there. Remind them that distance may separate you, but you still want to remain present in their life in any way you can.
21. Show Your Friend You Accept and Support Them
If your friend is struggling with something and is having a hard time opening up, don’t force them. Instead, reassure them that you’ll accept and support them while they work through this difficult period.
With time, your friend might feel more comfortable becoming vulnerable with you. They may even ask for your advice because they already feel safe with you.
If you want to be a better friend, make your friendship a safe space for them. In this space, they won’t feel judged and they know they can count on your support.
Being a great friend and having great ones make you happier and healthier. Learning how to be a better friend isn’t rocket science — you just have to remember that there are two people in the relationship.
When you learn to rely on others and allow others to rely on you, you gain social connections and mutual support that can get you through the good and the bad.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned on how to be a better friend? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 1, 2020, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.