The True Friends Guide: How to Be a Good Friend
By Danni Peck
Updated December 17, 2018
Reviewer Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
We make many friends throughout our lives. When we were children, it seemed like we made a new friend every day. In high school and college, we may make friends who are friends for a lifetime. As adults, friends may come and go with a few core friends always there. As we get older, we choose our friends with a little more care and seem to gravitate towards those friends consistently.
It's important to have friends at all stages of our lives. They may serve a different purpose as we get older, but they are still important to us, and they are something we need. It may be harder to make and keep friends as we get older because our knowledge, beliefs, morals, and feelings have a higher level of development, so something that didn't bother us when we were young may be a red flag as an adult.
Here are some tried and true elements of being a good friend:
When things come up in life that may not have been the best choice or if you do something that you regret, you have to be able to tell your friend about it. They should offer the same in return. Hiding things from a friend or doing things behind their back that they may find out about later is not a quality that a good friend would exhibit. If you were supposed to go out with a friend and something else comes up that you would prefer doing, be honest and tell your friend. A good friend will understand and will want you to take advantage of the opportunity. If you lie to the friend and say you're sick and they later find out about it, it may damage the friendship.
If you say you will do something and always follow through or are always there for support or a shoulder to cry on, you are a trustworthy friend. If a friend tells you something in confidence and asks you not to say anything, you need to keep that locked up tight in your brain vault. When friends find out that you told someone about something that was supposed to be private information that could be grounds for dissolution of that friendship. Friends need to know that you will keep information private and that you are a person of your word.
When you are going through a rough patch, it is important to have someone to turn to. You may have a significant other who is part of your support system, but sometimes you need a good friend who knows you well and who knows the things to say and not say. Good friends who are part of your support system also need to be honest and trustworthy. You have to know that they will be there for you no matter what.
Whether it be telling you that a dress doesn't look good on you or that you need to snap out of a funk, a good friend should know when you need to hear the truth and when it would be better to hold off. Sometimes we want to be coddled and want to hear what we want to hear, but sometimes we NEED to hear the truth to move on and get over a situation. Many times not hearing the truth is not in anyone's best interest and, though it may be hard to hear, it is what we need. A good friend knows when it is the right time to share the truth.
Sometimes we don't need to hear advice or stories; we need someone who will listen to us. An active listener who is there to listen and soothe us can be the best medicine. As we talk through issues or feelings, we may come to our own realizations about what has been said. We don't always need to hear someone else's take on what has happened. Listening and not interrupting the speaker can be one of the best things a good friend can do.
A good friend who knows you well knows your likes and dislikes, knows what to say in any situation…this can be a huge comfort when difficult situations come up. Sometimes they don't need to say anything or do anything…just being in your presence is a comfort. As soon as you hear their voice or see them, it brings immediate comfort and ease. A good friend is like a big cozy blanket that you wrap around yourself to feel comfortable and protected.
Laughter is the best medicine and laughing with a good friend is even better. Having private jokes or long-running practical jokes….having the same sense of humor…laughing until you cry. These are all things that are even better with a good friend. You may look forward to watching a movie or show that you find funny with your good friend. Associating that sense of joy and humor to a good friend can give ongoing reminders of your friend whenever you watch that movie or show. When you get back together, discussing those fun memories will bring back that laughter once again.
You have to have someone who you can tell your hopes, dreams, secrets, silly thoughts to. Again, you may have a significant other who you confide in, but sometimes you need to share something that isn't appropriate to be shared with your partner. A good friend will listen and put those thoughts, secrets, etc. in their brain vault. It is not done in a way that is keeping anything important from or lying to a partner. Some things need to be presented to someone who you know won't judge you and who will give your advice if you need or stay silent if that is needed.
It is often more enjoyable to share trips, hobbies, celebrations, activities…all the good stuff of life…with someone else. If someone likes to do the same things as you or even has completely different interests, you can share these experiences. Being introduced to new things is a great way to keep learning and growing, so a friend with different interests is a good thing. Having things in common is something that new friendships can develop from.
There is so much judgment in society today; it is imperative to have a good friend who accepts you, loves you and doesn't judge you. They may not agree with your opinions or actions at times, but being non-judgmental is key. You can say I respectfully disagree and I still love you.
Things To Do With A Good Friend:
*Send them flowers for no reason
*Plan a weekend trip
*Pick them up and go out to lunch/dinner
*Plan monthly friend dates ahead of time, so it is a scheduled appointment
*Send them a funny card for no reason
*Make them a photo book of all the fun times you've had
*Send them balloons on their birthday every year
*Do errands for them while they are at work or away on a trip
When It May Be Time To End A Friendship:
Sometimes someone who is an old friend or a friend who you were close friends with becomes someone who you don't have a connection with any more or being with them may feel like a toxic relationship. You may have changed, or they may have changed; these things can happen. You need to permit yourself to sever ties with this person if they are no longer bringing joy or happiness to your life. They may be someone who you've known a very long time, but if you feel stressed out or unhappy whenever you see or speak to them, it may be time to say goodbye and spend time with people who bring positivity and happiness to your life.
If you are having issues with your friendships, making friends or other interpersonal relationships, contact a trained professional to assist you. Going to BetterHelp (https://www.betterhelp.com/start/) can be your first step to getting the help you need. It is private, convenient and will be one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your wellness. Do the thing today that your future self will thank you for.