Life without friends is sort of like food without seasoning — bland, tasteless and unappealing. Friendship gives you a sense of belonging because you experience love and connection with others. Friendships don't come easy for everyone, making it easy to be a bad friend to others. It's important to think about nourishing the irreplaceable friendships in your life or developing new ones.
Every friendship is unique, with its own secrets and inside jokes. These timeless pieces of advice will help you grow strong connections, whether you're lifelong friends or just getting to know each other.
You must be able to expect real and honest communication from your friends. Even when it may be hard to hear the truth, friends find a way to blend kindness and authenticity. Our friends can often recognize things in ourselves that we can't, helping us see through the static and find the strength to move forward.
"The language of friendship is not words, but meanings. It is an intelligence above language."
- Henry David Thoreau
Learn to Listen
A good friend must learn to listen. People want to be heard and friendship provides the opportunity to hear and to be heard. Knowing when to be silent and listen is a crucial aspect of friendship. Compassion is sometimes a very quiet task — and you can't sit in silence with just anyone. You'll know if your friend is ready for advice, or if they just need to feel your support and empathy.
"Silence makes the real conversations between friends. Not the saying, but the never needing to say that counts."
- Margaret Lee Runbeck
A good friend challenges you to be the best version of yourself and pushes you to keep growing. Sometimes our friends make mistakes or do things we don't agree with, but even still, support from a close friend can make all the difference. A good friend is not judgmental. Instead, you should hope for your friend to become the best versions of themselves, with encouragement from you throughout their journey.
"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow."
- William Shakespeare
Show Love and Acceptance
We all need help lightening the load from the weighty burdens of our own worlds. Freedom to be yourself with no exceptions is priceless, and genuine acceptance is a life-changing gift. Look for opportunities to surprise friends with small but meaningful gestures such as bringing their favorite coffee drink or offering to pick up their groceries when you're at the store. More than anything, love and accept your friend — just as they are.
"Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together."
- Woodrow Wilson
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A good friend nurtures, especially when there's no one else is around to do the job. Friends commit to the relationship and stick it out — even when things are tough. A friend who is going through a difficult season might not be that loveable, but a good friend remains loyal to love their friend regardless of the circumstances. Even a quick phone call with a friend can bring sunshine back into a gloomy day.
"Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built of a thousand small kindnesses...swapped back and forth and over again."
- Michelle Obama
Remember the Details
A good friend remembers the important days in people's lives. Of course, it's the birthdays and anniversaries, but it's also the dates few others may know or recall... the day they announced the cancer was gone, or when a favorite grandma passed away. A good friend also remembers the small unique details about a person — like the fact that they don't like mushrooms or any other small thing.
"We speak with more than our mouths. We listen with more than our ears."
- Fred Rogers
Support needs to flow both ways for friendship to work best. If you're lucky enough to have a friend reach out, be sure to do the same. You don't want to be the only beneficiary in the friendship, so learning to reciprocate shows you are a good friend in return. Even friends who seem to have it all together will appreciate you checking in about what's going on in their life.
"The only way to have a friend is to be one."
- George Eliot
A good friend finds common interest in subjects. Even if a friend doesn't care about the subject or hobby, they show interest to better relate to their friends. A true friend will always try to see things from your perspective, even if sometimes they have a different one.
"What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies."
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Have Their Back
Good friends remain true and stick up for each other. A good friend doesn't allow others to speak negatively about their friend and they take risks when it comes to helping those in their circle. Never forget to express how much they matter to you, and always be the one cheering in their corner.
"'Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.'
'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.'"
- E.B. White, Charlotte's Web
Be there when it matters most. Period. You never know when you may be the only one. Pick up the phone when their name flashes on your screen and show up at their doorstep if you can. There is nothing like having a person that you can depend on when you need it most.
"I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light."
Our friends enrich our lives beyond measure. Take time today to be the friend you want to have. Being a good friend involves giving and serving but it also results in receiving — it's the beauty of friendship.
Laura Jackson is a freelance writer based in Hilton Head, S.C. with her husband and two teenagers.