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10 Tips to Help You Keep More Good Friends

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10 Tips to Help You Keep More Good Friends

Modern-day technology and social media make it easier to stay connected with friends and keep up with their successes, interests and status updates. But busy lifestyles, superficial communication, false intimacy and even neediness make it harder to develop and keep real friendships.

If you have good friends who enrich your life, bring you positive energy, boost your well being, and serve as trusted confidants, these 10 tips can definitely help you keep them:

1. Make time to connect. 

In The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, author and palliative nurse Bronnie Ware reveals that one of the common regrets of the dying is, “I wish I had stayed in touch with friends.” She notes that among the people she cared for, “There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved.”

Cultivating durable friendships involves building a solid foundation, resolving disagreements and misunderstandings, and showing appreciation for the person’s presence in your life. These all require staying in touch with your friends, not just online but offline as well.

When you’re dealing with deadlines at work, attending to your family’s needs, traveling the world, or pursuing hobbies, it’s challenging to connect with friends. But making time for friends is essential if you want to keep them.

Staying connected includes spontaneous telephone calls, quick emails, and online chatting just to say hi or to touch base on challenges and successes in life. It also means making time for face-to-face meetups, which are key to creating and maintaining a close bond.

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While inviting them to parties and happy hours are part of staying connected, you want to include one-on-one and small group meetings to have quality time together. Set a date to get together, whether it’s for a Saturday brunch at the neighborhood restaurant, a coffee chat before work, or a bowling game on a Friday evening. Then show up and treat them like a VIP.

2. Set and respect boundaries. 

When your friend is going through a tough time or facing a crisis, let her know how and when to best reach you for support. If you answer telephone calls only during certain hours, respond to text messages on your lunch break, or check your emails only once or twice a day, inform her of these habits. Likewise, don’t call your friend at odd hours (unless you have explicit consent from her) or expect an immediate reply from her (unless you have a mutual understanding) to hash out the latest drama and dilemma in your life.

Constant complaining and venting can undermine the long-term viability of your friendship, no matter how close it is. While revealing your frustrations and disappointments to good friends is natural and healthy, you also want to avoid relying on them for free therapy. Setting and respecting healthy boundaries are critical to maintaining real friendships.

3. Communicate mindfully.

When you’re talking with a friend, it can be tempting to chime in and give a comment here and there. You might even interrupt and finish her sentences because you know her so well.

Of course, communication is a two-way street. If you repetitively pepper your friend with questions and sit quietly, do no revealing yourself, or have no response to her stories, the interaction can feel like an interrogation rather than a conversation. Back and forth banter and selective listening are very common among friends. But it can also stop you from forging a strong connection and true intimacy.

Checking your voice mail, eyeing your text messages, or otherwise being distracted might seem acceptable when you’re with good friends, but it could turn them off from spending time with you. If you are interrupted and need to attend to something else, briefly explain why and re-direct your focus as quickly as possible.

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When it comes to meaningful conversations, the best friends are those who are able to listen deeply, without giving endless commentary or unsolicited advice. They know how to hold off on speaking when a sympathetic ear or calm space is really what’s needed.

Deep listening allows you to be completely present with the other person and to develop empathy for her emotions and experiences. Feeling fully heard and completely understood are some of the greatest gifts your friend can receive from you.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” — Karl A. Menniger

Mindful speaking is also necessary to keeping good friends. The words you speak can be pleasant (such as when you pay a true compliment) or painful (like when you offer unnecessary and unkind criticism). Your speech influences your environment, shapes your reality, affects others’ perceptions, and makes or breaks friendships.

Be deliberate about what you say, when you say it and how you say it. Knowing when to speak up and when to stay silent has ripple effects on the quality and sustainability of friendships.

4. Be open to feedback

Asking for your friend’s comments, thoughts and opinions on your latest project or a decision you have to make is a huge compliment to them. If you solicit their feedback to help you build self-awareness, create new habits, and make positive changes, this shows how much you value their insights. Whether they have similar or different backgrounds, beliefs and philosophies, good friends bring a unique perspective to your life.

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5. Keep them accountable.

Healthy friendships are built on equality and respect, not co-dependence and obligation. Hold your good friends in high regard and expect them to keep their promises and act in alignment with their values and ideals.

While being non-judgmental goes a long way, you can gently ask your friend questions to help him become more self-aware and conscious of his choices. This is not about telling your friend what to do, but reminding him of his own capabilities and desires. Although your friend might be defensive and embarrassed at first, he will likely thank you later for helping him grow and stay true to his commitments.

6. Get to know them personally. 

If you want to keep good friends, show up at their celebrations, including birthday parties,  graduation shindigs, weddings and baby showers. Even if it’s just for an hour, your putting in face time at special events will be remembered and appreciated. You get to capture touching photos and make lasting memories of a shared experience and unique occasion.

Create or take advantage of opportunities to meet their significant others, spouses, children, cherished family members, and other friends. Develop common hobbies and mutual interests or learn about the activities they enjoy and what makes them come alive. Being a part of your friends’ community will help to strengthen your personal relationship with them.

“”Doing all we can to promote our friend’s happiness is better than to continually drink to his prosperity.” – Minna Thomas Antrim

7. Give them space. 

Being too needy or clingy can drive good friends away. When your friend doesn’t call you back, return your email, or reply to your text message as quickly as you’d like, don’t make it into a big deal.

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Good friends have full lives and personal responsibilities of their own, so don’t be surprised if their world doesn’t revolve around you. Explore your own interests, form a strong network and community, and savor solitude so that you can give each of your good friendships room to breathe.

8. Build trust.

Disclosing your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and failures and successes encourages your friend to reciprocate and build a true connection with you. When a friend shares personal information with you, consider it as a step further into cultivating an authentic friendship, not as a means to gain leverage, content for gossip, or social power.

Practicing honesty and transparency, keeping confidences, and showing genuine interest in your friend’s well being are key to establishing trust. Do what you say you’re going to do. Keep your promises or renegotiate if you can’t keep them.

9. Resolve disagreements in emotionally mature ways. 

Get through conflicts by expressing what’s on your mind instead of allowing resentment to fester. State your preferences and point of view to create clarity and encourage dialogue, instead of making arguments to try and coerce your friend into agreeing with you. Attempting to instill fear, obligation and guilt or using any type of emotional blackmail are no-nos if you want to keep a good friendship.

10. Be a positive force.

 Although good friends can inspire you, you want to avoid obsessive comparisons that might bring you down or drive you to constant one-upping. Making negative comments, finding fault, and passing judgments are major turn-offs.

Instead, be  a vocal witness to your friend’s best qualities and most joyful experiences. Notice when your friends are most excited and energized — whether it’s when they speak about their latest work project or make progress on a creative hobby — and share your observation with them. They will enjoy being your friend when you remind them about what’s working for them and when you feel good about your own life.

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No matter what you do, some good friends will naturally drift away as time passes or when circumstances change. But applying these 10 tips will help you keep more good friends for many years to come (and even for a lifetime).

Featured photo credit: mcconnmama via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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