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10 Ways To Be A Better Friend

10 Ways To Be A Better Friend

I was recently asked who I consider to be my best friend. After thinking about it for a while, I decided I could not choose just one. All of my friends are so dear to me, and I think part of the reason I have so many strong, long-standing relationships in my life is because I try to treat everyone with equal respect and understanding. I recently decided to try and pinpoint exactly what I think makes the relationships in my life work so well. Here is what I found:

Have Empathy

Everyone knows the golden rule: Treat others the way you wish to be treated. There is a fine line between projecting your own experiences on others and actually understanding what they are going through. This line can be referred to as empathy. Healthy relationships cannot exist without it, and it is the key to cooperation. Too many think only of themselves when making decisions, and then they wonder why they are alone. Others struggle to accept the fact that two people who have a similar experience might take completely different lessons away from it. Empathy is not something that can be faked. When it does not occur naturally, it usually comes after some degree of epiphany. If you want people to enjoy being in your presence you must be considerate and think about their feelings in conjunction with your own. You will find that many crucial components of healthy friendships come naturally after you have mastered empathy.

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Know Yourself

This concept is generally cited in reference to romantic relationships, but you will find that self-awareness is a very useful tool in all human interactions. Many go through their lives focusing only on what others do to impede them. Much social tension can be traced back to people who don’t take responsibility for their failures. Those who have accepted their strengths and weaknesses are going to be more reliable and less likely to take on responsibilities they cannot handle. When you have attempted to understand the impact of your behavior, you will not be surprised or affronted when your mistakes are the root of a problem. Self-awareness requires more than just the willingness to turn a critical eye inward. You must be prepared to accept what you see without resentment, and then subsequently work to improve it. Keep in mind that the one thing all your relationships have in common is YOU. When interacting with you does not result in others constantly having to take responsibility for everything you do wrong, people are going to want to spend a lot more of their time in your vicinity.

Show Yourself to People

The most important thing after knowing yourself is being yourself. Many are socialized to associate “fitting in” with making friends. They develop the habit at a young age of clinging to something outside of who they really are as a way of gaining acceptance. In reality, the best and strongest friendships are based on honesty. If you are constantly your real self and you show that to people regularly – flaws and all – others are going to be drawn to your honesty. So many people never bother to show the world who they are because they fear judgment or rejection. These are usually the people who have the most trouble making friends. The truth is we all struggle with failure and rejection. Struggling openly puts the people around you at ease. It inspires them to drop their own persona and opens up dialog about common hardships.

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Do Not Judge

A component of good friendship that comes from mastering self-awareness and empathy is a lack of judgment. After you have accepted your own flaws and learned to struggle openly, it becomes much easier to accept others no matter where they are on their journey. Look at how everything you experience changes you in some little way. Understand that the same thing is happening to every human. Stay focused on the reality that we are all moving at different speeds towards changes we can’t control, and you will find an abundance of patience within you that allows ready forgiveness of others. Holding a grudge is a form of judgment. By deciding that a person is not worthy of our friendship, we are assuming that they have no hope of ever growing or learning from their mistakes. This is often not the case. When we brand someone else as a failure we are denying their potential for growth. Instead of writing a person off forever, try taking some space and giving them time to grow. By changing this little bit of dialog in your head, you are replacing resentment with acceptance. You might be surprised at who you find in a couple of years when you run into this person again.

Don’t Posture

A major falsehood that is constantly reinforced in our youth is that posturing is a good way to make friends. Maybe this is somewhat true when we are immature and acting on our most primitive instincts. As we grow into adults though, we start to crave cooperation. We are socialized early to believe the leader of the pack must be superior because of what they have. They are surrounded by a big group of admirers all the time, but they often must publicly debase another in order to gain this status. One day they will be debased by someone even more dominant and lose their throne. These patterns are not conducive to long-term friendships or meaningful bonding, but they get a lot of us through school somehow. The more our posturing is rewarded with success as we grow, the harder it is for us to let go of it as adults. The leader of the pack may never understand that the admirers who left them behind were not their friends in the first place, so they struggle to regain this sense of social dominance well into adulthood. They keep expecting people to like them because they are better than them, when really most adults are looking for friends they can relate to as equals.

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Communicate Acceptance

A common response to meeting someone we like is to try and impress them. Sometimes the object of our interest gets a kick out of this and wants to drag it out by pretending to be oblivious. Others actually are oblivious and opportunities for connections pass them by. Certain personalities may experience very defensive reactions to the feelings they have for others. Whatever the case, one person can only be expected to keep trying to impress you for so long before giving up. All of this can be avoided if people would just express approval in the early stages of connection. It doesn’t have to be anything profound. A very simple, “Hey, I really like you, and I enjoy your company a great deal. We should spend more time together,” will do just nicely. It even presents an opportunity for the other person to reciprocate their approval when they might not have otherwise. This is one of my favorite ways to combat the initial posturing that sometimes occurs when I am trying to establish friendship with alpha personalities. Along the same lines, do not be stingy with compliments. People like knowing exactly where they stand.

Show Gratitude

When a person goes out of their way for you, be sure to show appropriate and immediate acknowledgment. Instead of getting all wrapped up in a sense of obligation to return the favor, just find some genuine way to verbalize your appreciation as soon as possible. Think about how it makes you feel to help someone who shows appreciation versus someone who does nothing. If a person does nothing in response to a favor, it could mean they are waiting for a more tangible way to return the sentiment than a simple set of words. However, this silence can easily be mistaken for disregard. Even if you will make it a point to return the favor at your earliest opportunity, it never hurts to also drop a few words of appreciation on the spot. You will find most people don’t expect anything for what they give to you, and are happy to contribute to anyone they know will pay it forward in some way. Always give what you can, including thanks, and you will be sure to find karma in your favor.

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Let Go of Expectations

Our unrealistic expectations of each other might be the biggest cause of imbalance in relationships. If you expect things from people you love that you cannot or don’t want to do for yourself, you are actively creating imbalances in your relationships. You are setting yourself up for disappointment, and you are setting the people you love up for failures they never agreed to. Wouldn’t it be better to just channel those expectations inward? Yes, it would. This way, you are participating only in that which you can control (your own growth, actions, and behaviors), and the people around you can come and go as they please. You are taking responsibility for what you want by making it happen yourself instead of expecting it to come from others. When you expect nothing from others and everything from yourself, you are creating a social climate in which you can give without expecting anything in return, and truly appreciate what others do for you. People are more likely to gravitate towards such a climate than one filled with impossible expectations.

Always Pick Up As Though No Time Has Passed

Apparently it is not particularly normal for folks to be okay with picking up a friendship after a long period of silence or absence. Many think fondly of each other from across time and space, but are afraid they won’t be welcome since it has been so long. Some might perceive a long period of absence as a form of rejection, when it is really the natural forces of the universe pulling us in opposite directions and back together again. Demanding any other explanation for this is only going to push your friends away. You want to know the truth? Everybody is just as busy as you are. We all have goals we are working towards that do not involve our friends, and friendships will last longer when this is a mutually respected and unspoken understanding. In the grand scheme of things, time spent apart is irrelevant and time spent harping on the past is wasted. Mutual realization of this eliminates the necessity for feelings of guilt and obligation in your friendships, allowing common ground to prevail instantly upon every reconnection.

Maintain a Balanced Dialog

Many people reach out for friends when they are struggling with other relationships in their lives. We all need someone to vent to. However, keep in mind that each friendship is a two-way street. If you have to unload on someone, make it a point to stop yourself and provide some channel for response. Maybe even start by asking how their life is going first, before you say anything about your problems. Whatever you do, don’t let the conversation get away from you without expressing an interest in the perspective of whoever is listening. This can make all the difference between an exchange of dialog and a verbal assault. Venting is a selfish activity, but we all need to do it sometimes. It is hardest for us to be empathetic when we are hurting, so we need to be careful not to alienate ourselves or the people around us. It is easy to yell about our problems for an hour and then hang up the phone without letting the other person get a single word in edgewise. However, this could lead to your friend not picking up the next time you call. It is very important to balance things out by being considerate of the person on the other end of the line. By the same token, when someone is venting to you, listen patiently and do not try to hijack the conversation. Be sympathetic, offer your insight, but don’t make everything about you.

These things may seem like basics to some, but they might not be as obvious to people who have yet to master mindfulness and empathy. All relationships have their own unique balances. Everyone you meet holds a unique perspective you never could have imagined before, and it is impossible to predict exactly how one person will impact another. The most important thing all of my relationships have in common is an established focus on what we have to learn from each other. Even if everything on this list comes as brand new information to you, it is never too late to start treating yourself and others a little bit differently.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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