Life can be a lonely thing without companionship. Acquaintances are easy to come by but true friends are a whole other story. The best way to develop meaningful connections with true friends we can trust is to become a true friend yourself. Apply these ten steps if you’d like to be a true friend that can be counted on.
1. Be present for their highs and lows.
“If you’re absent during my struggle, don’t expect to be present during my success.” – Will Smith
It’s easy to be there for our friends when they ask us out for fun things like drinks at the bar, dancing in the club, or laughs at the theater. But are you willing to be there for the hard times that are the opposite of fun? You might not feel comfortable while spending time with an emotionally fragile person on the verge of tears, but true friends are readily available when they’re needed the most.
2. Know when to hush.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway
The act of vocally expressing our troubles to a trusted friend can offer instant stress-reduction. Give your friend the gift of silence so they can drop their baggage and get on with living.
3. Offer your encouragement.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The four most inspiring words you can speak to another person? I believe in you.
4. Accept them as they are.
“Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” – George Orwell
If you can’t accept a person as they are, you will never know the feeling of true friendship. Fight the urge to attempt to “fix” them, no matter how crazy their mannerisms might make you.
5. Challenge them to grow.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller
If a friend tells you they plan to drop 10 lbs, tell them, “10 lbs? Please. I bet you can get so fit that people’s jaws will drop when you walk past them.” Throw down the gauntlet, make sure they know you believe they can do it, and ask: “Challenge accepted?”
6. Be vulnerable.
“I found that the more truthful and vulnerable I was, the more empowering it was for me.” – Alanis Morissette
Hiding your flaws might be appropriate in a job interview, but it’s not something you should do in a conversation with a friend you trust. Never hesitate to speak your thoughts and feelings in their raw and unfiltered form. Who knows? They might open up and disclose a surprising secret in return. Full disclosure will strengthen your friendship and make you both feel at ease in each other’s company.
7. Forgive the past.
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Buddha
Have you ever hurled an insult at a person when you were feeling stressed and wished you could take it back? If so, you should understand that even the best of us suffer from the occasional slip of the tongue. Holding onto a grudge over a minor slip-up will make you look petty, so let it go.
8. Watch out for jealousy.
“The worst part of success is trying to find someone who is happy for you.” – Bette Midler
Your friend landed his dream job and you feel stuck in a rut. Your friend scored a hot date with Mr. Perfect and you feel down and depressed. Jealousy is a nasty feeling that can take hold of our thoughts without warning. If a friend achieves something you aspire to do, channel that jealous feeling into an “if they did it, I can too” attitude.
9. Speak the truth (even if it hurts).
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde
Have you ever watched a friend damage her self-esteem by staying in an emotionally abusive relationship? I have, and it hurts more than words can express. Confronting a person about an inconvenient truth isn’t easy, but sometimes it needs to be done. If you have something to say and can’t find the nerves to do it, ask yourself, “How would I feel if it was me making a very bad decision and my friend said nothing about it?” While speaking out doesn’t guarantee you’ll change their mind, staying silent does guarantee you’ll regret not speaking up sooner. If you feel the need to confront your friend about a particular issue, please click here to find out how to give constructive feedback and avoid ugly confrontations.
10. Make it special.
“We are all special cases.” – Albert Camus
The greatest friendships have quirks and qualities that are exclusive to them. Search for a special activity, gesture, or saying that is reserved for your true friend only. That could be a song you belt out on every car ride, a goofy handshake or gesture that no one else understands, or a weekly ritual just for the two of you.
Do you have a true friend who has changed your life for the better? Are there any funny special quirks exclusive to a friend of yours that you’d be willing to share? What qualities do you look for in a friend? Tell us all about it in the comments!