8 Ways To Be A Better Friend This Year In Ways That Are Actually Meaningful And Lasting
If every social media feed you are present on hadn't clued you in yet, allow me to enlighten: the renaissance of the Best Friend Forever has been raging for a few years now. We're finally giving our wing men and women all the love and recognition they deserve. In a world that currently values thriving independence above little else, we're starting to re-connect with how important friendships and relationships are, and what a crucial role they play in our overall wellbeing.
It's easy to put people last. It's easy to push them away with work and a desire to be alone. It's easy because we don't consider people necessary, even though they absolutely are. In fact, I don't know anybody who has lived a truly happy existence in which having loved ones around them was not a key factor. The truth is that it's not really a matter of being a fallible human being who slips up sometimes, but rather the culture and the commonality of how okay it is to bail and talk crap and overall be a not great friend, especially when people aren't around.
The truth is that we could all stand to do a little better on this front. Here are eight ways to get you started on being a better friend, right now:
Stop Believing That Their Personal Opinions Threaten Or Invalidate Your Own
It is impossible to love someone if you don't fully accept them, and it is impossible to accept them if you don't understand that when they share their personal opinions and beliefs, it's not in an attempt to invalidate yours, or to convince you otherwise. (Or rather, on some occasions it can be, but that's only a problem if you actually succumb to it.) Learn to stand your own ground, and see the beauty in coexisting as two separate beings in one beautiful friendship with one another. It's infinitely more profound than just getting along because you're so alike.
Make A Genuine Commitment To Not Speaking Ill Of Them Behind Their Back – And Stick To It
The most insidiously toxic thing you can do to a friendship is speak badly about them to someone else, maliciously or not, because it's usually done under the guise of being "worried" for them or some other insane justification. You want to talk crap because you want to feel better about your own life, or have something to entertain you with another social circle, and neither of those are in the realm of acceptability. Commit to not being a profoundly sh*tty human, and get some new hobbies and conversation topics that aren't reminiscent of what you talked about at parties in seventh grade.
Practice Feeling Happy For Them
The sad, crazy truth about humans is that we often (usually) don't feel happy for people naturally. We feel threatened, jealous, and mildly defensive any time something good happens to someone else. Their joy seems so contrasted to all the ways we perceive ourselves to be lacking, and so when we hear about the new relationship, the new job, the perfect apartment, we start to wonder if we'll ever have love or a the right career or our dream home. This is natural. This is normal. This is nothing to mentally rail against, but rather just something to be aware of, so you can consciously practice feeling happy for them. This is the only way you'll be able to tap into that emotional field once a situation that would warrant it arises.
Before You Make Any Statement Of Disagreement, Begin With One Of Empathy
Even if you are boiling over inside, and you just want to scream at the top of your lungs because the reality is so obvious and your friend's neglect toward it is so harmful and you've said it a million times but it's still not getting through: take a step back, just for a second. Train yourself to do this. If you come at someone in a way that's more aggressive than not, their defenses will spike, and no matter how right you are, or how good your intentions, it will inevitably backfire. So instead, begin with empathy. Lead with heart. Say: "I hear what you're saying. I have/haven't been in that situation, so I understand/don't understand but have [been through this similar thing] or [felt this exact same way] or [really can't imagine how I'd feel in those circumstances.]" Making someone feel heard and appreciated and respected is the way to get them to change their minds, not the opposite.
Show Up On Moving Day
And on every stupid little day in between. You don't have to commit your life to someone to show up for the things that matter, and I think that's where people get most tripped up. You don't have to be at everything. You don't even have to be there for a long time. But you do have to go, if you care about your relationship at all. Be there on moving day. Call and ask for details when something good happens. Bring some champagne over when they get the dream job offer. Be there for them when the little things happen, you'll look back (as the saying goes) and realize: they were the big things all along.
Tell Them The Complete Truth
Be mindful of your tone and the context and your word-choice, as being careless about these things is the fastest way to ensure a conversation about a sensitive subject will backfire. But tell them the truth. The complete truth. If they are offended by it, even when you frame it in a positive way, that's their problem. If they ask for your opinion, give it. Nobody is benefitting from your half-truths. You're going home with anxiety because you're suppressing how you really feel, and they're going home believing everything is okay because the people who are most supposed to be there for them, are failing them when it really matters. Consider it equatable to giving someone a piece of gum when their breath is bad. It may be embarrassing at first, but it's much less embarrassing as walking around for the rest of the day not realizing.
Don't Lose Yourself In Their Problems
The best friends are able to stay objective and separate from one another's personal lives, while still being invested in them. There's a huge difference between the people who care about their friends and the people who lose themselves in their dramas, and invest in them so thoroughly that it actually affects their quality of life. The reality is that nobody is benefitting from this, least of all yourself. And worse: it's not sustainable. This is what happens to the friendships that also combust.
Stop Trying To Fix Them
When friendships don't run as smoothly as they could, or should, it's usually because one or both parties is subconsciously, yet actively, trying to "fix" the other. They're quick to identify exactly what's wrong in their lives, and are hard-pressed to let up on it until they believe that their friend is, if not healed, then at least aware. The reality is that your job is not to police for the universe. You're not responsible for handing their karma to them, or teaching them lessons. Their lives will do that for them. Their experiences will open them on their own. Your job is simply to stand by them as they do. That's all most people ever want anyway.