My eldest daughter moved away to college last fall. I tried not to give her too much advice—I’m navigating that tricky space between being a caregiver and being a cheerleader as my child moves from adolescence into adulthood. But I did give her one piece advice that has been really important to me over the years:
Be the friend you wish you had.
This concept is based on the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. It’s so simple, yet so hard for some to embody. Some of us long for rich, meaningful, deep friendships, but we struggle to make it happen.
If you are someone who finds friendship hard to come by, here are a few tips for building true friendships.
- Initiate. Are you waiting for someone to invite you to lunch or out to do something? Be the change you long for. Invite them! Someone has to get the ball rolling. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to take the first step. Pick up the phone, send a text, reach out.
- Listen. I can’t overestimate the importance of being a good listener in friendship. My best friendships are ones where we trade off listening to one another. Sometimes I do most of the talking, and sometimes I do most of the listening. If you want to be a good friend, cultivate the skill of being a good listener. (If this is something you struggle with, here is a “cheat sheet” for becoming a better listener from Harvard Business Review.)
- Give Advice Sparingly (and ask first!) This kind of goes along with being a good listener, but try to resist doling out unsolicited advice or feeling like you need to be your friend’s problem solver. Often times, people just want a sounding board. But if you do feel the need to offer advice, get permission first. “Is this something you’d like some input on, or did you just want to process?” is a good question to ask.
- Maintain confidence. A strong friendship demands trust, and nothing breaks trust faster than repeating something that was shared with you to someone else. Even if the person did not explicitly say “don’t tell anyone, but…” err on the side of caution and maintain your friend’s privacy. Be someone people know they can entrust their most vulnerable selves to.
- Reciprocate. While I advocate for initiating in friendship, it’s also important that a friendship be mutual and reciprocal. Be mindful of who is doing most of the initiating. If it’s always you, and the other person never reciprocates, they might not be as interested in close friendship as you are. Move on.
- Make time. Relationships take time! Block out time in your weekend for plans with a friend. Share an article you think they might find interesting or shoot them a text asking about something you discussed last time you spoke. “How did it go with ____?” tells them you were listening and that you care about them.
- Be intentional. Friendship, like any relationship, requires maintenance. Being a good friend requires intention and consistency.
To have a good friend is to have a real gift, indeed. While friendship certainly comes more easily to some than others, these tips can help you foster deeper friendships and be the friend you wish you had!
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Christy Tennant Krispin is a Whole Life Coach helping clients live more intentionally in alignment with their goals and values across all spheres of life. Schedule a free consultation with Christy here.