“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”– Muhammad Ali
There are plenty of studies that have explained how we become healthier when we feel supported by others: lower blood pressure, better hormone function, stronger immune systems and possibly lower levels of inflammation. The opposite is also true. A 2010 meta-analysis by Holt-Lunstad, Smith and Layton combined data on more than 308,000 people across 148 studies, showed a strong connection between social relationships and life span. The size of the effect rivaled that of better-known health-related behaviours such as stopping smoking and exercising.
A 2015 analysis by Holt-Lunstad and colleagues compiled data on more than 3.4 million people across 70 studies, and shows that the absence of social connections carried the same health risk as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness led to worse outcomes than obesity. And the findings held true for people of all ages. In 2018, British Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May, went so far as to appoint a national minister for loneliness.
Social interaction is something I’ve written about before here: The Health Benefits of Real-Life Social Interaction.
Today, I want to focus more specifically on friendship because it offers up so much benefit. How can we cultivate more and stronger relationships? It’s a two-way street. You can’t expect to make a good friend without being a good friend. That’s what this article is all about.
Being a good friend isn’t always easy. It takes time to nurture a lasting friendship, which is worth every ounce of effort. As the years pass, some people will stay by your side, but many won’t, and you’ll realise that each friendship you keep and develop can be (and usually is) priceless. It is different for every person to be a good friend and deepen a friendship to make it last. Here are some effective strategies you can follow to be a good friend and enrich your life accordingly.
A Promise is A Promise: Do not ever make a promise that you can’t keep — or at least don’t make a habit of it. Do not break any such promise, as that will hurt your friend. It might even break your friendship!
“Don’t promise when you are happy, don’t reply when you are angry, and don’t decide when you are sad.” – Unknown
Being dependable is one of the most important aspects of being a good friend. Your friend will need you for support, especially in difficult times. Nobody likes a fake, and nobody wants one for a close friend. It’s hard to rely on a person who doesn’t behave in a consistent and trustworthy way. Your friends should always feel like they can count on you, even when the going gets tough. If you’re only there for the fun times, you’ll be no more than a fair-weather friend.
If You Make A Mistake, Say Sorry: If you want your friends to believe you, then you can’t act like you’re flawless. If you know you are responsible for a mistake, own up to it instead of being in denial. When you apologise, you should mean it. Let your friends hear the sincerity in your voice instead of thinking that you don’t really care how they feel.
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust
Be Honest With Yourself: If you want to
become a better friend and to have other people trust you, then you have to be
honest about your feelings, about your friends’ actions, and about how you feel
about your friendship. Being honest is different from being so blunt that
you’re hurting your friends. If you think your friend has a drinking problem,
for example, then you owe it to your friend to start a conversation about it.
But if you think your friend looks kind of weird in her new dress, you may want
to keep your mouth shut (though depends upon how resilient you believe your
friend to be and how useful it will be in the context).
Connect with people whom you value on a deep level if you want to have sustainable, long-term friendships. Invest in people you can (and want to) be around yourself. And more importantly invest in yourself. If your behaviour lacks sincerity, your friendship won’t last.
“Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.”– Thomas J. Watson
Don’t Take Advantage Of Someone’s’ Kindness: If one of your friends suspects that you’re taking advantage of them, then they’ll drop you like a hot potato. If you’re trying to be friends with a person just to be accepted into a certain clique, that’s not friendship – it’s opportunism – and eventually, the shallow nature of your involvement will reveal itself. In addition, if you have a reputation for using people, then new people won’t be too excited to develop a meaningful friendship with you. Friendship is about to give and take. If your friend does something for you, make sure that you do something for that friend in return.
“What you do not want doing to yourself, do not do to others.”– Confucius
Be A Loyal AF Friend: If your friend tells you something in confidence, keep it and don’t talk about it with anyone else, just as you’d expect your friend to do for you. Don’t discuss your friend behind his or her back, and don’t spread rumours about the confidences they’ve imparted to you. Don’t gossip.
Part of being loyal is understanding the importance of a long-lasting and stable friendship. Don’t throw all that away just to spend all your time hanging out with your new boyfriend or girlfriend or a cool new person you just met. If you have a reputation for being a blabbermouth or gossip, then your friends will quickly find out and they’ll be hesitant to reveal anything personal to you in the future — or even to spend much time with you at all. Don’t let others say bad things about your friend, either. Until you’ve had a chance to hear your friend’s side of the story, treat comments that are not supportive as hearsay and rumours. Defend friends when they are not around.
Sometimes your friend will say things that you find boring, uncomfortable or annoying, but if you have respect for your friend, you’ll give your friend the space to speak and to do so without judgment. During times when you don’t see eye to eye with your friend, disagree respectfully and be willing to see things differently.
“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future and accepts you just the way you are.” – Unknown
Show Respect In A Friendship: Show respect for your friends by being openly and mutually supportive. Do a favour for your friend just out of the goodness of your heart, not because you want something in return. There’s a difference between being selfless at the right time and letting people walk all over you. If you feel like you’re always helping your friends and get nothing back, then you may have a problem. Don’t abuse generosity or wear out your welcome. When your friend does something nice for you, reciprocate if it is appropriate. Payback money you borrow promptly. Go home when it seems like the time is right.
“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”– Mark Twain
Be A Good Listener: If you’re just waiting for your friend to finish talking so you can say what you want to say, it’ll be obvious right away. Do not interrupt your friends when they’re speaking. It is a sign of disrespect. Listen to their problems, their fears, their dreams, their joys. This way, it’ll be easier to have a thriving friendship.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”– Ernest Hemingway
Help Your Friends Deal With Their Struggles: Find out how you can be there for a friend when they need you most. Don’t assume that they will take care of themselves alone. If you see a problem, speak up, no matter how awkward you may feel. Let your friend know you will be during this tough time. It will make them feel a little more confident and help them with their struggles. If all your friend wants to do about the problem is to talk, that’s fine at first, but you should help your friend find practical solutions to his problems. Help him to make his own choices.
Edward Deci, a psychology professor at the University of Rochester, has found that supporting a friend’s autonomy—that is, making him feel as if he can make his own choices—creates a better relationship and may even improve his mental health. In one study, researchers found that the more satisfied the partner was with the friendship and the higher self-esteem the person had. Treating a friend as if he’s got his act together could actually help him get there.
“True friendship comes when the silence between two people is comfortable.”– David Tyson
Help Them In Time Of Crisis: If your friend is admitted to the hospital, the most valuable support you can provide is just being there to talk and listen. You don’t have to say anything if nothing seems right; just stay calm and reassuring. It will provide them the emotional strength they need to overcome the crisis.
Having a friend standing by can actually blunt the body’s stress response during a hard experience, according to a study by William Bukowski, a psychologist at Concordia University. He and his colleagues also found that cortisol levels were significantly lower in kids who said a close friend was with them during a negative event, such as getting in trouble with a teacher. “Our bodies recognize that they don’t have to respond so much to danger if someone is there to help,” Bukowski says.
“A loyal friend laughs at your jokes when they’re not so good, and sympathizes with your problems when they’re not so bad.”– Arnold H. Glasgow
Give Thoughtful Advice: Find the time to give some kind and thoughtful advice. In some cases, you could use a little tough love to keep him or her out of a dangerous situation. When you give someone real, emotional advice chose your words carefully.
You don’t want to lecture or overwhelm your friend. Tell him or her how you perceive the situation using factual information, and suggest what you might do in the same circumstances. Allowing one another the time to hang with other friends gives you much-needed breathing room, and allows you to come together with fresh and appreciating each other even more.
“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.”– Plutarch
Share Secrets: A true friend is someone you can trust, someone who has your back, who keeps your secrets in a treasure box and swallows the key! If someone tells you a secret and tells you it is to be kept between only the two of you, telling it to a third person would be a break of promise and violation of trust.
When you tell your friends something sensitive, it will make them feel like you trust and value them. But that’s not the only reason it brings you closer. “It also makes your friend feel as if you value her more than someone else,” says Peter DeScioli, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Harvard University, who has done extensive research on the “alliance” theory of friendship.
Learn To Forgive: If you’re angry at your friend but haven’t told him or her why you’ll never be able to forgive him if you don’t talk about it. The more you are with one another, the less you idealise each other and the more you accept one another for who you really are. This is what being a truly good friend is really about — caring deeply for each other, even if you know you’re both full of flaws. Honest communication is a basic foundation in friendship. If you and your friend can’t talk to each other freely then you are set up for a difficult and possibly doomed relationship. You don’t have to spend a lot of time and money to be a good friend. The best gifts are often handmade and come from the heart. A phone call can mean as much as a visit.
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer
Be that friend. That is, be the person that is massively valued by others. Be the friend that your friends love deeply. Start working on this today and you, and your friends will benefit greatly in a wide variety of ways.
Have some of these themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Do you need help or support in a particular area of your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
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Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book, it’ll help you advance eating habits!
Great article with pearls of wisdom.
Thank you for taking the time to write and say so Avani, my very best wishes to you, Adam.