How to be a good friend: Tips from a Wellness Peer
Australian Nurse Bronnie Ware wrote in her 2011 book “Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, that not maintaining friendships was one of the top regrets of her dying patients.
Now, we hope we’re all a long way off from dying, but it’s a good reminder that it’s never too early to work on our friendships.
Long-lasting and healthy friendships are rare and very special. That feeling when you meet someone who you ‘click’ with gives us a sense that we’re not all alone in this crazy world!. So once you have a good friend-group going, how do you ensure that those relationships continue to grow? It takes attention, consistency, and connection.
Here are some things to consider when trying to maintain and deepen connections with friends:
Be a trustworthy person to talk to
Being a trustworthy person to talk to means being the kind of person you would want to confide in. If you told a friend a secret, would you be okay with it if that friend started telling others? Another way you can show you are a trustworthy person is by actively listening to your friend’s thoughts and opinions. This can look like maintaining eye contact and making sure your body language shows that you are engaged.
Make an effort to stay in touch
Staying in touch is vitally important to maintaining friendships. Of course, life can get hectic every now and then, but it’s important that your friends know you’re still there for them no matter what. For example, when I was in high school, my best friend moved to England. I didn’t make as much of an effort to stay in touch with her as I wish I had, and now I don’t speak to her as frequently. Luckily our friendship was already strong enough to survive. We’re still friends, and I know that we are there for each no matter what happens in our lives.
Make time to see your friends
If you live near your friends, make the effort to see them! Take advantage of those who are close by. Grabbing lunch together or studying in the same space and taking breaks together can be an easy way to see people. Outside of school, try seeing a movie or going to a place you’ve never been before. For example, my friend I were driving past Pacific Spirit Park one night and we noticed lights coming from the side of the road. On a whim, we decided to pull over and see why crowds of people were pouring into the forest. It ended up being a nighttime nature light show. We created a shared memory that I remember each time I drive past Pacific Spirit Park, all because we were willing to take a chance on a new shared experience.
Show appreciation for your friends
Giving and receiving appreciation can go a long way to help sustain relationships in the long run. Think about taking your friends out for a coffee or meal, making them a card, giving them a hug or even just telling them why you value your friendship. After my best friend moved to England, I wanted to send something to her to remind her of Canada. We had a high school teacher who sold t-shirts with a caricature picture of himself on it (why - I don’t really know) so I bought a shirt and got all her friends to sign it and shipped it to her in England. She loved it and it made her feel like she still mattered to us.
Be honest with each other
Being honest is important for establishing trust in a relationship. That being said, being honest is not an excuse to be rude or hurtful to your friends, just because you are voicing your opinion. You always need to think about the other person’s feelings. Being honest can be a positive. For example, I’ve had friends be honest with me and tell me when they believed I could do better. They held me accountable. Other times, I’ve also had friends say hurtful things about my appearance in the name of honesty...that was just hurtful.
Have compassion and try to see the best in each other
We all make mistakes. We are all human. Practicing compassion for yourself and others is a freeing way to live your life. Nobody is perfect, and believing that your friends are doing their best will lead to more trust, and less drama in your friendships.
Friends can be a wonderful resource and support system. If you put effort into maintaining and deepening friendships through keeping in contact regularly, demonstrating trustworthiness, and showing appreciation, you will reap the benefits of friendship for a lifetime.
Read more wellness-related content on the Healthy Minds blog.