By: Maggie Young
Good friends can provide endless joys and support in life – and no, we’re not just talking about those emotional heart-to-hearts at your favorite weekly brunch spots. Cultivating deep friendships is important and goes beyond agreeing to play wing-woman when all you really want to do is take a nap. (Though we agree that’s pretty selfless on your part.) We want to help you deepen those friendships, so they continue thriving for decades to come. Keep reading to find out how to be a better friend. It’s a lot easier than you think.
Staying quiet and listening to others always rises to the top of the list when it comes to improving any type of relationship. And it makes sense. “People appreciate those who are understanding and kind and they like to feel like they are being heard and that what they have to say matters,” says Lauren Roberts, a licensed professional counselor. “Empathy embodies all of those things.” This is important not only when your friend is divulging serious information, but also during casual conversation.
To improve your listening abilities, try reflective listening. After listening to your friend, repeat back to them what you understood or interpreted from what they said. This reflection offers the other person an opportunity to correct or elaborate further. Roberts notes this can continue until what you’re reflecting matches what they are saying. In addition, use eye contact and avoid interrupting or interjecting with solutions when they aren’t requested.
It’s easy to let other aspects of our lives slide when our schedules are jam-packed but try and keep in touch with your closest friends. “Communication is probably the number one thing you can do to ease any tension in the relationship that might come up when we are busy,” says Roberts. You can check in and chat with your friend to let them know what’s going on and that it’s going to be temporary. Ensure that their friendship is important to you and that you want to make time for them as soon as your hectic workload comes to an end. Roberts also notes that you can always send a quick text or post on their social media to let them know you’re thinking of them.
The Five Love Languages, developed by Gary Chapman, was originally meant for romantic relationships, but Roberts says they also translate well to friendships. The languages consist of Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Gift Giving and Physical Touch. Roberts says the idea is that everyone tends to receive love in one of these five ways.
Authenticity creates genuine connection, which is what strengthens relationships. “Willingness to be vulnerable with your friends is important,” says Roberts. “Allow them to see your best and worst moments.” Others are drawn to and appreciate it when you’re being real with them. In that same vein, approach your friendships with a forgiving nature. Everyone is human and slips up at times, and it means a lot to hold a space for imperfection and growth (no grudge-holding). “When they need you, show up and show support,” says Roberts. “Actions speak louder than words in this case.”