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We all know that surrounding yourself with great friends is a critical part of happiness. But odds are, you used to have a group of friends whom you connected with daily, but as the years go by, it’s probably getting harder to stay in constant contact with these important people.
So what’s the secret to maintaining these relationships?
The trick is that you have to be proactive in life. In other words, you have to be a good friend first if you want the people in your life to stay there.
In this article, we will talk about eight actionable strategies you can use to be a good friend. But first we’ll talk about the value of friendship, and how it’s related to happiness.
Side note: For more information on how to increase your life satisfaction, we recommend you check out this book, which has 53 science-backed habits you can use to increase your happiness.
Why Is It Important to Have a Friend?
It is nearly impossible to properly describe the importance of friends in our lives. They're there when we need a shoulder to cry one, when we need light in the darkness, when we need a partner for a trip, when we are at our lowest point, and when we need someone to laugh with.
There is no denying the fact that good friends have a positive effect on our overall health. We are more cheerful and happier, and we tend not to think about the matters that worry us the most when we are surrounded by our friends—the people who love us unconditionally. Specifically, there are three ways that building a strong friend network can help you:
1. You connect with like-minded people.
The good thing about having friends is that you can choose who they are. You meet so many people in your life—you probably work with more than a dozen people—but there are only a few people who remain your friends for a long time. These are the people who are allowed to have a glimpse of your life, and to participate in both your sad and happy moments.
People who become your friends are those with whom you share a certain level of compatibility. Perhaps you have the same views about important things. This mental compatibility gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts with your friends without much emotional effort.
2. Friends make you happy.
Spending time with your friends makes you happier. When you are surrounded by people who are your support system, you feel lighter. In a non-judgmental environment, you find it easy to share your ideas and thoughts.
Discussions with friends and sharing your fears and worries with them makes you less anxious. You also feel more secure, as you know that you have someone to talk to, and that you are not alone. From family issues to a bad day at work, you can ring up your friend and tell them about the things that are bothering you.
In fact, most of the time your friends don't let you suffer in silence. They keep checking on you and make an effort to help you tackle all kind of situations.
3. Friends make you a better person.
Our personalities and behaviors are influenced by the environments we are exposed to, and our friendships challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. Humans crave companionship, as they cannot survive in isolation. Friends play an important role in keeping that loneliness away, and helping you become the person you want to be.
How to Be a Good Friend to Others
A good friend is all we need to bear the insanity of this life. But how can we define a “good friend?” What are the traits that make a person a good friend? Is it something that we are born with, or can we acquire these traits as we grow?
There is a famous quote that says, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” But instead of defining what kind of a friend we should spend our time with, isn't it more important to be a good friend and set an example for others?
We realize the importance of having a good friend. There is no denying that good friends play an important role in influencing our personalities. But before we start expecting others to be our good friends, we should focus on improving ourselves and being the kind of people we want others to be.
The process of becoming a good friend is not time-bound. Living is all about learning. It is understandable to make mistakes, but you should always learn from your past mistakes and make conscious efforts not to repeat them.
Turning into a good friend is not a scientific process, but there are eight steps that can help you to become the kind of a friend who is always there for others.
1. Always be there.
A short story for children shares the tale of two friends who encountered a bear during their excursion into a jungle. In an attempt to save his life, one of the friends climbed up the tree, leaving his friend behind. This person was sharp enough to wriggle his way out of danger, but he abandoned his friend when the going got rough.
A good friend will always be there and help you through the bad times.
The story tries to teach us that, as friends, we have a responsibility to be there for our friends in times of need. Being friends with someone so that you can go on fun trips is good, but your friend also needs you to be there for them when they truly need you. For example, if your friend is suffering from a financial crisis, you should take a step forward and assure them that you are there for them, and that they can come to you if they need any help.
Some people remain friends with people when things are happy and favorable, but they part ways when things take a rocky turn. They don't want to be there when someone is coping with the loss of a loved one, or is laid off at work. A good friend, however, will be there and assure the person during bad times that everything will work out.
2. Be kind.
Being considerate and kind doesn't mean that you should indulge in flattery. If you think that your friend is in the wrong, you can always communicate your concerns to them. But you should always share your thoughts in a polite tone. You don't have to bluntly tell them that they should be doing this or that just because you feel that your friends need a lecture.
Just because a person has come to you for advice doesn't give you the authority to humiliate them or make them feel like less of a person.
3. First, listen; then, say.
Even with good intentions in your heart, if you are too quickly critical, you will make your friends feel that they cannot come to you to discuss their problem if they don't act on your advice. It is good to give honest advice to your friends, but it is also important to put yourself in their shoes and see the problems through their eyes. Always give your friends a chance to explain their points of view and their situations. After that, offer advice that they can easily act on.
4. Don't hold grudges.
Disagreements can happen everywhere, and between nearly everyone. There may be a time when you don't agree with what your friend is saying, and this may lead to the two of you having a small disagreement. It is alright to have small fights, but it is not good to sever ties with your friends over petty issues.
After the two of you have ample time to cool down, you should let go of the grudge and start talking to each other again. A good friend makes an effort to reconnect with their friends, and doesn't let petty issues tarnish the bonds that they share.
5. Don't be envious.
Your friend may have everything that you’ve ever wanted: good grades, a lucrative job, a happy family, an nice apartment, etc. And when things are not working out as you want them to in your life, it is understandable to feel a little jealousy towards your friend.
But if you let that jealousy control you, it will kill your friendships. Instead of envying your friend's life, you should be happy for them. If your roles were reversed and it was you who had everything sorted out, wouldn't you want your friends to celebrate your successes?
No good comes out of negativity. It sabotages relationships and makes people part ways. Whenever you have a negative thought, immediately replace it with a positive one. Remember the time when your friend was there for you, standing by your side and celebrating your happy moments. A good friend is always happy for their friend's achievements. In fact, they help their friends to climb the ladder of success.
6. Accept them as they are.
You and your friends may complement each other, but there can be certain issues where your friends don't agree with you. For example, perhaps your friend is an introvert who doesn't like to party late at night. If your idea of hanging out is visiting loud bars and getting drunk on a Saturday night, and your friend politely excuses themself, don't take it to heart. Don't tell your friend that they have to change.
Your idea of enjoyment and fun can be completely different than theirs. While you might love a party, your friend might prefer to have drinks with you in a quiet place. Appreciate your friend's preferences, and when they are planning to spend some time with you, try to pick up a place where the two of you can enjoy quality time together.
Forcing your friend to take part in an activity that they don't like is arrogant and selfish. It sends your friend the message that you don't care about their feelings, and that their opinion doesn't matter to you. As a good friend, your responsibility is to give some breathing space to your friends. Let them enjoy themselves on their own terms.
7. Forgive and forget.
Sometimes, your friends may talk to you in a rude manner. Their harsh words may hurt you. At that moment, you might want to give them an equally hurtful reply. But this is the moment where you have to sit back and evaluate whether it is worth it to do so. What good will come from sending mean messages to a friend who may have been rude to you?
Learn to forgive and forget. Try to understand the reason behind their mood
Even if your friend has been rude to you, try to understand the reason behind their bad mood. Since you are their friend, you probably know what is bothering them. Even if there is no justifiable reason for them to talk to you in such a manner, it is always good to forgive them and move forward. Life is short, so we shouldn't hold permanent grudges.
8. Give them independence.
In every relationship, it is important to allow people to have “me time.” Regardless of how close you are with your friend, it is essential to let them enjoy their life in their own way. Suppose the two of you enjoy going to movies together, but maybe one time your friend wants to go alone. It is important to allow them to do so. An unhealthy dependency on your friend will hurt your friendship.
This independence doesn't mean that your friend is breaking their ties with you. Everyone enjoys spending some time by themselves now and then so that they can relax and deal with their inner thoughts. As a good friend, you should appreciate that your friend is participating in self-care. Instead of making them feel guilty about doing things on their own, you should support their decision to take some time for themselves.
Final Thoughts on Being a Good Friend
Good friends are the anchor that keeps your life stable. A good friend makes you happier, uplifts your mood, and encourages you to be a better version of yourself. Learn to be a good friend so that you can uplift others, and attract good friends to you.
And if you'd like to expand your social circle, then here are 17 qualities of a good friend you should look for with the people you meet.