How to be a good friend
Why is friendship important?
We are social beings by nature and our need of belongingness encourages us to form social relationships. Friendships can greatly affect our happiness and mental health. Having good friends can help fight loneliness, reduce stress, push us to grow, improve our mood, increase our self-worth and confidence and help us cope with problems.
Friends can provide great support in times of crisis, make life more exciting, keep us more active by doing activities together, help us understand ourselves better and make us feel appreciated and loved. What is interesting is that friendship can increase life expectancy and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Having strong friendships is associated with a reduced risk for many health problems and research has found that older adults with a good social life are more likely to live longer than others with less connections. Thus, it is important to invest in our friendships and to prioritise quality over quantity.
How can I be a good friend?
Be a good listener: Be interested in your friend and ask them about their day. Sometimes it is easy to carry on talking about our own problems, so try to not dominate the conversation. Instead, pay attention to your friend and listen to them intently, without looking at your phone when your friend is talking to you. Encourage them to express their feelings and avoid interrupting them when they are talking.
Be kind and respectful: Everyone has their own values and beliefs, so try to be understanding and respectful. Your friends will often have different opinions and it is important to respect their right to have an opinion. By seeing things from a different point of view, you can learn and grow as a person. If you want to express disagreement, try to do it in a calm and polite way.
Do not be judgmental: Being negative and insulting will push people away, so try to avoid criticisms and negative comments. Instead, be optimistic, encouraging and positive. If you listen without judgement, your friend will be more inclined to share their thoughts with you. Keep in mind how the things you say might affect your friends’ feelings.
Make an effort to keep in contact: Spending more time together will allow you to get to know each other better and strengthen your friendship. If you are not able to meet them in person, you can use social media to keep in touch. Making an effort to stay in contact also shows that you care about your friendship.
- Be trustworthy: They key ingredient for every successful relationship is trust, so make sure you don’t share with anyone else any confidential information that your friend has told you. Gossiping about your friend can ruin your friendship.
Own up to your mistakes: No one is perfect. Both you and your friend will make mistakes. In order for the friendship to survive, it is important that you apologise when you make a mistake and that you mean it. Owing up to our mistakes is a sign of maturity and it shows that we care about our friendship. If your friend apologises for a mistake they have done, it is important to be forgiving and to avoid holding grudges. The more you learn from your past mistakes, the better your friendship will be.
Support your friends in time of need: Offer help when your friend is going through a hard time and be there for them when they need you. You can’t always fix your friends’ problems, but try to be helpful in a way that you can, depending on the situation (e.g. emotional support).
Do not exclude your friends: Don’t make your friends feel left out when you make plans and don’t exclude anyone when you hang out as a group. Also, don’t forget your friends when you make new friends or get into a relationship.
Give good advice when asked: If your friend asks for advice try to give them well-thought advice without pressuring them to follow it, being judgmental or making them feel bad.
Do not try to change your friends: It is okay not to have everything in common. In fact, no one has everything in common with their friends. Accept them for who they are and try to understand why they think the way they do.
Avoid being possessive: You don’t have to spend all your time with your friend or do everything together. It is okay for your friends to hang out with other friends. Being too dependent can make the friendship unhealthy. The more freedom your friendship has, the stronger it is!
Be willing to open up: Deep conversations are one of the most effective ways to bond with your friends. Do not be afraid to express your feelings and thoughts.
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