I’m wondering these days about how to be a better friend. Modern life makes friendship hard.
It’s often hard to find time for friendship. I’m a single parent, running my own business. This year has involved a summer of travel chaos, Flea moving schools, potentially selling our house… it’s a lot.
I think most women my age are the same. Between demanding careers, parenting teens, running a household and maintaining (or just finding) relationships, it’s hard to really be a good friend.
Does any of this ring a bell?
- It takes approximately 55,000 text messages back and forth to find a date when more than two of you are available for a night out. And then one of you cancels the day before you’re due to meet.
- You tell your friend who’s having a tough time, “I’m here if you need to talk,” or “You know where I am!” rather than, you know, actually DOING something helpful.
- You’re not 100 percent sure where your friend is working these days. Or how their family are doing.
- You confuse commenting on each other’s Facebook and Instagram posts with having an actual relationship
- You think about phoning, but you realise it’s been six months, and so it might seem awkward. Then before you know it, it’s been 12 months, 2 years…
Rather than resolving to eat more kale or read more books in 2019, I’m going to try and make my friends a higher priority.
So how do I go about being a better friend?
I’ve realised this year that I really need my friends.
When life got chaotic and difficult this year, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the friends who showed up for long walks on the beach, or invited me over to dinner, or found time for chatty phone calls at the end of the day. Who made time for a weekend away, so we could catch up.
And I want to be that sort of friend to people in my life. I don’t want to be that, “You know where I am,” person in 2019. Or the person who doesn’t show up for that coffee date you’ve already rearranged four times.
Truth is, you can’t be ALL things to ALL people ALL the time. It’s important to be kind to ourselves (and others) if we’re not always 100 percent available to everyone. That said, here are my Friendship New Year’s Resolutions.
How to be a Better Friend in 2020
There are a few specific things we can all do to be a better friend to other people. I think it starts with making some small changes when it comes how I interact with my friends, and new potential-friends.
Stick to those Arrangements
It’s so easy to get into the habit of making a plan with a friend, then cancelling it because you’re tired, or busy.
Sure I could have lunch with X, but if I finish this project now, I won’t have to work late tomorrow. And oh, I really need to get the car filled with petrol and there’s hockey tonight. It’d just be easier to do it another time…
This year, I want to be the sort of friend that people trust they can count on to keep my word. And sometimes that means treating them as a priority over things that might feel urgent, but really aren’t.
Put Yourself Out for Friends
I had a concussion a few weeks ago. For about a week, I was house-bound, with major dizziness and a sore head.
One of my most generous friends called the same day. She offered to go and do a grocery shop for me, since I couldn’t drive. I had another friend offer to walk my dog while I was struggling.
Then there was the photographer friend who drove 2 hours to my house just to show me how to use my new camera. Or the friend who saw on Instagram that I was struggling to take apart furniture, who offered to come over and be a second pair of hands.
It’s easy to be supportive on social media. But this year, I’m going to try and be a more supportive friend in actual, real life, too. If you want to know how to be a better friend, start by REALLY showing up for friends.
Share Stuff your Friend will Like
I have a couple of friends who regularly share stuff with me on their phone.
One of my oldest friends has been sending me music recommendations for more than ten years, just with a little, “You will like this,” or “This’ll make you laugh.” I have another friend who sends me film reviews and another who sends me amazing cat memes.
It’s such a small thing, but letting your friends know that something you saw made you think of them, is an easy way of making our friends feel valued. I’m definitely wanting to do more of this year.
Remember Details about their Life
After a big crisis in someone’s life, set a weekly reminder on your phone to check in. Even if it’s just a quick call, or a text. People need to know you’re thinking of them, and if they DO need support, they’ll know you’re there for them.
I’ve given up feeling like it’s a personal failure to not remember these things unprompted. So now I have important dates marked in my diary – friends’ birthdays, interviews, medical appointments or just a, “check in on X” once a month if nothing else.
It might only be a little thing, but it might also give someone a little comfort. It’s an easy way to be a better friend.
Support Friends’ Projects
Sometimes I’m guilty of watching a friend’s new project and wishing them well. Sometimes I don’t even do that – I just wish them well in my head. I just think, “How great, I hope that goes well.”
But if you want to know how to be a better friend, try actually supporting them. I’ll mean to donate to that campaign, but never quite get around to it because life’s busy and… you know. We forget this stuff.
During the coming year, I’m going to make the effort to consistently support my friend’s projects. That might be donating to their GoFundMe, showing up to a hockey match, or just sharing their new business with my Facebook friends. I want to be a cheerleader for my friends and the amazing things they do.
Send a Care Package
Lots of us have friends who live in other parts of the country. If you have a distant friend who’s going through a hard time, a care package can mean the world. I do this from time to time for friends who are struggling with health issues, or depression. What you put in depends on your friend’s interests (and your budget).
Things I’ve sent are a cosy blanket and a box-set (for sofa-snuggling). I sent another friend some cookies and a tin of loose tea. Another friend was unwell and I sent some fabulously colourful socks I thought she’d love.
Things I’ve received (courtesy of amazing friends) have included a package of freshly made brownies, mugs with uplifting, sweary slogans, and this badge (from my friend Jen).
It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. It’s just a tangible way of saying, “I’m thinking of you and how to help you feel a bit better.”
Don’t Ditch Friends too Quickly (but know when to step away)
Part of being a loyal friend is accepting that we all have flaws. Somebody’s mistakes are just part of what makes them who they are. I try not to give up on friends who might not be there for me all the time, or who say something rash that hurts my feelings.
Part of being someone’s support network is still being there for them EVEN if they’re being a bit of an idiot (and hoping they’ll return the favour when you’re an idiot).
By the way, this doesn’t mean it’s not okay to have boundaries. It’s okay to leave toxic relationships behind you.
Put the Damn Phone Down
I get it. We’re all busy. And we’re all used to being always available, to everyone, at a moment’s notice.
If you’re spending time with a friend, it’s just good manners to give them your undivided attention. That means turning the ringer off on your phone. Unless you’re actually waiting for news on that donor organ, the chances are there’s nothing that can’t wait 20 minutes.
This year, I’m making a promise to myself not to be that person. You know, the one scrolling through Insta while they’re having lunch with a friend.
So there you have it – some practical tips that I’m reminding myself of, about how to be a better friend to My People this coming year.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you keep friendships strong and connected when life gets busy.
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