How to Be a Good Friend: 10 Ways to Be a Friend

Rachel Sharpe

How to be a good friend, that’s the question of the day. In this crazy world, so many of us are tied to our phones and glued to our laptops leaving people feeling lonelier than ever before. Now, more than ever, we need to know how to be a good friend to those in our circle and the world around us. Knowing how to be a good friend can help make people feel happier, loved, and supported through life’s crazy rollercoaster of ups and downs. So, let’s dig into the 10 ways to be a friend. 

How To Be a Good Friend: 10 Ways To Be a Friend

1. Be Encouraging

If you want to be a good friend, you need to be encouraging. When someone wants to try something new or pursue their passion, it’s important to be supportive. Oftentimes, we play the role where we ask too many questions or give people the negative side of a situation so that people don’t get hurt. However, we’re using our fear to make someone else unhappy. Ultimately, you don’t want to be the person making decisions for someone else’s life (even if you were a parent or respected elder to that person). Deep down people know what  decision they need to make but experience fear instead of making it. Realizing that is what can help make you a good friend. Instead of giving advice or suggestions to their ideas, ask them questions that’ll help them inch closer to what they actually want to do. 

If someone wants to try ballet in their 20s, this isn’t the time to let them know that it may be too late to be a ballerina. Instead, let them test it out. Maybe most ballerinas start young but you never know who will be the exception to the rule. Sometimes people have wanted to do something for so long, only to be discouraged by everyone they know. To be a good friend, it’s important to let them know that you support the decisions they make in their life– even if they’re a bit unconventional. Even if a simple “you’re going to be okay” is good enough in a lot of cases.

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2. Be a Good Listener

Two friends overlooking a sunset

Listening is one of the most important skills to develop if you want to master how to be a good friend. However, it’s not as easy as just hearing the words they say. You’ll also need to pay attention to tone, body language, and secret messages that you can only read between the lines.

A great practice for developing your listening skills is to mirror the conversation. For example, if someone tells you “I feel hurt by the breakup” you simply say “It seems that you feel sad” and they’ll elaborate on their feelings or the situation. Most of the time people say things like “cheer up” “or you’ll find someone else” which usually results in people not feeling heard. It also doesn’t allow a person to fully express their frustrations as “cheer up” or “you’ll feel better soon” almost ends the conversation. 

Allow people to communicate their frustrations such as “why am I not good enough?” and simply let them get it off their chest. They don’t want you to give them advice. It’s their life, they need to live with the consequences. Just listen intently and let them share their life with you. Make them feel heard. 

3. Be Honest

While learning how to be a friend, it’s important to be honest. Sometimes, you’ll make mistakes, say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing. It’s human to be imperfect. So if you do something wrong, just own it. Tell the person that you dropped the ball. They’ve likely made mistakes too so they’ll likely understand.

There may be times when someone comes to you asking for an honest opinion, be honest then too. However, it’s important to keep in mind how a person may react to the honesty. Try to couch the honesty so it’s easier to hear. People will value your honesty if you do it gently. Are you able to talk about a positive example of something they did recently? You might want to give honest feedback of something they did wrong by reminding them to focus on doing more of the things they do right. People are inspired to grow when they hear positive feedback instead of negative. So if you want a situation to get better, focus on the good more than the bad.

4. Don’t Interfere

Woman being supported by a man

If your goal is to really know how to be a friend, it’s important not to interfere. There are way too many times when we share advice that we have no place sharing. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one guilty of this, I do it too. But ultimately, the person going through the problem or crisis has way more context than you do. They know how things are really going down. So instead of sharing your two cents, focus on being supportive. Remember, this is their life, not yours. People likely won’t regret the mistakes they made if they were the ones to call the shots. But if they take your advice and regret it, it could make problems worse.

Now, let’s move into an example of times when people interfere. This is probably most common in relationships. I’ve heard of so many examples of mother in laws trying to break couples up because they don’t like a person’s significant other. And so the couple gets divorced or breaks up. But ultimately, it wasn’t in the decision of the couple. Instead, someone was constantly sharing negative news or oversharing information to spark this. In the event that someone confides in you about a negative aspect of a person they’re dating, try to step back. Tell them that you appreciate that they’re so open with you. However, mention your concern of seeing their partner in a negative light. Tell them that you really admire both of them but that you don’t want to step into their private relationship as that could hurt him or her in the long run. But remember to also tell them that you’ll support them in any decision they make. 

5. Praise People

There’s so much negativity in the world. If you want to be a friend, focus on being the positive light in their lives. Every time you have an opportunity to praise someone do it. If someone has been sharing videos on Facebook of them playing with their children, tell them that they’re such a good parent. Or if a person is handling a break-up well by practicing self-care, tell them that you admire how well they tackle life’s challenges. If you notice someone always has an upbeat attitude, tell them that you love how optimistic they are and that you’d love to learn how to emulate that more. If a coworker did a good job on a project, tell their boss the good news or share the praise publicly in a meeting or a Slack message. Look for the good in people.

6. Be There In Tough Times

Two friends engaged in deep conversation while drinking coffee

In tough times, most “friends” disappear. Some say that they’re just giving you space. However, who really wants that much space in tough times. There are key moments where people need friends more than ever. For example, a new mom might feel lonelier than usual as she’s busy raising her young child. While they might not be able to go to your birthday party because of a shift of priorities, it still makes them feel special to be invited. It’s important to do regular check-ins with new parents, trauma survivors, depressed friends, recently divorced folks, and people who’ve recently lost loved ones.

The immediacy of a big life event often results in many visitors. For example, if someone loses a loved one, that’s when everyone visits to wish their condolences. However, in the six month mark and beyond, that’s when the reality often sits in. They may be feeling lonelier than usual. If your goal is to learn how to be a good friend, you’ll want to be there for people during that period too. In tough times, people may nag or complain more. And trust me, I know it’s draining and difficult to hear. But you really need to open your heart to bear through it. Help them through this difficulty. Be there for them through thick and thin. They’ll need you now more than ever. Be as kind and loving as you know you are. 

7. Celebrate Special Days

If you really want to be a good friend, be there for your friend on their special days. Special days are rare but super important to be at. So, if it’s your friend’s first born child’s first birthday, you want to be there. Birthdays, 100%. Weddings, 100%. Phone call after a big date? You know it! And any big milestone in their life. Sometimes people say that they’re not big on birthdays that it’s just another day. And those are usually the people who’ve been burned on their birthdays. So remember it, and try to make it a special day for them.

On special days, try to give special gifts. For example, for a wedding, you might give a cash gift and a sign with their last name on it to hang on the wall. For a birthday, you might order a custom card for them with their favorite obsession. Try to combine the occasion with a thoughtful gift that no one would think to buy. Make the day as special as possible for them. 

8. Do Regular Check-ins

Man on cell phone in coffee shop

For those of you who want to master how to be a good friend, you’ll need to do regular check-ins. Once a week, or more depending on how close you are to this friend, do a quick phone call, text, or video chat to catch up. Make sure that you know everything that’s going on in their life. If your friend is a new parent, ask for status updates on what their baby is up to. Or if they started dating, get insight into how that’s going for them. If work has been keeping them busy, monitor how their stress levels have been. All in all, you want to stay in touch as frequently as possible (you know, without annoying them too much).

9. Surprise Them

One of the most important things when it comes to how to be a good friend, is making the person feel special. One of the ways you can make them feel special is by remembering that they’re there. When you have a lot of friends or family members it can be hard to find the time to give everyone some attention. But a quick visit can go a long way. Though if visiting, you’ll likely want to give them a heads up so they can clean and make sure they’re home.

There are so many acts of kindness you can do to help make someone feel special. For example, someone I know recently shipped a cheesecake to the household of various family members to ensure they have some good indoor fun during the period of self-isolation. Another thing you can do is mail out ‘thinking of you’ cards to friends at random points in the year. The card could list your top 10 reasons why you think they’re awesome. It’ll be a great way to cheer someone up on a regular day. Plus, who doesn’t love getting mail when it’s usually all junk anyway?

Another way to surprise them is by sharing any old photos you have with them. People tend to get nostalgic at looking at old photos. You may have old photos on your phone or that you’ve recently uploaded from a photo album. If you have photos with friend’s parents who’ve recently passed, it may make them cherish the memory of their loved ones as well. 

10. Let Their Guard Down

Man leading a woman, hand-in-hand, on a hike

One of the challenges some people have is that they always feel on guard. This is particularly common with people who suffer from anxiety or have trust issues. To be a good friend, you’ll want to help people let their guard down so they can just relax and have a good time with you. That means, don’t make situations tense or stressful. Make their lives as easy as possible.

Don’t be the person that brings your drama into their lives. Be as light as possible. Allow them to find happiness in your time together. Bring fun, a positive energy, and a shoulder into the friendship. Let people lean on you in hard times. And be there to celebrate the good times. Let your friendship be something they can turn to anytime. 

How To Be A Friend Summary

As you learned how to be a good friend, you likely saw some patterns. Ultimately, the most important aspect of being a good friend is to be there. Be there to celebrate big milestones, support them when they’re down, make them feel special, and lend a listening ear. The more positivity you can bring into the friendship, the better you’ll be at being a good friend. What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for a friend lately, let us know in the comments!

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