12 Things You Need to Stop Doing Today to Be a Better Friend

By Kentin Waits on 4 September 2014 1 comment

Sometimes true friendships seem to be born out of a mysterious, intangible energy that pulls two people together. Keeping friendships strong and thriving is a far less mysterious affair, though. (See also: 6 Time-Tested Ways to Make a Relationship Work)

Part art, part science, and part common sense, being a better friend takes a lot of effort, and maybe the kicking of a bad habit or two. Or a dozen. So here are 12 things you need to stop doing now in order to be a better friend.

1. Shopping for Better Social Offers

Psst… you're not fooling anyone when you're consistently non-committal about plans. Your friends probably know you're holding out for a better offer. We get it — your time is a rare and valuable commodity. But as tempting as "social shopping" might be from time-to-time, consider the long-term effects it can have on the relationships your hold most dear. Commit, participate, and stop wondering what's behind curtain number three.

2. Going AWOL When You're Dating

Are you the type of friend that disappears the moment a romantic relationship gets serious? Or worse, do you reconnect with old friends once it's time to pick up the pieces after a breakup? If so, it may be time to reevaluate how you balance the relationships in your life. Solid friendships are built on consistency and mutual respect; don't go MIA the moment you fall head over heels.

3. Texting, Tweeting, Calling, Clicking, Snapping, and Chatting

It's difficult to listen when we're surrounded by mobile devices that are never silenced or sidelined. Make face time (and by face time, I mean face-to-face time, not the Apple product), electronics-free. You'll become more fully present, your friends will thank you for it, and you'll begin to appreciate the unplugged moments of life.

4. Being Late

Sometimes it's unavoidable. But if you're terminally tardy, you're implying that your friends' time isn't as valuable as yours. Honor the people you care about by learning how to be punctual.

5. Listening Just to Respond

The art of conversation is built on active listening, but many people cut their listening time short in order to formulate a reply. Instead of worrying about how you're going to respond (if a response is even necessary), listen to learn. What is your friend really saying? And just as importantly, what's not being said?

6. Avoiding the Truth

John Lennon said it best: "Being honest may not get you a lot of friends, but it'll always get you the right ones." Good friends are kind to each other, but rigorously honest about the things that matter. Work to make your closest friendships "no BS zones" where you can be open about the ups and downs of life, love, career, and money. It'll help create a refuge where each of you can give and receive honest feedback.

7. Forgetting Important Dates

Birthdays, anniversaries, significant events at work — remembering these details shows that you're listening and that you're tuned into another person's world. Acknowledging the major and minor moments of our friends' lives promotes trust, connection, and appreciation.

8. Imposing Time Limits

Aren't we all on the clock too much as it is? I don't know about you, but the last thing I need is a friend who can't put down his mental stopwatch. Sure, sometimes it's just fine to sneak a quick cup of coffee in between meetings, but a chronic I've-got-to-run attitude is doesn't allow room for friendships to meander, grow, and deepen.

9. Over-Planning Everything

Doesn't it seem like the best moments in life are the unplanned ones? As much as a good plan can benefit a Friday night or a weekend getaway, it's important to know when to scrap the schedule and just wing it.

10. Being Predictable

Sometimes small gestures of kindness, surprising moments, and a spontaneous spirit can breathe new life into a friendship between two people who know each other frontward and backward. Keep your friendships fresh by showing appreciation and nurturing a bit of the unexpected. Running low on inspiration, explore new and inexpensive ways to have fun with friends.

11. Holding Grudges

Every relationship has its highs and lows. But friendships are investments that two people make in each other; don't let hurt feelings or an argument wipe out what you've built.

12. Dodging the Truly Terrible Times

It's inevitable — when two people are friends for a long enough period of time, they'll witness life-altering events in each other's lives. The death of a parent, a messy divorce, or loss of a job are just a few examples of moments when good friendships are forged by fire and become something far more profound. Don't dodge the down times because you don't know the right thing to do or say. Realize the comfort your shared history can provide and rise to the occasion.

In the end, friendships are formed by common interests and complementary senses of humor, but they're maintained and deepened by the shared events — the comedies and tragedies that shift and shape our lives. Friendships should help us achieve more, worry less, laugh louder, and handle the challenges of life with a little more support. With that in mind, learning to be a better is nearly a sacred pursuit. Put your whole heart into it.

Do you have a best friend? How did he or she earn that coveted title in your life?

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Guest's picture

Also, stop being predictable! I've hit a few times in my friendships where every time we meet we just rehash the same types of conversations over and over. Then I press the reset button and try something new. Suggesting a crazy new type of activity we can do together, change the dialogue. Couples do weird, new, interesting things for dates; don't forget to do the same with your friends!