6 Ways to Be a Better Friend Without Any Effort

By Sarah Winfrey on 17 September 2014 0 comments

Friendship is one of the best and purest pleasures of life. There's nothing quite like having a good friend who walks beside you through the thick and thin, who knows you inside and out, and who helps make your life richer and more meaningful.

But… that takes a lot of work. When you're run down, exhausted, sick, or otherwise unable to put the energy and effort into your friendships in the ways you want to or the ways you've done before, it's easy to start to wonder if your friends will all run away. (See also: 50 Fun, Free Ways to Have a Great Time With Friends)

While a true friend won't leave you when you're in distress, even if you have absolutely nothing to give to them or the relationship, it can ease your anxiety to know that there are some easy, effortless things you can do that make you a better friend. These can make both you and your friend feel better about your relationship, even when things are hard.

1. Be Yourself

It's easy to feel like your friends want you to be a certain person or act a certain way. However, real friends just want you to be you. And, honestly, what could be easier? To be a good friend, stop worrying. Stop worrying about how you're coming across, about what they might be thinking, and about whether they might rather be with someone else.

Instead, give them the gift of you. Stop making the whole thing harder than it is. Offer yourself, and you may find that your friends are freed to do the same, which makes any relationship stronger.

2. Ask Them How They Feel

We have all heard about how empathy is important and how it makes relationships stronger, and most of us have experienced it with some friend, at some time. However, empathy often takes so much energy! Fortunately, it's easy to show empathy even when you're not feeling it or you don't know how to start.

When a friend is sharing something that they're struggling with, ask them how they feel about it. After they've shared how they're feeling, tell them, "That sounds like a rough place to be," or, "It sounds like this is difficult for you." This helps them feel heard, with little effort on your part.

While you shouldn't fake empathy when you really don't value it, these phrases can help you seem empathic even when you're tired, stressed, or otherwise too drained. It takes almost no effort to say these phrases, and you can decide later if you really have the energy to listen well, or if your friend just needs permission to vent.

3. Stop Giving Advice

We want to help our friends, and we feel like we should. However, we will help more by simply listening, which frees us from the burden of figuring out all of their problems.

Giving advice can feel good in a friendship, but it takes quite a bit of energy to think up solutions for their problems that might actually work. And, in fact, this is not your job. Most people are perfectly capable of managing their own lives, when they're given the chance to do so. When you stop giving advice, you won't expend as much energy owning their problems, and they will find that they have the power and ability to solve things on their own.

Quitting advice can also save your friendships from becoming unbalanced. If you give all the advice and they always receive it, it's hard to have a real friendship. You become a counselor, and they may feel like they don't have much to offer you. When you quit giving advice, you not only save your energy but you might salvage a relationship, too.

4. Tell Them You Enjoy Their Presence

When you're tired, it's easy to act and feel down in general, and your friends may not know that this has nothing to do with them. Reassure them by telling them that you enjoy them, that your life is better because they are there, or that their friendship makes a hard time better.

Doing this will make you a better friend even when you're not tired, and it never takes much effort. Friendship can be confusing and difficult to navigate even in the best of times, and it's always better to tell people exactly where they stand, especially when doing so will help them relax in your presence.

5. Smile

Smiling is contagious. When you see someone smile, your brain wants to do the same in return. So you smile. And when you smile, all sorts of good things happen in your body and your brain. You release endorphins, which make you feel better, and you look more attractive to others.

Guess what? When your friends smile, they experience the same effects. Thus, offering your friend a smile (which their body almost forces them to return), does them a huge favor and probably makes them feel better about their relationship with you, even if they aren't sure why.

6. Say "Please" And "Thank You"

It's perfectly acceptable to ask your friends for help. In fact, it might even be good for you. When you do ask for help, though, be sure to use "please" and "thank you."

These words are more than just polite niceties. When used with a genuine tone of voice, they show your friends that they are important to you. "Please" shows that you value your friend and his or her resources — time, energy, money, etc. — that you are asking for, and that you understand they will have to give of themselves to meet your request.

"Thank you" indicates similar things. Saying these words means that you accept the gift your friend has just given you, whatever it is, and that you appreciate it and are grateful, both for the gift and for them.

How do you show your friends you care when you're worn out? Have you ever had a friend do something that was effortless for them but meant a lot to you?

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