Friends are wonderful. They share all sorts of experiences with you and a long time friend is part of your life history. You support and motivate each other. True friendship is a two way street and mutually beneficial. How can we strengthen that important bond of friendship?
Firstly, you need to be a good friend to yourself. This may sound strange but the truth is if you don’t like yourself you can’t be a good friend to others. If you have low self-esteem and are always criticising yourself you will compare yourself unfavourably and you will be jealous of your friends. You will be insecure and probably often won't be much fun to be around.
Accept your friends as they are and don’t try to change them. Don’t judge your friends. Encourage them to talk so you get an insight into why they think what they do. Their life experiences will be different from yours. You will not always agree with them and they won’t always agree with you but that is okay. Jim Morrison (lead singer of The Doors) said, ‘A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.’
Take the time to really listen. Ask your friend about what is happening in their life but be sensitive to queries that could seem like you are prying. When your friend is talking avoid the temptation to interrupt with your ideas and experiences. Don’t turn every conversation into being all about you. Sometimes a friend just wants you to listen.
Only give advice if a friend asks for it. I think Octavia Butler, the American science fiction writer expressed it well, ‘Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.’
Don’t compete with your friends. If you have good self-esteem you won’t feel the need to appear better than your friends. You will pleased for your friends instead of envious when they have success or buy something.
Keep personal information that a friend trusts you with confidential. Do not gossip about your friends or their families.
Be supportive. Oprah Winfrey says,’Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.’ Being there for a friend through the bad or sad times strengthens the bond of friendship. I will always appreciate my long time friend for coming to my Mum’s funeral and sitting with me, literally holding my hand.
Ask for help when you need it. It may be something like helping out with a garage sale when you have had a big de-cluttering session. You can return the favour when your friend needs help. Friends like to feel needed and that their skills are appreciated.
Enjoy time together. Sometimes it might be a quick catch up over coffee at your house or theirs. At other times you will go to a movie or share a meal together. Share jokes you have read. Laugh together.
It is worth making an effort to nurture and strengthen your friendships. Don’t take them for granted. Friends improve your psychological and physical well being. I like this quote about equality in friendship from the author/philosopher Albert Camus, ‘Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.’