Simple habits to help you be a better friend

Sometimes friendships take a backseat as other priorities pile up. But no one wants a cherished mateship to fade completely. Here’s how to become a better friend.

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves – or so the saying goes.

But as with any solid family unit, friendship isn’t always always plain sailing, especially if one member feels neglected or unappreciated.

If we’re honest, we’ve probably all been a sub-standard friend at one time or another (or been on the receiving end).

Think flakiness, continuously putting ourselves first, failing to make an effort or not being a good listener.

Why do we choose certain people as our friends?

With so many people in the world, how do we wind up choosing our pals in the first place?

Blokes Psychology director Carl Nelms says a shared interest often brings us together.

“Whether it be school, sporting clubs or your kids go to the same school, there’s going to be some common ground usually,” Carl says.

“Shared interests and shared values equal a recipe for a pretty good (romantic) relationship (and) the recipe is pretty similar with friendship.”

Here are six ways to be a better friend

  1. Take a genuine interest

Many friendships naturally come and go throughout life.

But Carl says the solid ones have one vital ingredient: give and take.

“So, a genuine care and interest in each other’s lives,” he explains.

“Like any relationship, if you don’t put any effort in, it’s not going to go too well.”

Carl says making an effort with mates is one thing many guys “suck” at, unfortunately, which may explain why many men find themselves feeling lonely.

  1. Offer help – but also accept it

Friendship is a two-way street.

Clinical psychologist Dr Tracey Zielinski says being a good friend means accepting help when needed.

“If you’re not allowing other people to support you when you need support, then there’s part of your friendship that’s completely missing,” Dr Zielinski says.

“They are there for you when you need something, but they’ll allow you to return that friendship and that love and that regard by allowing you to help them.”

  1. Be there for the good – and not-so-good times

Any good relationship is a partnership, Dr Zielinski says.

However, not all friendships turn out this way.

“There are some people who are there in the good times, but when you actually need something, they disappear,” she says.

“So there’s a shallowness to the friendship; it’s a convenience for them.”

  1. Avoid being flaky

Carl says constant flakiness can definitely hurt, or even kill, a friendship.

“We all have those friends who you invite them somewhere and they say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’, but then you all sort of say to each other, ‘Well we know he’s not going to come’.

“After a while, the invites dry up because you’re not putting in the effort to even attend or prioritise a friendship.”

  1. Pick up the phone

If there’s a friend you’ve been neglecting lately – perhaps you’ve been working every hour of the clock, or have young kids – Carl suggests getting in contact.

“Even if it’s just picking up the phone to try and make contact if you’re too busy to catch up with them,” he says.

But try to resist just firing off a quick message.

“You can send a text because it’s so much easier and more efficient, but really you lose so much when it’s just text message communication,” Carl says.

  1. Don’t take things too personally

Dr Zielinski says part of being a better friend is cutting your buddy some slack.

So if your normally-reliable pal has gone a little AWOL, she suggests considering what is going on for them – and if there’s anything you could help them with.

“We have a tendency to look at the world through our own filter,” she says.

“And too often we don’t stop and reverse that and go: well, what does it look like for them?

“If we do that, then we can be more forgiving and more flexible with our expectations.”

Written by Larissa Ham.