Being a good friend sounds simple enough, but sometimes it’s not.
If you want to know how to be a good friend, there are basic rules to being a BFF.
Relationships make the world go ‘round, but that doesn’t mean that they make life here a carnival ride. Some relationships lift us up, challenge us, and make us better people, and then there are others that do the exact opposite. Not everyone knows how to be a good friend, but unfortunately, most of us think we do.
Friendships are like pieces of a puzzle. Some fit, and some don’t. If you have a friend who is going through a hard time, or you are going through people like they are disposable, then you may be looking for some guidance about how to be a good friend. It isn’t about being someone’s yes man or pin cushion. Nor is it about controlling other people.
The BFF code – how to be a good friend
Friendship involves caring for someone the way you do yourself, being honest, and knowing when to push and when to hold fast. If you want to know how to be a good friend, these are the 16 rules that make you an excellent person to be around.
#1 You can go to a pity party.
If you are in a friendship and the other person has recently had a traumatic incident, it can become difficult to allow them to wallow. Learning to read the signs when someone just needs a hug or some sympathy is the best way how to be a good friend.
There will be some people who respond to a kick in the ass, while others need a little coddling to bring them back to life.
#2 You know when to make vodka lemonade out of lemons.
Some people will sit and stew for years without ever just moving on. There are times when, instead of attending their pity party, you need to show up with vodka lemonade to turn those lemons around. Sometimes someone needs to be presented the other side and given a little push to move on and see that their world isn’t disintegrating.
It is easy when you are friends with someone to get your feelings hurt. There are going to be times when your friend is having a hard time or going through drama. Hard times don’t always bring out the best in people, and sometimes they need somewhere to deposit their anger.
The first likely candidate is someone they love and feel safe around. Although difficult, sometimes you have to allow someone to vent, even if it feels personal, and not take it personally. Having heavy shoulders means being their sounding board and sometimes their dumping grounds. [Read: How to make a friend feel better – 21 ways to help a sad friend]
If you don’t agree with their side of the story, and you see them holding onto the belief that they were in the right isn’t exactly helping, then you have an obligation to be honest and tell them. Sure, it isn’t a fun thing to tell your friend that you saw their boyfriend with another girl.
But, if you want to know how to be a good friend, you need to be honest even when it hurts. Just make sure you stick around to pick up the pieces after you tear it all apart.
#5 Don’t say what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.
Sometimes we turn to the friends who tell us the best “story.” That means we don’t want to hear what we should; we want to hear what we want to hear. It always feels better to be the good guy, but it isn’t always best for our friends or friendships.
Telling someone what they need to hear may be a harder road to go down, but if you want to know how to be a good friend, you have to tell them what they might not want to hear instead of what will make them feel good.
#6 Only play devil’s advocate when it is warranted.
We all have those friends who are very good at putting things into perspective and showing us the opposite side of a story. There are times when that is a good thing and then others when that sounds like they are negating our hurt or trying to convince us that what we feel isn’t real or true.
Playing devil’s advocate sometimes can feel non-supportive. At times, it may be better to just hold your tongue, nod your head, and wait for a later date to tell them the other side.
#7 Be there not only for the parties, but when the music dies.
Everyone is a good friend when times are awesome, and life is a party. The real friends are the ones who stick around even after the music dies.
It is really simple to be someone who wants to be there during the fun times, but also hangs out to clean up after the fact. That takes more care and concern. Be the friend who is still there long after people have vacated.
Knowing how to be a good friend isn’t always about giving in and putting your own needs and wants aside. Being the martyr doesn’t make you a good friend.
Most people who play the martyr are doing so because they are trying to gain acceptance by being “nice,” not by being their genuine self. You don’t have to be someone’s pin cushion to be a good friend. In fact, that isn’t a real friendship at all.
There might be times when your friendship is getting too close, or things are just not clicking. Being a good friend means that you have to know when to take a break and give your friend some space. Blowing up their phone when they are obviously trying to gain some distance will tax the relationship and could potentially drive your friend away.
#10 Make them a priority.
If you make plans with a friend, then you keep plans with a friend. If that hot guy calls and asks you out after a year of pining over him, then surely your friend will understand if you cancel. But if you never make concrete plans, or are always looking for something better to come along, that doesn’t scream friend… that screams shallow.
#11 Understand and be empathetic when they are going through a rough time.
Knowing how to be a good friend involves putting your own wants aside. If your friend is going through a breakup, then don’t suggest a chick flick. Being empathetic means that you can put yourself in your friend’s shoes.
#12 Make sure the relationship is going both ways.
It isn’t always the case that birds of a feather flock together. If you are a mountain person and they are more of a Sunday afternoon drive, then make sure that you are doing what they want as much as they are doing what you want. Be there for them as much as they are for you, if you want to know how to be a good friend.
#13 Don’t dominate the drama.
We all have that friend who is all drama. They are entertaining enough, but sometimes they are nothing more than sheer entertainment.
If you are the drama queen, then it might be time to check yourself and let someone else have the stage for a while. Drama is fun once in a while, but if that is all you have and all you talk about, it is bound to get old quickly. [Read: Drama queen alert – 12 steps to calmly deal with the diva]
#14 Do the small things to brighten their day.
Being a good friend is about keeping friendships in your thoughts. We can’t always pick up the phone or get together, but if you know that it has been a long time since you have been able to get together, then send them a nice “hi” in a text message just letting them know you are thinking about them.
In our chaotic world, it is easy to get busy and stop communicating with the people we love, but don’t take for granted they will always be there. Make sure to let them know how much they mean by doing the unique things that keep you connected.
It is hard when a new person joins the group or when you see your BFF getting along with someone new. A key tip for how to be a good friend is letting your friend have many friendships. Different people fulfill various needs that we have in life.
One person can’t be everyone to you, nor can you be to them. Try not to take it personally when you find that they had a party that you weren’t invited to, or that they went out and didn’t invite you to come along. It isn’t a competition; it is a friendship. And, you should both have many friends to fill the spaces and needs of your life.
Try not to have hot buttons or be too serious. If you want a friendship to survive, then you have to learn to roll with things. And, even if you are sensitive and hurt at times, you have to learn to confront or forgive.
Carrying around a whole lot of baggage is just a waste of energy, and it does nothing to make your friendship better. It only weighs you down and makes you behave distantly. [Read: How to make new friends as an adult – 15 ways to do it right]
Being a good friend is a two-way street. It is in human nature to be selfish, only see one side of a story *typically ours* and to want to be liked. Being a good friend isn’t about always giving in, or always taking. It is about a balance between giving and taking care of yourself while still caring for someone else.
The adage, treat others as you would want to be treated, is the best way to guide yourself through any situation. Easier said than done; sometimes you have to either play the good guy or bad guy or be the only honest voice in your friend’s life.
Figuring out how to be a good friend is never easy. But, if your heart is in the right place, you will always be the best friend you can be.