One important thing I’ve learned in my almost-28 years is how important my friends are. They’re there when I need an extra push or a soft, supportive place to land. They keep me working towards my goals, inspire me and challenge me. They make me laugh and teach me something new almost every day. As we get older and busier, it’s harder to keep those friendships healthy and thriving. I get it. But there’s no point in losing a friend to your stressful schedule. There are many super-simple ways to be a better friend to those folks you love.
1. Put the phone down. My goal for my 28th year is to spend less time on my phone. When I’m out with my friends, the phone stays in my bag. We’re getting so caught up in our online worlds that we sometimes forget to actually connect with each other in person. Spend time with your friends when you’re with them. Nothing is worse than talking to someone who’s only half-listening.
2. Listen – really listen.
3. Be there, even if you don’t want to be. Part of being a good friend is doing things to support your friend even if you’re not really feeling it, like playing wingman when they really want to see their latest crush at a bar. Even if you’d rather stay home, sometimes you gotta suck it up and go.
4. Get out of the house. Do things together! Try new activities or take a mini weekend trip.
5. Hang out more often, not just over text. Texting is great, but nothing beats face-to-face time. If you’re far-away friends, FaceTime once in awhile.
6. Send them a little gift when they’re having a tough time. One of my good girlfriends sent me a sweet, thoughtful little present when I was feeling bummed and it made my week so much better. I try to do the same now.
7. Try something new together. Have you always wanted to try a new fitness class or learn a new skill? Make your best friend come along.
8. Talk every day in some form. It can be a text, an email or a quick phone call.
9. Tell them how much you appreciate them. I try to make a point to tell my closest friends how much I enjoy things we do together, like our weekend coffee dates or trips to get waxed together.
10. Be flexible. Things happen. Don’t get mad when plans change or someone’s life gets in the way.
11. Be understanding.
12. Make friends with their friends. If you both have separate friend groups, try to get to know the other people your friend loves. You might make new friends!
13. If you’re both really busy, make a point to get together at least once a month. Set a standing dinner or happy hour date.
14. If something upsets you, tell them. Don’t let resentment build. Communicate like adults.
15. Forgive. Don’t hold a grudge. Friendship often involves forgiveness. Know what you can move past, and what you can’t.
16. Let them know you’re thinking about them. Even just a quick message when you hear their favorite song on the radio is a nice little daymaker.
17. Know it’s OK not to agree on everything. You can be friends with someone who has different political beliefs, who doesn’t love your favorite TV show, who thinks Bieber is trash. Different perspectives make life interesting.
18. Do them a favor. Run to Walgreen’s when they’re sick or stop by and let their dog out when they’re stuck late at work.
19. Don’t give them unsolicited relationship advice. Past the three-month mark, it’s probably not a great idea to tell your friend you hate her boyfriend. Unless he’s abusing her or she seems really unsatisfied, keep those opinions to yourself.
20. Make an effort with their significant other. Even if you really don’t loooooove her choice of mate, you gotta try. You don’t need to be BFFs, but you’ll probably be spending time together, and if they’re a good partner, they’ll want to get on your good side anyway.
21. Have a far-away friend? Send them a real live letter or postcard. I love getting actual mail from my friends far and wide.
22. Travel together. There’s nothing like visiting a new city with your best friend. I spent a long weekend in Austin with two of my good girlfriends and it was the perfect way to bond over new experiences, since none of us had been there before.
23. Don’t be afraid to go there. Talk about things that make you uncomfortable, like money, sex, your deepest, darkest emotions.
24. Work towards your goals together. Maybe it’s saving money for a house, paying down a credit card or getting healthy. It’s hard to do those things on your own, so get a friend to be your cheerleader or workout buddy.
25. Be more welcoming. Maybe you’re friendly with a coworker who just moved to your area. Why not invite them to join you and another friend at dinner or go out for drinks? Expand your social circle and invite others into your friend group.
26. Send selfies. OK, this might be just me, but I really like seeing my friends’ pretty faces on my phone.
27. Don’t say you’re “too busy” to hang out. Nothing makes me feel devalued as a person as when a close friend says they’re too busy to see me.
28. Be willing to be there when things aren’t glamorous. Have you taken your best friend to the ER when he’s suffering kidney stones? No? Well, it’s scary, stressful and the opposite of fun and games. But what matters is that you’re there to drive them the wrong way down a one-way street and sit with them watching bad TV while they wait for the doctor. Friendship, like marriage, is through thick and thin, sickness and health, the nitty and the gritty.