1. Ask yourself what you’ve done for them lately. Are you the kind of friend who generously lends their time and care or the kind of friend who only asks friendship from others, never truly reciprocating the effort?
2. Get better at communicating your needs. No one likes a passive-aggressive friend. If you have a problem or a concern, take the time you need to reflect on it and then voice it. Your angry silence helps no one.
3. Be there. Friends can get really good at disappearing on each other, as we learn to take peoples’ presence for granted. We feel like they are always going to be around. Maybe that’s the case, and it’s good to know that your friends will be there no matter what. However, it’s hard to be someone’s friend if you never commit to that relationship.
4. Find out something about them you never knew. You can do this once in awhile of every time you hang out. As a friend, always search for ways to push your friendship deeper. Never get to that point where you feel completely comfortable, like you know everything about someone. Let them surprise you.
5. Have one-on-one time. It’s great to hang out with other people, but you also need to take the time to personally tend to your relationship. Find out what’s going on with them. Have a kiki. Or just have a night where you sit in your pajamas and watch Purple Rain together, like you did in high school. You need bonding time to remind yourself why you are friends to begin with.
6. Listen. I personally tend to be a chatterbox and a conversational steamroller. My mouth is like a car that slowly rolls down a hill, until it completely gets away from you and there’s no getting it back. When I find myself saying too much, I stop myself. I will literally bite my tongue or my thumb. I try to be mindful of the other person’s presence in the conversation, remembering to ask questions and to simply let them talk. If not, it’s not a conversation. It’s a monologue.
7. Go to them first. In friendships, we have a bad habit of disengagement from the problem. If we see that something is bothering someone, we ignore it or simply let them stew. We say, “They’ll come to me when they are ready.” It’s great to give others emotional space, but we also need to just ovary up and ask people what’s going on. If they refuse our advance, that’s okay. They might not be ready to talk. However, you need to show them you’re ready to listen, whenever they need.
8. Call them for no reason. Don’t call to talk or listen or do anything. Call just to hear their voice. Call because that connection means something.
9. On that note, text them back right away. There’s nothing so simple that makes someone feel so good. It’s the easiest thing in the world, yet it seems so hard for so many of us. What’s so difficult about prompt communication? Beats me.
10. Find new ways to tell them you love them. Take them to see a shitty movie and talk all the way through it in the back row, like you’re the only people in the room. Start a book club and don’t let anyone else be in it. Say “I care about your happiness,” “I appreciate that you’re always there for me” or “I need you in my life.” Get creative with your affection.
11. Hang out with their friends. We have a bad habit of wanting to keep people to ourselves, but being friends with someone means letting their life into yours. That will include their circles and friend groups. You might not like them or jell with them, but you can see the influence on your friend. You’ll better understand someone when you try to understand the people who made them who they are.
12. Work on your advice giving skills. When someone asks you for your feedback on their problems, ask yourself these questions, “Was I really listening to what’s going on? Will this advice address their problems? Is this advice for them or me?”
13. Put away your technology. I have a friend who is always on his phone when we hang out with each other, whether that’s surfing the web, checking his email or texting some random hot guy he met at a club last night. I think all of that is great, and I’m very pro-random hot guys, but how do you think it makes me feel to come in second to his phone? Not great. If you want to show you want to be with someone, be present to them. Don’t multitask friendship.
14. Learn to forgive, but not too easily. As friends, we should push ourselves to be more loving and affirming — accepting all of someone, even the bad parts. However, that doesn’t mean we should give those around us carte blanche to walk all over us, knowing we’ll forgive them no matter what. Our love should not be unconditional. Our love needs conditions of engagement and trust, and when someone breaks that, you need to let them know you can forgive them, but they might need to work for it. Forgiveness isn’t simple, and it needs to be earned.
15. Remind them of your history with each other. The Buddhists tell us to live in the moment, but we must not forget the moments that have led up to the present. We need to remember how much those histories have meant to us.
16. Stop talking about them behind their backs. When we’re close to someone, we don’t always feel we can be honest with them. It’s the principle of the movie Lost in Translation. We’re often most ourselves when we’re around people who don’t know us well. They don’t expect so much from us, so it doesn’t matter if we say the wrong thing or hurt them. There’s less invested. However, look at your responsibility to someone as a responsibility to be real with them. We do someone no favors when we hide from them or shield them.
17. However, remember that your words mean something. A few months ago one of my friends said something incredibly rude to me, which I called him on. He scoffed and told me he was just “being honest.” We’ve been friends forever; we’re allowed to say things like that to each other. I then told him that because we’ve been friends forever, I have even more right to be upset with him. Friendship doesn’t get you a free pass.
18. Stop fucking flaking on them. I’m busy. You’re busy. Your cat is busy. We’re all busy. However, you are a grown-ass adult who can balance their own life and schedule. If you can’t manage that, stop hanging out with people.