I’m introverted and a bit asocial. I’m often tempted to stop talking to the few friends I have. But, friends are important. Not just because everyone says so, but because they really are. Apart from the social benefits, friends help you stay sane. Friends reflect your emotions, values, and personality to you. They are the few people who truly see who you are. They are the ones who can save you when you turn against yourself. And, if you’re lucky, they are the ones who will stand by you when the world comes crashing down.
Good friends don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to like everything about them. If you are honest, you will agree you don’t even like everything about yourself.
That’s why in this post we are going to take a look at how you can identify a good friend(ship), fix a broken friendship, develop healthy trust for your friends, and be a better friend yourself.
What Makes A True Friendship?
A true friendship is built on mutual respect, trust, and support. Friendships are better when friends share similar interests, values, and experiences; but this is not always the case. Nevertheless, in all true friendships, friends must be willing to be there for each other when it’s sunny and when it’s gloomy.
To clarify, the keywords here mean:
- Trust: Their behaviour is predictable, at least when it comes to certain things. For example, you may trust your friend to not steal your money when you leave them in your house alone.
- Loyalty: They won’t side with another person, or abandon you even when you do not have something other than friendship to offer. For example, they will not leave your concert to go to a celebrities’ birthday party.
- Honesty: They will tell you the truth, even if it’s something you don’t want to hear. For example, they will inform you about your ugly-looking shoe.
- Respect: They would acknowledge your boundaries, opinions, and feelings when speaking or acting. For example, they won’t flirt with your partner or try to sleep with them.
- Support: They will encourage and help you to achieve your goals even when they may not be seeing much progress themselves. For example, they will send you links to job openings and put in a good word for you if they are in the position.
- Sacrifice: They will forfeit some of their time, money, and energy to help you get out of tight spots. For example, they will use their savings to pay for your emergency medical bills if it comes to that.
- Interests: They may share similar interests with you. For example, they may like astrology just like you do.
- Values: They may consider similar things important above all. For example, they may value humanity above their religion just like you do.
- Experiences: They may share similar experiences with you. For example, they may know what it feels like to be broke just like you do.
Keep in mind that the last three may not always be present (or the same) in a true friendship, however, they must be close, or else there would be a chasm between the people involved.
“A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.”– Donna Roberts
Recommended Content: How To Make Friends as a Young Adult
What Makes a Friendship Last?
Having true friends is one thing. Keeping them is another. Below are a few things that can help a friendship last:
- Healthy Communication: Regular, honest communication helps build trust and understanding between friends. I can’t recall how many times I’ve been upset with friends only to later find out it was only a matter of misunderstanding. Most misunderstandings are usually a matter of different perspectives.
- Shared Values and Interests: A common bond or desire can help strengthen the relationship and create a sense of shared purpose and cooperation. For example, I stayed friends with many of my coursemates during my time in school because we all wanted to graduate with flying colors (and we did). However, once that purpose ended, most of the friendships naturally waned. Now, imagine what a life-long purpose could do for a friend who shares similar values and interests.
- Trust and reliability: Friends who can count on each other are more likely to stay connected over the long term. Personally, I am a man of little patience when it comes to dealing with people who flake or switch up easily. And, I think everyone’s patience runs out sooner or later.
- Mutual Respect: Without respect conflicts or grudges are bound to spring. If a friend can’t respect your belief that a tortoise created the whole universe and therefore determines what is right and wrong, it is very likely they will one day piss on that tortoise, and that would be the end.
- Forgiveness: No one is perfect, and friends are bound to have disagreements and conflicts from time to time. Being able to forgive and move on even after they (mistakenly) pissed on your tortoise is important. But this doesn’t mean you should keep forgiving them if they keep pissing on that tortoise intentionally (as that would be disrespectful).
- Effort and commitment: Making time for each other, showing up when it matters, and being willing to work through challenges together can help keep a friendship strong over time. This is not easy even if you share similar interests and values, and it’s much harder if your interests and values are misaligned.
- Acceptance: Friends who can be their authentic selves around each other are more likely to stay connected over the long term. Different life circumstances require us to act in different self-conscious ways; however, it is only when we are with friends that we can drop the mask and be at peace. If friends still make you act, chances are you’ll one day run out of patience. Needless to say, you shouldn’t make your friends feel unaccepted too.
“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and be understood.”– Lucius Annaeus Seneca
How To Regain a Friendship:
If you’ll love to rekindle an old friendship, there are several steps you can take:
- Reflect on what went wrong: Was there a specific event or misunderstanding that led to the rift? Be honest with yourself about your own role in the situation. Also, be clear on what you thought they did wrong. If the offense of both parties seems more like a mistake than a character flaw or toxicity, and the rift seems like something that can be amended, then
- Reach out: Reach out to them and express your desire to mend the friendship. Be sincere and honest in your communication, and avoid blaming or criticizing your friend. Let the past be in the past. Instead, focus on the future.
- Apologize: If you feel that you were at fault for the breakdown in the friendship, apologize for your actions. Be specific about what you’re apologizing for, and make it clear that you’re committed to repairing the friendship.
- Listen: Pay attention to their perspective on what happened. Try to understand their feelings and point of view, and avoid becoming defensive or dismissive (even when they point out some uncomfortable things to you). In fact, you might want to question further to know exactly why they felt or saw things that way.
- Take action: Once you’ve identified what went wrong and listened to your friend’s perspective, take action to repair the friendship. This may involve making changes to your behavior, being more proactive in your communication, or finding ways to rebuild trust.
- Be patient: Don’t expect things to go back to normal immediately. Be patient and continue to show your friend that you’re committed to repairing the friendship over the long term. It might help to let them see how your values and interest align, and how you intend to support and help them too.
Remember that regaining a friendship is a two-way street. They must also be willing to work on repairing the relationship else there’s no point proceeding. Trying to bribe or please them into becoming friends with you again might be a huge mistake.
“Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation.”— Oscar Wilde
Also Read: How to Live with a Roommate – 8 simple tips
How Do You Heal An Unhealthy Friendship?
Perhaps your friendship is heading downward and needs some fixing. Below are some tips you can implement immediately to restore it:
- Identify the problem: Try to find out if there is a specific behaviour or thing that’s causing problems. Are there underlying communication issues? Are your interests misaligned? Do you have a bone of contention? Did someone betray the other? Find out the issue(s).
- Set boundaries: This could involve communicating your needs and expectations to your friend, as well as finding out about their needs and expectations. I remember feeling a bit resentful towards a friend back then in school for visiting too much (robbing me of my “me time”). Perhaps you may not like how lopsided the relationship gets when it comes to spending money, visiting, or calling. In such a case, you should again place a limit on how much you are willing to give and state the least you are willing to receive. It’s hard, I know.
- Communicate openly and honestly: Be willing to express your feelings and listen to your friend’s perspective without judgment. Try to find common ground and work together to find a solution.
- Take responsibility for your part: If you contributed to the unhealthy dynamic in the friendship, be willing to take responsibility for your actions and make changes to your behavior.
- Seek outside help: Sometimes, it may be necessary to seek outside help to heal an unhealthy or toxic friendship. Consider talking to a trusted friend or a mediator who can provide an objective perspective and help facilitate a productive conversation.
- Be patient: Healing an unhealthy friendship takes time and effort. Be patient and committed to the process, even if it feels difficult or uncomfortable at times.
Also, keep in mind that it requires mutual effort and commitment. So, if you notice they are not watering the friendship, perhaps you should let it die.
Recommended Read: 10 Steps For Resolving Conflicts With Your Friend
“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.”– Arnold H. Glasgow
How Do I Trust My Friend Again?
If a friend betrayed your trust in a friendship but has come back to apologize it can be challenging, but still possible to rekindle the friendship. Here are some steps you can take to start trusting your friend again:
- Communicate openly: Be honest and transparent with your friend about how their actions affected you and why you’re struggling to trust them. Avoid blaming or accusing them, but be clear about your feelings and concerns.
- Give it time: Allow yourself and your friend the space to work through the issues and rebuild your friendship at your own pace. You don’t have to trust them with your money or partner right away. Trust takes time.
- Look for evidence of change: If your friend has expressed regret for their actions, look for concrete evidence that they’re making changes to improve the situation. This could be in the form of changed behaviour, consistent effort to communicate with you, or any other positive changes you notice in their actions. Try not to be overly optimistic or pessimistic.
- Practice forgiveness: Try to let go of any resentment or anger you feel towards your friend, and be willing to forgive them for their mistakes.
- Set boundaries: If you’re still feeling wary about trusting your friend, it may be helpful to set strong(er) boundaries. This could involve setting limits on the types of activities you engage in together or being clear(er) about your expectations for the relationship moving forward.
- Seek support: Consider seeking support from a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. Talking through your feelings with someone you trust can help you process your emotions and gain perspective on the situation
“My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.”— Aristotle
Also Read: How To Get People To Trust You
What Are The 31 Ways To Be a Good Friend (and Strengthen Your Friendship)?
Give them your full attention, and don’t interrupt, or multitask when being spoken to. For example, take off your headphones, keep your phone aside, and ensure you are facing them directly when being spoken to.
Speak clearly and precisely:
Don’t mumble, ramble, or sugarcoat what you have to say. For example, if you are upset your friend didn’t show up for your birthday, don’t give them the silent treatment, or fake being cool with it. Tell them bluntly that you are upset because they didn’t show up for your party.
Don’t do what they ask you not to do. Also, don’t be invasive and intrusive. For example, don’t go through your friend’s phone or diary. Also, don’t wear their clothes without permission.
Be dependable by following through on your words. For example, if you promised to help them fix their CV, don’t disappoint.
Try to understand your friend’s emotions and struggles, and offer solutions or support. If your friend is ill and won’t eat, don’t get angry at them. Rather, show compassion by looking for something else they may want to eat, and keep persuading them to eat it.
Put in time:
Make time to visit, call, or at least chat with your friend. Depending on the level of friendship, ensuring you speak with your friends at least once every two weeks is crucial. If you live close, visiting or hanging out on weekends makes for a healthy friendship.
Be willing to forgive and move past disagreements or misunderstandings. For example, if your friend accidentally sat on your smartphone or laptop (damaging the screen), you should be willing to forgive them, even though it might sting.
Offer help without being asked:
It doesn’t always have to be monetary. You can use your network and influence to give them an opportunity. For example, you can tell your family, colleagues, and followers online about your friend’s small business.
Celebrate their successes:
Help your friend celebrate their successes and accomplishments, and remind them just how important every small win is. For example, if your friend got a new job, don’t hesitate to take them out for a drink.
Be honest with your friend, even when it’s difficult. Avoid lying or keeping secrets, and try to approach tough conversations with kindness and compassion. For example, if you don’t like your friend’s attitude towards your partner, you can call them aside, and have a long talk about it.
Include your friend in your plans and carry them along. For example, you can invite them to another friend’s birthday party.
Show your friend how much you appreciate them, whether it’s through kind words, thoughtful gestures, or simple acts of kindness. For example, saying “Thank you, I appreciate this” whenever they do something for you.
Be flexible and adaptable, and be willing to compromise when necessary. This can help avoid conflicts and strengthen your friendship. For example, you can agree to go see a movie from a genre you usually don’t enjoy; who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised.
If it’s not a deal breaker, honour, or at least do not disrespect your friend’s beliefs, values, and opinions. Avoid judgment and criticism, and show that you’re willing to accept and appreciate them for who they are. For example, even if you don’t believe in their God, you do not have to blaspheme.
Offer constructive feedback:
If your friend asks for your opinion, offer constructive feedback that can help them grow and improve. For example, you can inform them that they ramble, use too much cliche, and talk too fast when recording their podcasts.
Ask for your friend’s Input:
Asking for your friend’s opinions, ideas, or suggestions will make them feel valued and seen. For example, you can ask them what color of paint would fit your room.
Ask your friend for favors:
This might seem strange, but asking your friends for small favors will also make them feel valued and seen. It will also build trust, and make them feel committed to the friendship. For example, you can ask them to buy you food. (this is known as the Benjamin Franklin Effect in psychology)
Challenge their ideas and values:
If your friends have a wrong or problematic idea or value, it is up to you to challenge it because they may not be willing to listen to strangers. For example, if your friend is a cheat, you might be the only one capable of talking some sense into them (assuming you see the sense in not cheating).
Avoid trying to win every game, and avoid cheating. If they are not a match, then switch the game (or activity) to something they can compete fairly in. For example, if you are a pro at chess, you might want to play cards with them sometimes (assuming they can play cards).
Remember their special days:
Weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries are great, but, also don’t forget funerals, or other tough times. Also, don’t neglect their little parties and Thanksgiving.
Share relevant information:
If you found something you think might be of help to your friend, don’t hesitate to share it with them. For example, you can share insightful videos online, or new tools that might be important to them. I remember a friend sharing a link to ChatGPT the week it was released.
Share funny content:
If you find a funny meme or video on the internet, don’t hesitate to share it with them. For example, when going through Instagram or TikTok, you might find funny videos that are definitely worth sharing. And, it takes like 3 secs.
Keep them posted:
If you have something important you are starting, or have been working on, let your friend know. Sometimes, they can become your cheerleaders and accountability partners. For example, if you want to start working out, you can let your friends know about it.
Encourage and Keep them accountable:
Sometimes your friend may be struggling to stay focused and persistent on their goals. Take it upon yourself to ensure they see it to the end. For example, you can decide to message them every two days asking about their progress in the new language they are trying to learn.
If you see something nice, and you have the money or access to it, don’t hesitate to get it for a friend. It shows you care for them, and want the best for them. For example, you can buy a pair of bangles and give your friend one.
As much as life can be complicated and we have so many dreams and aspirations, things as common as food and water are important. Whenever a friend comes to visit, offer them something nice. For example, you can make their favourite soup.
Apologize when you are wrong:
If you make a mistake or hurt your friend’s feelings, apologise sincerely and take responsibility for your actions. This shows that you value your friendship and are willing to take steps to repair it. For example, if you used bad words on them during an argument, you can go back and tell them you are sorry about that.
Go for adventures Together:
Visit new places – cities, restaurants, or event centers – together. For example, you can take your friend to go see the new mall that just opened up.
Learn new things together:
Whether it’s taking a cooking class, learning a new language, or attending a workshop, learning something together is a great idea. For a start, it gives you both something to discuss or work on together. It unites your perspectives and helps you spend time together. It is an opportunity to help and demand help – it is an opportunity to test and enjoy your friendship.
Encourage them to make other good friends:
If you see someone who might fill a gap in your friend’s life that you can’t, introduce them to the person. For example, if your friend is introverted, and you happen to know some other person who seems decent and also shares a similar interest with your friend, introducing them to each other will make the bond twice as strong. Besides, you now have an arbiter in case a rift ever emerges between you and your friend.
Build something together:
Working on a project together can foster a sense of connection and oneness between you and your friend. And, the more (and bigger) things you build together, the more tangible reasons you have to stay together. For example, starting a small business with a friend (assuming they are also entrepreneurial, skilled, and passionate about starting a business).
“Friendship isn’t a big thing—it’s a million little things.”– Paulo Coelho
Conclusion: “It takes two people to make a friendship work.”
Friendships require effort. Great friendships require a lot of work. However, the work can be rewarding and enjoyable if both parties are enthusiastic and put in the effort. It’s like lifting a couch. One person may be able to push it here and there, but two people can lift it to another room.
I can tell you value your friendship because you read this far. Now, share this with your friends to see which of them will put in the effort to learn how to strengthen your friendships (by being a good friend).
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)