6 simple ways to be a better friend

Modern life is a lot less conducive to friendships than it used to be. We don't usually realize how much we depend on good friends until we lose them. Here's how to nurture your important friendships.

6 simple ways to be a better friend

1. On your computer at home or work, make a note to “call friends” regularly.

  • Or, keep a sticky note on the phone, the bathroom mirror, the car dashboard, anywhere you're likely to see it.
  • Also make sure your friends' phone numbers are programmed into your phone.
  • Then call a friend when you have a spare 10 minutes. Alternatively, schedule a regular once-a-month lunch – same time, same place.

2. Make time for friendships.

  • Nothing makes closeness fade away more than never talking to or seeing each other.
  • While some bonds of friendship may be strong enough to span long silences, most aren't.
  • If you cherish a person's friendship, make time for him or her, whether it's just the occasional phone call, e-mail or a weekly get-together.

3. A true friend doesn't flee when changes occur.

  • Nothing is sadder for new parents than to find that their single friends have abandoned them because of the baby.
  • A good friend is one who stays true through it all — marriage, parenthood, new jobs, new homes, any losses.
  • Just because a situation's changed doesn't mean the person has.

4. Make sure you aren't being a burden to a friend.

  • Friendships fade away if there isn't an equilibrium between the give and the take.
  • Be sensitive to how much your friend can and can't offer you — be it time, energy or help — and don't overstep the mark. And vice versa: Friendships that drain you will not last.
  • If a friendship is out of balance, talk the situation through.

5. Be a good listener.

It can be the hardest thing in the world to do — simply listen as he or she pours it all out or is seeking your advice or opinion. To be a better listener, follow this advice:
• Maintain eye contact. Offer nods and murmurs to indicate that you understand his or her point of view.
• Don't finish your friend's sentences. If you catch yourself planning your response while your friend is still talking, gently remind yourself to focus.
• Minimize distractions — don't write or read e-mails, open the mail or watch television while you're on the phone to your friend. He or she will hear the lack of interest in your responses.
• Be careful with advice. Assume your friend wants to let off steam, not necessarily ask for a plan of action.

6. Be in your friend's corner if he or she's not there to defend him or herself.

  • If you're at a gathering at which someone mentions your friend disparagingly, defend him or her against gossip or criticism.
  • Say, "Mary is my friend, and it makes me feel bad to hear you talk this way."
  • Sooner or later, news of your loyalty will travel back to your pal, and it will deepen your friendship.
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