Earlier this year I looked at the question:
That question was really something I was asking myself. At that time I realized that it’s not a given for others to be a friend. There are some really great people out there, but people rarely are friends with something just for the sake of it.
The best friendships, at least in my experience, are the ones that are equal parts give and take. Each person is genuinely interested in the other person’s interests. Relationships rarely seem to work if the balance is skewed in one direction with one person being overly demanding, too negative or anything that saps the other person’s energy.
So over the last few months I’ve attempted to make improvements in this area and I’ve come across some good tips or ideas or thoughts on how to be a friend that others want to have.
I guess it’s a way to make more friends. But I think it’s also a way to have better relationships. It’s a way to make more and more meaningful connections in all areas of life.
Here are those tips…
1. Offer Full Attention
I’ve struggled with this one over the years. I let my mind wander during conversations. I get annoyed when I’m interrupted.
Recently, I found an article about the human need for attention. It turns out that offering someone your full attention is an essential ingredient to a successful relationship.
It means being available for them when they want to have a conversation. Listening to them. Not passing judgment. Not interrupting them while they’re describing or stating something. Just offering them your full attention.
This is not about big things either. It’s about simple things like asking a friend how their day went. Asking about important events in their life like, “How did your work presentation go last week?”
2. Ask More Questions
This is one I’ve really been working on the last few months. We’ll get more into this later when we look at unsolicited advice, but the first part of the equation when being a friend is simply asking more questions.
Most often, people aren’t looking for your advice. They’re looking to express something. To show that you’re interested you need to ask more questions. Dig into the what the person is struggling with and use your questions to help them figure it out on their own.
And really, questions are just a good way to keep your focus on the person and showing your interest. That’s something that leaves the other person feeling good when they leave the encounter.
3. Hold Off On Judgment
I don’t know why it’s an innate aspect of the human condition, but many of us are quick to pass judgment. Maybe it’s an evolutionary thing where humans needed to judge a situation quickly in order to survive.
But judgment is not good for friendship. Think about your own situation. When you feel constantly judged by someone do you spend a lot of time with them? Do you look forward to being around them?
I think this happens often in a parent-child relationship. The parent judges and it’s difficult for the child to become close with the parent.
But we all know that a judging relationship can come in many forms. You’re more likely to be an appealing friend if you hold off on judgment.
4. Offer Appropriate Criticism
Criticism can be really hard for anyone to take. It’s easy to think that some criticism is good, but I’ve been learning lately that the way we offer criticism is important.
Appropriate criticism, it turns out, is when we criticize a behavior and not the person. Children are often harmed emotionally when a parent tells them they are a bad child. Instead, it’s important to criticize the behavior.
If you offer criticism, and only when you feel it’s in the other person’s best interest, make sure you criticize the behavior and not the person.
5. Positive Feedback
There’s a dangerous sentiment in the world with some people where they feel that good feedback equals negative feedback. But it actually seems to be the case that positive feedback is more important than negative feedback.
Think about your life and the times that you’ve been told “good job” when doing something. That usually makes us feel good and we’re likely to want to do that thing again the same way or even better so we can feel good or even better.
Not many people can take only negative feedback all the time. Most people shut off all criticism when that happens. We need positive feedback.
Some of the best friends to have are the ones that look for the positives and point those out.
Let’s say you want to start your own business. You’ve seen signs that it will work. Maybe you’ve been doing it on the side. Now you’re ready to jump in. You’ve even looked at possible worst case scenarios. You’re ready to accept those if they happen.
Now you let someone, like a friend, know your plans and they come back with judgment or they tell you their opinions on the mistake you’re making.
Obviously that doesn’t feel good.
Encouragement is something we seek. It feels good when people encourage us to be the best we can. They tell us to look at the world as a place full of opportunity and without boundary.
That’s a person that others want to be around.
People appreciate others they can count on.
If you need to talk on the phone it’s good to know the other person is available. If you want to go out for a drink it’s good to know that there is someone you can count on to make it happen.
Bosses love someone they can count on to get work done in a consistent manner. People appreciate others they can count on for consistent behavior.
Consistency and reliability are traits others admire and look for in their friendships. If you offer those traits you’ll be someone that others want to connect with and grow close to.
8. No Unsolicited Advice
We got into this one a little bit earlier. I purposely moved it down the list to bring it up as a reminder later in the article because this is an important tip.
Unsolicited advice is frustrating. Let’s say you’re having a conversation with someone. You’re telling them about your day and they jump in and interrupt with some advice they think will help you.
Ever had that happen?
It seems to happen to most of us all the time. I know I’ve been guilty of it and it bothers me every time now that I know that others don’t like it.
Cut this out of your interaction with others and it’s pretty amazing how much more likely they are to want to talk to you and to actually seek out your advice when they actually want it.
How enjoyable is it to be around someone that doesn’t complain and that has a positive outlook on the future? It’s contagious to be around folks like this. I know that I like being around others that are positive. I’ve found that these folks usually don’t watch the news. They have built filters into their lives to focus on the positives and to look forward to waking up everyday.
Sure, they aren’t positive all the time. They have worry and doubt. Who doesn’t?
But when they’re around their friends they make the world seem like a good place. And that’s fun to be around.
10. Little Surprises
Finally, surprise your friends with little gestures. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy.
Arnold Palmer just passed. He was loved by many. He certainly wasn’t perfect, but he was a person many wanted to be friends with and for good reason.
Palmer had many great qualities, but one of the best he was known for was writing letters to players congratulating them on success.
Handwritten letters and notes are great. Calls are great. Emails are great. Just reaching out, asking a few questions and showing interest are wonderful ways to build relationships.
It’s easy to look at life as being full of things that we deserve. Unfortunately, deserve’s got nothing to do with it. We don’t have a right to much in life. That’s just reality. One of the things that we don’t deserve is friendship.
It’s our job to be a friend that others want to have. We can’t force others to like us. We can’t expect them to. We can only control ourselves and that means being someone that others want to be around.
So hopefully the tips above will help you if you’re looking to be someone that a person wants to be friends with.