We often don’t talk about what we really want from a friend or what kind of friend we want to be. Many happily married people will tell you, the reason why their marriage is successful is because of their strong friendships. As many happily single people will tell you, the reason why they're happy is because of their solid network of support.
A truly like-minded and like-hearted individual with whom you share that special alchemy — is a gift.
Just like one of the keys to a successful partnership is to learn about what it means to give love, one of the secrets to attracting and sustaining meaningful and rich friendships is to become the friend you wish to have. I love the thought: Be the person you wish to attract.
So, I have given it some thought about what kind of friend I want to be and what qualities I would like in a close friendship. So for me, these are a few things that stand out. A good friend:
1. Listens with empathy and presence
This is, perhaps, the most important is being present and listening without interruption or offering unsolicited advice. A great friend listens with an open heart, is fully present and asks follow-up questions that indicate the she was, in fact, really listening.
2. Holds space for other
When someone is talking about trouble at work, for example, a great friend doesn't turn the conversation to talk about trouble at her job unless it's completely in service of supporting the one who initiated the conversation. There are times one person may be in need of support, and other times you may need support and the space held for you. A great friend is mindful of time and space and acts accordingly.
3. Has good boundaries
A great friend is able to keep secrets and is honest. If someone shares something private with you, a great friend doesn't share it with anyone else without explicit permission.
4. Supports others' successes
A great friend is a cheerleader. If your friend strikes a book deal, you take her out to lunch. If your friend meets the woman of his dreams, you make time to hear every detail. You take genuine pleasure in others' joy, even if you're struggling to find your own at times.
5. Is vulnerable
A great friend doesn't only share what's working in his or her life, but is also willing to share the "shadow" elements. This doesn't mean getting stuck in a victim mentality where you're always complaining, but it does mean not falling prey to the cultural injunction to "put on a happy face." Even if all your friends think you have a perfect marriage, for example, you make sure you share the struggles as well.
6. Makes time to connect
Love is action in all relationships, which means it's not enough to say I love you; you need to act in loving ways. A great friend makes time to remain connected through telephone calls and in-person dates (if it's not a long-distance friendship). And texting isn't real communication. It serves a function to communicate perfunctory information, but it doesn't build or maintain true intimacy.
7. Honors commitments
If you say you're going to be there at 3pm, be there at 3pm. If you can't make it by then, a great friend communicates that she's going to be late. Being regularly late sends a clear message that your friend isn't important enough to honor a time commitment, even if that's not what you're trying to communicate.
8. Can tolerate another's pain
Like #1 above, being able to tolerate your friend's pain is a rare quality. I mean being able to hold a wide and compassionate space for your friend to go through his or her grieving process, no matter how long it takes. A great friend is able to listen to a friend crying without having to say or do anything. The silence communicates profound respect for the depth of vulnerability that your friend is trusting you enough to share with you, and a great friend holds it with care.
A great friend is a gift to cherish for a lifetime and is often the lifeline that gets you through the rough patches of daily living. If you've even one or friend who embodies these qualities, count your blessings!
Life and Leadership Coach, Licensed Counselor, outdoor enthusiast, yoga lover and passionate about wellness.