“Hi! My name is Kristen! I’m five! Want to be friends?”
“Hi! I'm Sarah! I’m five too! Yeah! Okay! Let’s be friends!”
Gosh, if only certain things in life were that easy.
As adults, we know now that being a friend is more than just sharing crayons during craft time, or holding the door for someone and saying how nice their hat looks. It’s about forming a special bond between two people, one that is difficult to break but easy to mend. Some say being a friend is easy, some say it’s difficult. Some people want many friends for all the wrong reasons, some people only want a few friends for good reasons. Some people treat friends like dirt, other treat friends like precious jewels. Do you know people like any of the above? What kinds of friends do you have? But most importantly, to the ones you claim as your friends, how good of a friend are you to them? If you asked them, what would they tell you?
While it is true that everyone is different, those differences don’t need to be the clash that tears relationships apart; instead, they can be the ties that bind.
In an online article written by Emeka Otoba, on How To Do Things.com, he lists five steps to keep in mind when trying to be a good friend to someone, and the first is learning to understand others.
“Human beings are complex creatures and most times [are] difficult to deal with, but one of the ways you can become a good friend is to understand the other person first,” said Otoba.
By taking the time to learn more about someone, you gain more respect, trust, and understanding of a person. For example, Sally has a hard time being optimistic about situations and always looks at a glass as half empty. She becomes irritated quite easily, and doesn't say much.
At first glance, she doesn't seem like the type of person whom someone would enjoy hanging out with, but what you see isn't always what you get.
Sally is also very intelligent, and is the type of person who would drop everything to be with someone who needed someone to vent to. In addition, Sally was bullied and suffered emotional damage from her peers and family as a child.
If you were Sally, wouldn't this be a sufficient reason for the negative and angry behavior? If you were in her spot, wouldn’t you act out like this in some fashion? If you didn’t take the time to know Sally, you would never know about her situation. Also, you would be missing out on her good qualities: her selfless, generous, and smart nature; someone who is deserving of a good friend. By not giving Sally a chance, you would only see the pessimistic side.
While no one is perfect, holding a friendship with another person also provides the opportunity to learn from each other’s faults and positive attributes. It is important to understand what the strengths and weaknesses are in the friendship. This way, once you are able to start understanding the people around you, it’s time to think about what you and those around you can gain from the friendship, and how you can impact each other positively.
“When you look for opportunities to impact your friends with positive things all the time, their faults hardly get to you. Instead, you are glad you see them because it is an opportunity to help them improve on their person,” said Otoba.
By keeping an open mind with a hint of optimism in your speech, friendship can go a long way. When you learn to recognize the faults of a friend, and you make it a mission to help them in a kind way, it impacts the reaction. This situation is like helping a friend being able to laugh at his or herself when they stumble on the sidewalk, get embarrassed, and become angry.
Or perhaps you said something you shouldn't have, and your friend called you out on it, as usual. At first you are angry, but little by little you begin to see the playful teasing as just a mere form of trying to get you to loosen up after a long and difficult week. What you said doesn't seem like a fault anymore, nor does tripping on the sidewalk with people staring at you. Friends make us realize that we all mess up, and it’s not the end of the world because they will always be there to help; whether it’s to lift you off the ground, or make you laugh about it.
Friendship isn't all fun and games however, and taking the time to being a listening ear to a friend, Otoba explains, is a major ingredient in friendship.
“There is wisdom in few words. For you to be able to add value to your friend's life, you must be able to hear the words unspoken,” said Otoba.
Everyone deserves to have the right to speak their minds, but what is the point of doing so if no one will hear what you have to say? Being a good listener to a friend helps build trust, and with that trust in that what they say will be heard, a foundation is created between these friends. By being able to listen to someone, it says to that person, “I am here if you need an ear to explode into. You can trust me to be there for you.”
In the fourth step, we are reminded that it is better to give than to receive. Being able to help someone in their times of need, major or minor needs, shows love and character, and sometimes is not easy to do. One can’t just run out the door at their work place because their friend just called saying their dog died, but there are other ways to help a friend. Say you will drop off forms for them because they are running late, offer to pick up their kids from school, or make a promise you will take them to a counselor after work to help them cope with a sudden loss.
“Especially when it comes from the heart, these sorts of actions are investments in your friendship,” said Otoba.
Helping someone else, of course, takes time away from you, but if you gain a plateful of gratitude afterwards, shouldn't that be just as rewarding as a paycheck?
Learning the ability to forgive, and not to hold grudges against an old friend is a part of everyday life, and a constant challenge.
As Otoba’s fifth and final step, he explains “Since we are all human, it is impossible for us to live together without hurting or offending one another at one point or the other. So when a friend hurts you, let him/her know about it immediately. Piled up grudges have a way of cultivating hatred, slowly.”
If you hold a grudge against someone, you let your hurt emotions stand in the way of happiness, and who wants to be around someone who is an emotional, angry wreck? I sure wouldn’t want to be around that person. Grudges can play on the minds of the hurt and cause them to think “well, if this person hurt me this way, so will everyone else.” If a friend apologizes, and is sincere, forgive them. Every friend fights and argues, but it’s not worth the energy to remain angry.
Otoba’s five steps to a successful friendship are merely suggestions towards being a better friend to other people. They are not the only suggestions out there, and none help contribute to a miracle formula for the perfect friendship either. It’s up to the common person to decide whether to take the advice or not, and it’s up to that same person to decide how to approach the advice.
In short, some say that the best way to have a friend is to be a friend. Based on Otoba’s steps, are you being a good friend?