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Life > Experiences

Life Advice: What I’m Doing to Be A Better Friend

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

I’ve known my friends for a long time now. For the most part, I believe that I’ve done a pretty good job in the friend department. I’m there when my friends need me. I don’t flake when we have plans. But, I know that there are still places where I could improve. One of my major resolutions for 2019 is to be more mindful. Since I’ve begun my journey, I’ve become aware of the simple improvements I can make, and you can too.

1. Asking before I vent

Everyone needs to vent, and while there are no better people to vent to than your besties (maybe your therapist, too), it’s important to be mindful of how much extra you’re adding to their already full plates. We’re all busy, all dealing with our own troubles and are all trying to push through; your friends are no different! One change that I’m making is asking my friend’s permission before I unload my mess onto them and checking in to make sure that they’re in a space to accept a little more baggage. So next time, before venting to a friend, ask them, “Do you have the headspace for this?”

2. Listening before I speak

This may be the simplest thing on this list and the most difficult to implement. It can be very easy to find yourself preparing a response to whatever conversation you find yourself in or gearing up to give unsolicited advice when someone is venting. Whenever I find myself in this position, I do my best to think before I respond. I take a little extra time to consider what information is being shared with me, what response is expected (is this person looking for advice, a listening ear, or a genuine conversation), then determine what your next move should be. If your friend asks for you for advice, then advise them. If they don’t, then offer something else, like an understanding, nonjudgmental shoulder to lean on or a distraction from their troubles. The reason that some of us may find issue with this, and I have in the past, is that it’s so easy to interject something into a conversation that may not be beneficial to the other person, despite believing that we’re helping. For example, if your friend is sharing an embarrassing story, don’t be so quick to share one of your own, unless you know for sure that that’s what the other person wants.

3. Checking in with all of my friends

Check-ins are super easy and something that you can implement into your life right away. Text, call or email a friend of yours, one that you haven’t spoken to in a while, and ask them how they’re doing. There doesn’t have to be any commitments attached to your message if you don’t want. You don’t have to set a date to meet up or have a long, drawn-out conversation full of small talk. All that you’re obligated to do is send a heartfelt message to let your friend know that you’re thinking of them. I always appreciate it when friends reach out to me, either to check in or just to let me know that I was on their mind. Find the time to let someone special to you know that you’re thinking of them, and I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

4. Showing my appreciation

This is definitely something new for me, but also something that I look forward to doing more of. In the past, when I wanted to let a friend know how much I appreciated their presence, I’d reach out via text or call, but I’m ready to take that to the next level. I’m currently working on “appreciation gifts,” gifts catered to showing a particular friend what they mean to me. Some ideas include personalized letters, trinkets that I know they’d love, or something non-traditional that may represent a favorite memory you share. A while back, one of my dearest friends taught me how to crotchet, and in return, I’m making her a blanket. It’s important to remember that appreciation gifts don’t have to be expensive. For this particular project, it truly is the thought that counts.

5. Facilitating meaningful conversations

It’s so easy to get lost in the nonsense of the day, and to then share the minor occurrences with your friends. It’s important to make room for deeper conversations, too. I’ve found that talking to my friends about serious issues like health (mental and physical), my insecurities and even politics have allowed me a deeper understanding of who my friends are, what their values are and what has helped to shaped them into the person I call my friend. This has also benefited me, as I’ve grown more comfortable sharing things that I wouldn’t normally discuss and have even made me challenge some of my own beliefs and values.

Any lifestyle change is going to take time to adjust to, but I genuinely believe that by making these few changes you will see an improvement in your relationships. I’ve not only grown closer to many of my friends, but I also feel that I’ve grown as an individual because of it.

Al'Licia is an english major at the University of Florida. She enjoys spending time with her friends, family and her dog.