In the run up to Valentine’s Day 2021, I spent a week discussing relationships. Not just with loved ones, but also with family members, colleagues, yourself and friends.

In this blog I wanted to summarise the points I made in the posts relating to our relationships with our friends.

Although lockdown restrictions have started to lift, there will be repercussions of the last 12 months on mental health. Now is a really important time to be there for your friends. So check out these 10 ways you can be a good friend.

1. Pick up the phone

There really is no substitute for a proper chat. So if you haven’t been in touch for a while, don’t be tempted to fall back on email, text or social media.

2. Don’t be cryptic

So your friend forgot your birthday or didn’t call when she said she would? You have two clear choices: tell her straight that she’s upset you, or let it go. Using passive aggression or sulking in an attempt to indirectly get your message across is often the first step on the road to a long-term fall-out. Is it really that important?

3. Shift your expectations

Or to put it another way: don’t expect everyone else to behave as you do. People often show appreciation in the way they’d like to receive it.

4. Be honest about what’s happening in your life

If you’re going through a tough time – due to ill health or relationship problems, for example – it’s easy to feel cut-off from your friends and convince yourself they’re not there for you when you really need them. But they won’t know what’s happening, or what you need from them, unless you tell them. Besides, life is full of ups and downs – and it could be that your friend hasn’t checked in on you simply because she’s going through a challenging time him/herself.

5. Admit you don’t know what to say

When a friend has experienced illness or loss, it’s human nature to want to find the perfect words to make everything better. And when those words won’t come, many people feel useless and choose to retreat instead. The truth, of course, is that sometimes there are no words – and that’s when we really need our friends.

6. Don’t over-commit

You know that friend who always double-books, turns up late or cancels at the last minute? Irritating, isn’t it? Make sure it’s not you!

7. Seek help if you need it

Sometimes, psychological factors such as shyness or lack of assertiveness can stand in the way of our friendships, even long-standing ones.

8. Leave the past behind

Of course, your history is important – but don’t allow what’s happened in the past to impact on the new friendships you form now. You’re making friends to share new moments, not to regurgitate what’s happened in the past. So keep your skeletons where they belong: in the closet.

9. Never write anyone off completely

If a friendship feels too one-sided, it may have run its course. Backing off a bit and giving the other person some space is sometimes the best way to test whether the relationship is truly over. But friendships can dip in and out over time. If you’re not in touch for a while, it doesn’t mean you’re not important: your friend may just have other things going on right now.

10. Be a friend to yourself

If you put yourself under pressure and rush around trying to be everyone’s best friend, you’re heading for burn-out. So be kind to yourself. Heartfelt connections are the real ones worth keeping, and they can only happen when you let your guard down and just be yourself. True friends understand each other and forgive one another’s flaws.

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