How to be a good friend13 August, 2015
Good friendships are wonderful gifts that can make our good times better and help us through hard times too. But it takes two to sustain lasting friendships and it’s worth doing a bit of reflection to figure out how to be a good friend.
Mindfulness can help with that, by enabling us to bring more attention to our interactions and better appreciate our time with our most cherished friends. The Mindfulness Project has put together a few tips and tricks that will help make your friendships more mindful, starting today:
1. Be present
Mindfulness is very much about paying attention and one of the best ways to be a good friend is to be really present for our friends. That means listening with and giving them our full attention.
For example, next time you’re visiting with a friend, put away your mobile phone and notice the urges to check it. Or make plans to spend time together away from kids and other partners. Notice how it feels to be with your friend without these potential distractions.
2. Mindful listening
At the same time, use this as an opportunity to practice mindful listening. Good friendships are built on communication. Yet sometimes, when someone is talking, we are already rehearsing what we want to respond to them. Or our minds drift off to another topic altogether and we end up planning what to have for dinner or wear to work tomorrow. Notice when you’ve done that next time and bring your attention back to the present moment and the friend opposite you.
3. Connection is more important than being right
Often in discussions we want to be right and it’s important that we make our point. The risk is that we end up sacrificing our opportunities to really listen and connect with our friends for our own agenda. Think of a topic that you are particularly self-righteous about with a friend. Next time it comes up, instead of going into arguing more, just try to find out everything your friend thinks/believes about this topic. And do so with a genuine curiosity.
4. Be real
On the opposite side of listening is sharing. Being real in friendships means being vulnerable. Often when we reveal our deepest fears, needs, and feelings we find that our friends can actually relate and that we’re not the only ones. And it’s disarming for our friends when we get real and cut to the chase. It gives them permission to do so too. There is so much more opportunity to connect when we get past superficial things and conversations to the heart of what we’re all experiencing.
5. Be happy for them
When a friend tells you something that they are really happy about, imagine how that feels for them. Put yourself in their shoes and feel their joy. It might take some practice to cultivate this kind of sympathetic joy, but try it. Next time a friend tells you something good that happened to them, really imagine how it must feel for them, all the excitement they feel, and let yourself really feel happy for them.
You might notice that you also have a few envious thoughts. Don’t worry if you do – the truth is we all have them once in a while. It’s natural that our minds drift off to our own thoughts and judgements about what this means for “me”. When that happens, just gently bring your attention back to your friend’s experience and the feelings of happiness that you’re experiencing for them.
6. Be happy with them
Friendships can’t thrive on deep conversations alone. Make an effort to have fun with your friends, let yourselves be silly and have a good laugh. Look up a few things you could plan with a friend for a fun infusion. Perhaps something neither of you have ever done before. Maybe a session together at the climbing wall? Or you can cook a new recipe together with a glass of wine? Send your friend a list of your top five and let them pick one to do… in the next two weeks!
Our friends aren’t always perfect or exactly what we want them to be. Maybe you wish they weren’t so shy or maybe they talk a little too much. And likewise, we may sometimes feel like we’re not living up to our own ideal of a good friend. We might notice ourselves hogging the airtime or not being considerate enough. These are opportunities to practice accepting the other and ourselves for who we each are: warts and all!
8. Be grateful
Tell your friends how much you appreciate them. And show them too by making an effort to spend time with them and let them know that you think of them in times when you can’t get together. In fact, take a moment right now to close your eyes and think of something you’re really grateful for about one of your friends. Then send them a message letting them know. To learn more about mindfulness and how it can help improve relationships, visit www.londonmindful.com