As we get older, it can seem more difficult to really, deeply connect with others and create lasting friendship.
Maybe when you were younger, friendship was more about quantity over quality. Having lots of friends made you feel like part of the “in” crowd. That you were liked, and therefore good enough.
I didn’t shed this phase until my mid-20s. Even out of college, I thought that the more people I surrounded myself with, the more groups I was a part of and the more parties I went to, the better it meant my life was going. This was both fun and extremely exhausting.
I had moved far from my hometown and most of my best friends had, too. I prided myself in being able to get along with many different types of people, and still do.
But secretly, I craved closer friendships.
I was envious of my roommate at the time that had all of her closest girlfriends from childhood around her. They did everything as a group and seemed safe in their cocoon of togetherness.
Now, I realize that quality of friendship is more important than quantity. It made me ask myself, what are the qualities of outstanding friendship? And how do you know if you’re an outstanding friend to others?
If this has been lacking in your life… well hey… it’s never too late to start.
1. They’re there for you when you need them most.
Ask yourself, how many people could you call up at 3:00 a.m. in the case of an emergency? Probably just a few, if you’re lucky. Outstanding friends are there for you when you need them most. One of my best friends from college dug her car out of a blizzard to come pick me up when I couldn’t get home. Others made the trip halfway across the globe to a tiny remote island in Greece for my wedding. Above is a photo one of my closest girlfriends took who threw me a surprise bachelorette “wig party.” So fun! Another friend came over with wine, chocolate and movies after I had a miscarriage.
While I am incredibly blessed and grateful to have friends like that in my life, it got me thinking, am I that kind of friend? I think so, but I know I could improve. Striving to be an outstanding friend will bring more of those connections into your own life.
2. Because a great friend genuinely cares about you, they know when and how to be honest.
My husband often repeats something he heard from his late father, that when you love someone, you’re honest with them even if it hurts. You tell them when they’re doing something wrong because you care. This goes for family and friends.
I’m not talking about when your friend asks you if she thinks she looks fat in her dress. That may just be a cry for love, asking you to help tame their inner-critic. We all need coaxing sometimes. What I’m talking about is when they’re doing something you know could ultimately hurt them and they continue going down that path. When I was 25 I dated someone none of my friends liked, and my one girlfriend was finally brutally honest to me about it. I couldn’t see through my own point of view at the time and had to learn my own lessons. But what my friend said stuck with me until I finally had the courage to let him go.
3. Outstanding friends are genuinely happy for you when you have great news to share.
We’ve all probably had that moment where we’re super excited about something, and we tell a friend, only to hear a less-than-thrilled response. Pretty deflating, isn’t it? Or we might have friends who we downright worry telling them about something in our lives because we know they’ll be upset about it. Now, I don’t know about you, but I want to be the kind of person who is seriously excited about good news for anyone in my life. We all know how good it feels to be around this type of person that is genuinely happy for you. Being this way not only brings more good things into your own life, but it’s an absolutely beautiful quality to embody.
4. They respect your space and emotional energy.
One of my clients recently was struggling with a close friend who was simply taking up too much of her emotional energy. She was jealous of my client’s new romantic relationship, and wanted a lot more of her time and attention than she could give. Further, this friend had a lot of negativity in her life and would end up sucking the conversation down a vortex of critical thoughts. It left my client feeling depleted and unsure if she could even remain friends with her at all. An outstanding friend respects your space and emotional energy. We all sometimes need a shoulder to lean on and hey, that’s what friends are for. But true friendships have a reciprocity of give and take and know when and how to respect your space.
5. They can have conversation on a deeper level.
This one is just in my opinion, but I think an outstanding friend is able to have conversation with you on a deeper level. Some of my friends I can count on for a great laugh, or know we’ll always have a fun time together. But my really close friendships are the ones I can go to that enjoy talking about something meaningful. One of my best girlfriends and I literally end up talking on the phone for two hours each time. And we talk often! We allow one another to pour our hearts out, vent when it’s needed, or celebrate whatever is going on in our lives. I love this about her.
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