Advice on How to Be a Good Friend from Someone Who Hasn't Always Been

Cole Schafer Blog

How to Be a Good Friend

I was seated across from one of my best friends a couple weeks back, having an afternoon cup of coffee, something that had become a tradition over the past nine or so years of friendship. We hadn’t spoken much in the past 4-5 months, she got a big girl job in a big city, while I was busy chasing both my writing dreams and the strongest wifi connection I could find. 

She was smiling and catching me up on her life, work and relationships and as much as I wish I could say we picked up right where we left off, we didn’t. There was obvious space that had accumulated between the two of us -- an elephant I think we both desperately wanted to address, but one we had difficulty understanding. So, we kept quiet, pretending it simply didn’t exist. 

When we parted ways later on that afternoon a realization began to cross my mind -- I haven't been the best friend. It was a thought that sounded like a ball ping hammer in my skull, stinging my conscience. 

I hadn’t made a good effort of staying in touch, checking in and offering support.

Honestly, I had become a lousy friend.

In a way, this blog post is an attempt to hold myself accountable, but it is also a challenge to my readers to be the best friends they can be. I am challenging all of us to do better and be better for the people we love, for the people we owe so much to. 

How to be a Good Friend: 5 Actionable Steps to Becoming a Better Friend

Step 1: Good Morning I Love You’s

I set a reminder on my phone for every Monday -- “Text a Friend!” I make it a rule to text the first 2-3 people that come to mind. These texts may be a quote that reminds me of them, a link to an insightful Medium article or simply an “I love you and miss you and hope you kick-ass today.” 

Thinking your friends will live down the street from you for the rest of your life is unrealistic. Love, work and dreams have a way of catapulting us hundreds and even thousands of miles apart. 

But, you have a fucking iPhone you are on 24/7. One, that believe it or not, has the capability of sending digital notes across the world. There is no excuse to simply not stay in touch. 

Step 2: Don’t Sacrifice Friendships for Intimate Relationships

I see a lot of people drop their friends the minute they enter into a relationship. I have been guilty of it, some of my best friends have been guilty of it and chances are you have been guilty of it too. 

Just don’t do it.

There have been numerous times I have had my heart broken, called up one of my best friends and five minutes later they are by my side making me laugh until my stomach hurts. 

Eventually, you will find the person you're supposed to spend the rest of your life. But in your 20’s, there is a good chance you haven’t yet found that person. So, don’t throw away lifelong friendships because you think you found your Juliet. 

Step 3: You Should Never Be Jealous of Your Friends

One of my best friends, John, is living in Boston and killing it in his first year out of school. I am living at home with my parents, pounding carpal tunnel into my hands as I build my career as a writer. 

John makes more money than me, lives in a cooler apartment than me and is more successful than me -- but there is not a bone in my body that is jealous of my best friend.

It’s the complete opposite -- I am ridiculously proud of him. 

If you are the type of friend that spends time being jealous of your friend’s success, you need to do some serious soul-searching. Chances are, you are miserable and directing this misery onto your friend. If you have friends that don’t want you to succeed, then I think it is time to find new friends. 

Step 4: Good Friends Tell Each Other When They Fuck Up

I see a lot of friendships that are horribly toxic for one another. Girls will cheat on their boyfriends, or vice-versa, and then their friends will attempt to validate the bad behavior -- “Terry is such an asshole, and do you remember that one thing he said that one time about your cousin? Fuck him. Don’t feel guilty girl.” 

Pause. 

If you have friends like this or are a friend like this, you are making the world a shitty place. 

Your responsibility as a good friend is to tell your friend when they are being stupid, even if that means it hurts your friendship for a little while. No one said being a good friend is easy, it certainly isn’t. 

Sometimes it requires you to tell the people you love what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear. 

Step 5: Remember You Aren't the Only One with Problems

I have always struggled with anxiety. One aspect of anxiety that I hate is the self-absorption that comes as a side-effect. 

Some days I will wake up and start worrying for no fucking reason. Then I will start worrying about why I am worrying. Then I may start worrying about upcoming writing projects, the traffic on my blog and why a client is taking so long to fulfill an invoice. 

By noon, without even realizing it, I will have thought about one person and one person only... myself.

Often times, people's biggest problem is that they think they shouldn't have any problems. This mentality causes us to be selfish and causes us to be less empathetic. 

No, I am not saying people with anxiety are selfish people, I am saying that anxiety causes people to develop selfish habits. 

It is important to remember that you are not special. There are 7 billion people in this world, all battling their own set of fucked-up problems. A handful of these 7 billion people are your friends....

Don't forget to check up on them. 

By Cole Schafer