Being a better friend means you’ll have better relationships across your life. Here’s how to improve your social intelligence and be a better friend.
As a father of four children and someone who studies the concept of success, I am always looking for ways to help my children thrive in our modern world.
I often ask myself: What are the most important life lessons to pass on, or what do I wish I was schooled in when I was young?
I can’t teach my children everything and it’s impossible to put an older, wiser head on young shoulders but I do want to share the fundamentals which lead to a happier and successful life.
In my next series of articles, I will outline five big ideas I want to instil in my children.
The first of these skills is social intelligence; learning how to handle difficult people and how to be a better friend yourself.
Below are my nine ‘friendship hacks’ for a happier social life.
Don’t be a ‘cow’
Have you ever seen a cow on the side of the road watching cars pass by? They stare for a brief moment, then go back to chewing grass. Nothing is really going on. They see an object, but nothing registers.
This is how a lot of people see or don’t see others. We sort of see people, but we don’t. We are like cows, watching objects pass by but not really registering them as humans.
Seeing a person as an individual or as a subject rather than an object makes that person come alive. That’s what love does; it calls things into existence.
Take the time to pause and see people for who they are—divine beings of incalculable significance.
2. Choose substance over style
Great friends are people of substance. They are consistent, honest, loyal, humble and kind.
Before we focus our attention on pursuing a certain lifestyle, we need to discover what life is all about.
Fame is different to influence. Fame is what you get when people know you. Influence is what you get when people believe in you.
Don’t aim to be famous or an influencer just for approval. Be the kind of friend who people can believe in and trust. Life is too short to settle for anything less.
3. Don’t suffer fools
Some people are ruled by either their insecurities or narcissism. Because of this, they place too much value on short term ambitions and strive to be noticed for any reason at all.
Do not let these people annoy you or get drawn into an argument that makes you lose your sense of what is important.
You will never win an argument with a fool because they are not interested in rational thought. They care only about winning the argument. Their focus is on outrage itself, not a solution.
Do not lose your peace or waste valuable time or emotional energy on people who don’t enrich your life.
Note to self: We all act foolishly at times and act out of a sense of entitlement or insecurity. These moments pass if you learn to recognise them early. Save your energy for the important battles of life and don’t allow yourself to be drawn into idle discourse.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
4. Perspective is everything
Don’t always assume that because you didn’t do something you thought was wrong, people won’t get upset.
Your perspective might be that you didn’t say anything hurtful or make an error of judgement. But what is your friend thinking?
To be a better friend, always try to see things from another’s perspective. And if you err in any way, whether it was intentional or not, do all you can to make amends, either by writing a note or presenting a small gift.
Real friends are hard to find. Do all you can to support and develop your friendships in tangible ways. And don’t be afraid to say “I was wrong.”
5. Be kind to your enemies
No matter where you go, you will find people who are difficult to get along with. Managing difficult people is a massive strategic skill and enables us to live a full and abundant life.
When someone wrongs you, betrays you or acts violently towards you with their words, everything inside you wants to get back at them and you want revenge. But when we retaliate in a negative way, we are keeping the animosity in circulation.
As the philosopher Eric Hoffer notes, “To wrong those we hate is to add fuel to our hatred.”
Don’t add fuel to an already difficult situation and cause yourself sleepless nights and heightened anxiety. Instead, diffuse the misdeeds of others with forgiveness or kindness.
To forgive does not mean that what someone did was okay. It was wrong and we are not trying to brush it under the carpet.
To forgive means to take the long-term view and stop the endless loop of anger. By acting with the superpower of grace, you are doing something to make the world a better place.
6. Choose love over authenticity
Some people think in order to be a good friend you just have to be who you are, be sincere and just be yourself.
Whilst I am not advocating deception or dishonesty, thinking only of yourself is damaging.
The truth is, in order to be a great friend you can’t be locked inside your head. We must also think in terms of what our friends’ needs and wants are, not only our own.
Verbalising and thinking only in terms of what comes out of your own mind is laziness. Thinking about what others need and what appeals to them takes energy, effort and thought. The path of least resistance does not lead to high-quality friendships. The best relationships are forged in the fires of thoughtfulness, compassion and generosity.
7. Not every follower is a friend
In the age of social media, it seemed for a long time that whoever had the most friends was the winner. We now all know this not to be true.
The truth is if you have five friends you can share your hopes and dreams, fears and insecurities with, without any fear of judgement or disparagement, you are doing as well as anyone else.
Great friends are hard to find!
If someone makes a derogatory statement on any of your social media pages, don’t write back and be a keyboard warrior. Instead, delete their comment and block their page. It may sound harsh but you are actually doing them a favour by teaching them how to behave.
Forgive the people who leave negative comments and let it go. The next time you see them on the street or at the school ground, smile and be polite. Just don’t welcome them into your life by letting them graffiti on your walls.
It’s worth remembering: All people are equal but not all opinions are equal.
8. Quality over Quantity
You can’t be friends with everybody.
As human beings, we need to acknowledge we are not infinite but finite. We ourselves are a limited resource. Friendship is the art of giving and receiving. In doing so, nobody is depleted. Great friendships make sure nobody is running on empty from too many withdrawals and not enough deposits.
If you have too many friends, you can’t possibly add value to all these different people. You can’t scale friendship or attend everyone’s birthday party. Being a friend means you are adding value and filling that person’s cup with joy and connection but this must also be reciprocated back to you.
9. Become aware of the relationships you are in
There are many different and varied types of relationships. Three common ones are friends, associates and mentors. Each of those relationships needs to be cultivated for optimum growth and wellbeing.
Be selective in your choice of people you spend time with. As the saying goes, “You cannot choose your family but you can choose your friends.” Commit to nurturing each relationship but also recognise its boundaries so it is lifting you up, not pulling you down.