Here’s what I’m not saying–I’m not THE BEST friend. I’m not THE WORST FRIEND. I’m simply a better friend than I once was.
Before putting effort into being a good friend, I simply bumbled along. Forgetting birthdays. Just hoping that friendships would work and let go of ones that weren’t easy.
I Saw the Sign
(thanks Ace of Base)
There wasn’t a monumental moment in my life that caused a shift. I had a slow realization that I had some crappy friends (or what KB at HeartConvos calls “Trash Friends”–friends who treat you like trash). My trash friends would cancel plans because something else sounded more fun. They would emotionally unload, then call me needy when I needed them. They were unpredictable, undependable, and rude with sarcasm.
My slow realization was that I was the same kind of friend I was attracting.
I was like a magnet for crappy friends because I was a crappy friend.
(thanks David Bowie)
Better Friends Avoid Sarcasm
I’m going to make a whole post about sarcasm, but sarcasm hides what we really think in painful words. It creates confusion to avoid the chaos of emotions. Don’t agree? Follow me on this:
Sarcasm is defined as “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.“
Contempt? Contempt is “the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.”
That is: Sarcasm is the use of irony to mock or convey the feeling that a person or thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.
I used to be excessively sarcastic. Any old friends who read this will likely be baffled that that’s not a core part of my character anymore. It hasn’t been for years.
Can I still be sarcastic? Yes. I’m a reformed sarcastic person, improved but not perfected.
But there is a serious freedom in knowing that my words are taken literally and sincerely, not confusing the recipient who knows I’m frequently sarcastic. I can say “I like your shirt” without freaking someone out anymore. Freedom.
Better Friends Use a Calendar
My mother-in-law is this majestic woman that remembers everyone’s birthdays and upcoming events. She would text me the day of a doctor’s appointment to ask how it went. How incredible is that?
One day, I asked for her secret. “How do you remember Every. Single. Event?!”
She looked at me and smiled gently, “I write it down.”
Why that blew my mind, I will never know, but I always thought I just had to remember all of my nieces and nephews and cousins and friends and their partners’ and their kids birthdays and events.
I started writing it down.
My friend whose son has a surgery in September that she’s private about, but also inwardly freaking out about? I wrote down a reminder a month before, two weeks before, and the day before and after to follow up.
AND I put a reminder in a place I’ll see it. I developed a habit of checking the calendar (turns out they don’t work if you don’t use them, heh).
Better Friends Ask and Listen
The other change I made was to ask people questions and listen to their answers. A huge part of this is to practice mindfulness or the act of being present. I listen to the way they describe events or people. I ask questions about how they felt at that time. Why? It is essential to letting someone know you care and that they are Needed and Known.
Even more powerful is that when you remember how much she loves plumeria flowers because they remind her of her late mother and give her a birthday card with the flowers on it, she will feel even more connected to you. It’s called friendship.
All of these changes that I made were not light-switch-changes. They were practiced. I don’t remember every single fact a friend shares, I don’t send everyone birthday cards or call them on the right day. And I still deliver excellently executed and ever divisive sarcasm. But I made a note of my mistake, remember that I have room to improve, and move on.
I want to hear from you! What’s a ch-ch-change you’ve made to become a better friend?