The word ‘friend’ has been diluted in a post-Facebook world.
If you were born after 1980 it’s highly likely that you have somewhere between 200 to 2,000 ‘friends’ on social media.
With ‘friends’ being such a dispensable resource, it’s easy to put less importance on them.
But what about true friendship?
More than an acquaintance and different than a lover, a friend is someone with whom you can experience trust, loyalty, compassion, and mutual understanding.
A friend is the first person you go to for advice, help, or a shoulder to cry on. Depending on how long you have known your friend for you might have dozens (or thousands) of inside jokes. You might have a unique language or way of communicating with each other. However you interact with your friend, you have a unique way of being in the world when you are around each other and they are a safety net for you to fall into.
Different friends fill different needs in your life. Maybe you have one friend that you have deep, stimulating conversations with. And another friend who you go out and party with whenever you are in need of a good night of distraction. And yet another who will always hear you with an open heart.
If you can become the ultimate friend and help those closest to you navigate the world with a bit more ease, then you (and they) will reap the rewards.
Here are half a dozen hacks to being the best friend possible…
Friendship is a two-way street. You get your needs met and benefit from having someone listen to you and so does your friend.
Take the time to hear about your friends life updates, passions, and struggles.
2. Never Judge Their Actions
Unconditional acceptance is one of the markers of an evolved friendship. Nothing your friend says or does could shock you into doubting them as a person.
Always be ready and willing to hear them with an open mind and to trust that they are living their life as best as they are able.
3. Hold Them To A High Standard
Friends don’t let friends live lacklustre lives. As a close friend you have a unique window of opportunity to help someone become as free and open as possible.
If you notice one of your friends living below what they are capable of and you DO NOT call them on it… then you are not being a supportive friend.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a beautiful (and long) essay on friendship. In the essay he describes a true friend as a “beautiful enemy”. Someone who loves you and supports you so deeply that they will not hesitate to call you on your lack of integrity. If you ever try to play small in life, they will be the first to call you on it.
This is the highest calling of any kind of relationship. To have the courage to say, “I see you… and I know what you are capable of… but you are currently living below that standard” is the courage reserved for true, deeply fulfilling friendship.
So does your friend waste their lives away getting drunk every night? Are they stuck in a job that they hate? Are they playing it safe in everything that they do? No more. Hold them to a higher standard and be their super friend. Encourage them out of their slump.
4. Improve Their Lives Without Keeping Score
What is your life other than a series of contributions to making the world a better place?
This mindset shows up clearly in your close friendships. Where could your friend use some encouragement? Support? A helping hand?
A problem arises when one friend feels like they have contributed to the friendship much more than the other. They start keeping track of all of the things that they have done for the other and feel unappreciated by comparison.
Keeping track in any kind of relationship is a recipe for disaster. As soon as you start counting favours and keeping a friendship score card in your mind you are losing.
Set your intention to continuously improve the quality of life of your friend (without the score card) and your overall satisfaction with the relationship will skyrocket.
Do they need help moving? Done. Do they need to be reminded to continue to live their passion? All over it. Buy them a smoothie because they forgot their wallet? You’re on it.
Don’t brush off their offer of repaying you with an “I know you’re good for it”. A true friend fronts the tab even if they aren’t good for it. And seriously… that smoothie was five bucks. Who cares?
5. Regular In-Person Contact
In the digital age it’s so easy to assume that regular texts, pokes, and Skype calls are enough to keep a friendship thriving, but they aren’t. Nothing encourages connection like being in physical proximity to your closest friends.
Humans learn and experience emotions by osmosis. It’s hard to keep any kind of long distance relationship thriving without the occasional face to face connection.
So as tempting as it is to just send a supportive text to your friend across the city/country/world, prioritize in-person hang outs as regularly as is possible.
6. The Five Finger Rule
You are a busy person with limited free time. And although it’s a seductive idea to assume that we can keep up with our hundreds of ‘friends’ on a regular basis, their just aren’t enough hours in a week to make this a reality.
The Five Finger rule helps you to narrow your friendship focus on enjoy quality of friendship over quantity of friendship.
At any given time in your life, I propose that you should be able to count the friends that are closest to you and that you are investing the most time in on one hand. These are the friends that you don’t merely fit in to your calendar, these are the friends for who you don’t even consult your calendar. They are an automatic “Yes” in your life.
Ever since implementing this strategy into my life I have experienced greater depth of connection, satisfaction, and support from my five closest friendships.
Introverts and extroverts can benefit from this strategy. Introverts because they are already prone to this style of socializing and it removes the guilt of trying to keep up with dozens of loose acquaintances, and extroverts benefit because it encourages them to slow down and achieve greater depth in their connections.
The Five Finger rule also makes it a lot easier in your mind to realize where you are getting the majority of your emotional fulfillment from.
Who needs thousands of fringe friends when you have handful of friendships that makes you feel the vast majority of your life’s emotional fulfillment?
Fewer friends, greater happiness, and more depth of connection. Try it out for the next thirty days and see how you feel. Write down the five friends, invest in those friendships, and socialize with your acquaintances less frequently.
Get By With A Little Help From My Friend
Just like any kind of relationship, friendship takes effort. Put in the time and the energy that you invest will come back to you multiplied.
The common theme among everything in this article (and everything on this site) is to challenge yourself to put in the work. Where could you be a better version of yourself? How do you consciously improve the lives of those around you?
If you prioritize the connection that you have with a handful of friends and you make time for them on a regular basis, you will be seeing and feeling the benefits of a greater depth of connection in no time.
Ps. This half a dozen hacks series was inspired by the late Jim Rohn who believed that the most important areas of life could be largely influenced by doing just half a dozen things to improve them. This article is the first of a series of three on how to step up your life in effective, actionable ways. Stay tuned over the coming weeks for parts two and three.
Pps. The photo at the top of this article was from when I toured my home country coast-to-coast with my friend’s band Said The Whale. Super epic adventure that pushed my comfort zone in a massive way.