20 tips for having happy friendships

Two friendly kittensWriter John Hay said, “Friends are the sunshine of life.” How right he was. Friends add love, light and happiness to our lives. Dr George Vaillant, the chief investigator of the world’s longest study into what makes us have happy and satisfying lives, found being able to have good relationships is a key ingredient for happiness. What are some ways to boost happiness in our relationships and friendships? Here are 20 ideas.

Have good communication
Listen well
Make our friends feel good
Have enough in common
Put time into friendships
Be kind, considerate, respectful, tactful and thoughtful
Be honest
Focus on the good in our friends
Praise our friends
Be cautious with criticism
Practice the 50-50 guideline
Remember that body language and tone of voice are important
Be genuinely interested in our friends
Don’t betray trust and confidence
Avoid being overbearing, overwhelming and dominating
Laugh together
Avoid being judgemental
Practice anger management
Be cautious about changing things about our friends
Be loyal and supportive

Have good communication

Good communication is a cornerstone of happy friendships. We are often friends with people because we are on the same wavelength, and get along well together.

Some essentials of good communication are to think before we speak, and be sensitive to our friend’s feelings and situation. If you are unsure what to say, think of something to say and then imagine how you would feel if your friend said that to you. Would you feel angry? Sad? Happy? Be tactful, empathetic and kind.

Respect other people’s points-of-view, even if we disagree with them. We can’t expect to agree with everything everyone says, but we can respect different viewpoints.

Listen well

Good listeners pick up the unspoken meaning behind what people say; the subtle way things are said, what isn’t said but implied, unspoken concerns and so on. These are important.

Listen without constantly thinking about how we are going to respond. We don’t want to think about our reply so much that we lose focus on what the other person is saying.

Make our friends feel good

Most people want to be happy. Make others happy and they’ll want to be around us. Be upbeat and positive, and this happiness will rub off onto others.

People remember how we make them feel, so make them feel happy, and leave them with good memories.

… Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

– Marcel Proust

Have enough in common

If we don’t have something in common with our friends, is it worth keeping the friendship? I believe we need at least one thing in common with a friend, or we need to question whether we really are friends, and if it’s worth keeping the friendship.

Put time into friendships

Like any relationship, we need to put in the time to keep a friendship alive. We contact some friends often, some now and then, and others we don’t see for years, but we are still friends, and need to make time to nurture the friendship if we want it to continue.

Be kind, considerate, respectful, tactful and thoughtful

Nastiness breeds hostility, resentment and hatred, and destroys friendships. It’s like poison to a plant. Kindness is like a good fertilizer – it allows friendships to blossom and flourish.

… Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

– Mother Teresa

… Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”

– Goethe

Be honest

Being honest with our friends builds trust. Sometimes we need to say honest things to our friends that they do not want to hear. They could get defensive, so be kind and tactful.

Focus on the good in our friends

Everyone has something good about them, so if we want to be friends with people, focus on their positive qualities, not their negative ones.

… Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means you have decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

– Author Unknown

Praise our friends

Most of us want to feel we are good at something, look nice and do a good job. As they say, give praise where praise is due. Be sincere. Don’t praise too much though, we don’t want to overdo it.

… Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.”

– Oprah Winfrey

Be cautious with criticism

How we word criticism and how often we give it can make or break a friendship. Simple tweaks in how we word criticism can make a huge difference to how happy our friendships are. Be kind and tactful when wording criticism. Think constructive criticism, not destructive criticism.

Examples
“I think you’d look better in the other pair of trousers” instead of “Those trousers make you look like a whale.”

“Thank you for the meal. Maybe cook the chicken a little less next time for me please” rather than “That was the worst chicken meal I’ve had in my life. You’re a dreadful cook.”

Practice the 50-50 guideline

A person I once knew told me this guideline she applied to her friendships: for half the time let the other person talk, discuss their problems and so on, and for half the time you talk…This helps prevent one person from dominating the conversation. If, however, one person likes being more talkative in a friendship and the other one likes being quieter, this idea might not be relevant.

Remember that body language and tone of voice are important

What we say, how we say it, and body language all count. In fact tone of voice and body language can speak louder than words. If we say to a dog, “I hate you, you are awful!” in a loving tone of voice, the dog will probably wag its tail and want a pat. Say the same thing in an angry tone and we’ll get a very different (negative) response. Like dogs, people respond to tone of voice. Take babies, for example; they can’t understand everything we say, but definitely respond to tone of voice and body language.

Be genuinely interested in our friends

If we don’t show an interest in our friends, they will probably notice. Be genuinely interested in their lives, hobbies, children…Everyone wants to feel their friends care about them, their loved ones, and what interests them.

Don’t betray trust and confidence

Don’t gossip. If a friend tells us something in confidence, keep it to ourselves. Obviously, if they do something illegal, immoral, or a danger to themselves or others… we might have to break their confidence.

… It takes years to build up trust, and just seconds to destroy it.”

– Author Unknown

Avoid being overbearing, overwhelming and dominating

These don’t make other people happy. An overload of any of these three and people might find us “all too much”, so avoid our company.

Laugh together

Laughter lifts our spirits and warms our souls. Sharing a laugh among friends can boost happiness and strengthen the bonds of friendship.

I think friends who share the same sense of humor and can make each other laugh are more likely to have a happier friendship compared to friends who have a different sense of humor and don’t laugh together.

Avoid being judgemental

Sometimes being judgemental can help friends avoid accidents, mistakes, and death. Other times being judgemental is unwise and unnecessary, and could cause resentment. How we word judgements and the tone of voice we use is important for the happiness of our friendships. Again, be tactful, thoughtful and considerate.

Practice anger management

A sure way to erode – possibly kill – a friendship is through poor anger management. No one wants to listen to temper tantrums, arguing and hostility…Have respectful disagreements. Read books, blog posts and articles on anger management, see a counselor, or go on an anger management course, if need be.

Be cautious about changing things about our friends

If we have the idea of being “Mr Fix It” with our friends’ quirks and annoying habits, we might find that after a while they’ll get tired of us trying to change them, and stop being our friend. Sure, some little things that annoy us might be able to be changed, and not cause resentment. Other things, however, might never change or aren’t worth changing, so there’s no point in trying.

Be loyal and supportive

Show our friends we care by being loyal and supportive. Help them through tough times. Give friends a call or visit them when they are ill. Listen to them if they need to talk to you.

… Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure.”

– Jewish saying

… Remember, the greatest gift is not found in a store nor under a tree, but in the hearts of true friends.”

– Cindy Lew

… Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”

– Author Unknown

written by Nyomi Graef

References:
Wolf Shenk, J, 2009, What Makes Us Happy?, The Atlantic,
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/06/what-makes-us-happy/307439/

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3 Responses to “20 tips for having happy friendships”

  1. please leave some more and helpful suggestns to felt me happy.

  2. Alexandra B says:

    Great article! Helped me for an english thesis. Thanks!

  3. Nyomi says:

    Hi Alexandra,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you like my article and you found it helpful.

    Best wishes,
    Nyomi

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