Teens are often told it’s important to choose good friends, and it is. But it’s equally important to be a good friend. Being a good friend is hard work and requires maturity and wisdom. Mastering the art of friendship, though, can bring you a
lot of happiness and help you prepare for marriage and adulthood.
Being a good friend starts with being unselfish and thoughtful. It’s natural for teens to focus on themselves while they’re working out the challenges of becoming adults, but staying focused on yourself all the time isn’t healthy and makes it really hard to have good relationships.
To find out if you’re too unfocused on others, make a list of your friends. Write down as many things about them as you can, including what they’re worried about or celebrating right now. If you don’t know much about them, and if you don’t know what their special concerns or joys are, you may not be focusing enough on others.
To learn more about your friends and improve your ability to be a good friend, spend more time listening and asking questions. Often when people talk, they think about what they’re going to say next instead of really listening. Let your next comment come naturally from what your friend says, which means you’ll need to listen to her words and also watch her body language. If she mentions staying up too late to study for a test, try to find out why she needed to do that. Is she having trouble with the class? Is that something you can help with? If she says she’s fine when you ask, but her voice sounds unenthusiastic, wonder if maybe there is something she’s not saying. She may choose not to share, but by paying attention, you’ll still be able to figure out if she can benefit from more time with you, or just more opportunity to talk.
Think about ways you can serve your friends. You don’t need to buy expensive gifts or do elaborate services. People often remember the little kindnesses even more than the big ones. One teen, even long after she was grown up, always remembered when one of her friends chose her first for a sports team, even though she was the worst athlete in gym class. Having always stood there unwanted when team leaders chose their teams, this was a kindness that mattered to her. It was a small service and one that cost nothing but a little jeering from other people, but it mattered.
Simple services might include sending a thank you card for no special reason, complimenting her to others (which she may well hear about), sharing your dessert at lunch, bringing her a cute pencil for math class because it made you think of her, or dropping everything to listen. These things show your friends you care about them and are thinking about them, even when you aren’t together. People like to be remembered.
Be encouraging when your friend is discouraged. She can think of all the bad stuff herself when she’s worried, so it may be your job to think of the bright side. Save your criticisms—it’s likely she already knows what’s wrong with her. Instead, show her what’s right about her. Put your friends’ needs first, and you are likely to find your friends will begin to return the favor.