Having relationships and making friends is part of life. Everyone does it. Having said that, some of us are better at doing it than others. If you’ve found yourself having a hard time making supportive friends, it’s time to take a deep look into yourself and figure out why. After all, the biggest part of our lives is spent with our friends and family and these relationships are what make us who we are.
* Be a Friend to Have a Friend – Building supportive relationships takes a lot of time and effort. If you expect people to be supportive of you when you need it then it’s very important for you to do the same for them. The “Golden Rule” is a very good rule to follow when it comes to friendships and supportive relationships.
* Be Who You Are from Day One – Differences are the spice of life, so never try to be someone you’re not just to have certain friends or to attract a certain person into your life. The fact is, people rarely change, and you can’t keep it up. The more you trust others to be themselves, the more they’ll trust you to do the same.
* Respect Others for Who They Are – By contrast, it’s imperative to be very accepting of other people’s differences too. It doesn’t mean you have accept illegal behavior, but you should be willing to accept some minor moral differences or things that are superficial differences, like skin color or whether or not they choose to do something different with their hair.
* Avoid Taking Responsibility for Others – There is a fine line between support and enabling behavior. When a friend has to suffer the consequences of their erroneous actions, you do not have to take any type of responsibility for your actions to be supportive. You can be supportive even when visiting someone in jail.
* Believe in Your Friends to Be Better – Sometimes part of being a supportive person and a good friend is to want more for them than they do. If, for example, one of your friends is in an abusive relationship, don’t stand by and support that idea. Do demand that they get help and get out of that situation.
* Learn How to Listen Effectively – We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should all seek to listen twice as much as we talk. But, there is a difference between just sitting there silently as opposed to truly listening. Try repeating back to people what you think they said in your own words until you get it right.
* True Friendships are 100/100 – No one is keeping score in a real friendship that offers support, so that is why they are 100/100 instead of 50/50. If you’re focused on providing 100 percent of yourself, you will not be focused on resentments and misunderstandings.
* Spend Real Time with Your Friends – When you foster a friendship and a real relationship with someone, spend real time with them that counts. Most people don’t need that much time. Sometimes it’s just ten minutes on the phone, other times it’s meeting for coffee. Another time it might be bringing the double chocolate chip ice-cream and the movie Terms of Endearment with a box of tissues.
* Learn to Accept Criticism (and Give It) – True supportive relationships aren’t always completely positive. Sometimes friends need someone to be willing to call them on their antics. Truly supportive people can do that for each other and allow it to be done for them.
* Ask for What You Need – Some relationships can seem one-sided at times, which is why it’s important to learn how to draw boundaries and ask for what you need. If you ask people for what you need and they don’t, can’t or won’t provide it, it might be time to move on.
Developing real support systems requires a lot of work, but it will pay off when you truly need the support. By setting the standard of what you expect in a relationship, you will be a good example to your friends and family of the type of support network that you need.