How to Build Better Friendships in 10 Simple Steps

How can I be a better friend? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Milena Rangelov, PhD Student & Blogger, on Quora:

1. Maintain your existing friendships.

There are many options nowadays: coffees, movies, texts, email, talks on the phone, Skype coffees (a lot of my friends are far away). In the hyper-connected world of today, there is absolutely no excuse for us not to communicate with our friends.

2. Use Facebook smarter.

The inertia on Facebook sometimes really drives me nuts. I see the posts with 65 likes and zero comments all the time. No one reads anything, no one is communicating, joking, connecting. People are scrolling their feed and liking random things, without too much thinking. Alternative: start writing more thoughtful comments. Send more direct messages. Share more useful, cool and inspiring stuff rather than selfies from the gym. Social networks are here to connect us, not to help us kill some time when we’re bored.

3. Be present.

When you are spending time with your friends, put your phone aside. Devote your full time and attention to the people you love. Listen to what they are saying. Ask them questions. Observe their emotions and reactions. Remember what they are saying. Be with them. Don’t just wait to tell your own story.

4. Start talking to people you would typically skip.

I think we all have those people. Classmates, coworkers, people who are hanging in the same cafe where you are hanging, many, many people that we are passing daily and we could make the contact with. Be bold. Start the conversation. It can be something simple and it doesn’t have to last long or have any purpose. You can simply compliment the one’s T-shirt (In complimenting you are affirming his or her taste for clothes, in this case. It also means that you like similar things. Thus, you two have something in common already.) Exchange a few sentences. That’s it. Break the ice. (The other person is just as nervous as you are.)

5. Take the initiative.

If something you want doesn’t exist, you have to create it. And it’s funny how small amount of effort we need to invest to make something happen. Organize a game night or afternoon. Invite your friends for a morning coffee in downtown. Movie night. Pie night. Potluck. Whatever. It’s not about the money, it’s just about good will. People are inert. But they love when something is going on and they love to be invited.

6. Be more generous.

Generosity doesn’t have to be about money. You can be generous with time, with devotion, with love, with energy. (See the idea #3.) There are so many small things you can help your friends with. I once made a phone call for my best friend that she was hesitant to make for months. It was something dumb, like to cancel a doctor appointment. Her mom was giving her hard time, saying that she has to do it herself and learn how to be responsible. I made a call for her and she was so happy. I don't know if I taught her a lesson but I made her life a bit easier and we never had similar situation again. Help people with their homework, clutter, help them free up their time, ask what they need help with. Something that comes easily to you might come hard to your friends. Offer what you do the best.

7. Reach out to people you haven’t talked to for ages.

We all do that, right? We forget our old friends or colleagues. We feel bad for not reaching out for a year. Then it feels awkward to reach out again. And we wait. And the longer we wait, the more awkward it gets. Then we give up, with the voice of guilt in the background.

James Altucher replies the last email from an old friend as if it’s the correspondence from yesterday, not from 6 years ago. He says that people always respond to those emails. I will give it a try.

8. Take more photos and browse through old photos.

You may think: “How can photos help you to become a better friend?” But photography is all about capturing the moments. A photo is always a good excuse to send someone a short, personal email or message that will make his or her day. Dig your archives. Find a photo that is 5 years old or more. Forward it to a friend as a reminder.

9. Accept more. Judge less. Focus on people’s qualities rather than flaws.

Your friends are imperfect human beings, just like you and me. Don’t expect one friend to go out with you, study with you, workout with you, socialize, be a good listener and reliable whenever you need him or her. It is practically impossible. Find all these qualities in different people. Focus on people’s virtues rather than flaws. See the good in people. Love them. Accept them where they are. Each one of us is fighting a battle you probably know nothing about. Let your judgmental thoughts pass through your mind like the clouds across the blue sky.

10. Become a day maker.

Day maker is the one that makes other people’s day. (Alex Franzen defined it HERE in a beautiful way.) Make your ultimate goal to ensure that the interaction with you was great, wonderful, pleasant, empowering (if not the best) part of someone’s day. Your kindness, optimism, and helpfulness definitely have the potential to make someone’s day. Be creative, give it a try.

Tom Rath said that the best way to spend an hour is to invest it in something that will grow. Friendship is one of these things. I hope these ideas will make you and your friends happier and more tightly connected.

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