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Eight Ways to Be a Better Friend
by Susie Michelle Cortright

Being a friend isn't just something that we do. It's a skill that we can learn and improve upon. Here, eight ways to be a better friend.

Number One: Like yourself
The first step in having a good relationship with a friend is to have a good relationship with yourself. When we genuinely like ourselves, we become more attractive to other people. We have more to offer others because we are not constantly focused on our own image and reputation.

We become better friends because we don't cling. We are secure enough to spend time with a friend because we want to, not because we need to.

And relax--the journey to self-acceptance is life long. Practice it in small steps along the way.

Number Two: Choose wisely
Relationships among true friends take a steady dose of time and energy--two resources in limited supply for all of us. Identify the friends with whom you wish to create a closer bond. It's perfectly okay if not all of your acquaintances make the list. The closeness of your connections is far more important than the length of your guest lists.

Number Three: Make the time
Friends are important in many ways--so much so that these relationships often take on a life of their own. You owe it to yourself (and to your friends) to make these relationships a priority. Carve out some quality time for one another.

Number Four: Make the first move
This is where I have trouble, and I know I'm not alone. If you want to improve your relationships, put your fear of rejection aside and start taking more risks. Invite your friends to lunch. Organize a new playgroup. Invite them over for dinner.

Too often, we fail to follow up with our friends. Don't miss out - just make the first phone call. Your friends are just as anxious to get together as you are.

Number Five: The Golden Rule
Treat your friends as you wish to be treated. Stated another way: "To have a friend, be a friend."

Focus more on being interested than on being interesting. Be enthusiastic and energetic. Avoid complaining, gossiping, and criticizing.

Number Six: Sweat the Small Stuff
Make your friends feel significant by remembering small kindnesses. Notice her new haircut. Remember to ask about her mother-in-law's surgery. Send flowers or a simple email when you know she needs it most.

Number Seven: Listen
Good listeners are hard to find, and honing your skills can be a long-term project.

A few tips:
* Slow down. Try not to finish your friend's sentences. If you catch yourself planning your response while your friend is still talking, gently remind yourself to focus on the speaker.

* Show her you are listening. Maintain eye contact. Offer nods and murmurs that indicate you understand her point of view.

* Minimize distractions.

* Ask questions.

* Be careful with advice. Assume your friend wants to just vent her frustrations, not ask you for a plan of action. Avoid the phrase, "what you ought to do is..." Offer your opinion only if your friend specifically asks for it (and you believe she will benefit).

Number Eight: Be loyal
We all need someone in our corner. If your friend isn't there to defend herself against gossip or criticism, speak up, and know she would do the same for you.

Copyright 2000 by Susie Michelle Cortright

Susie is the founder and publisher of Momscape, an online magazine devoted to nurturing the nurturers. Read inspiring articles and essays, and register to win free pampering packages. http://www.momscape.com

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