An anonymous writer put it this way: “Friends in your life are like pillars on your porch. Sometimes they hold you up and sometimes they lean on you. Sometimes it’s just enough to know they’re standing by.” Writer Elisabeth Foley points out that friendship doubles your joy and divides your grief, and that the most beautiful discovery that true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.
Easily the most important place to have a friend is in marriage. For that reason, marriage counselors continually advise husbands and wives to be friends, pointing out that you may divorce your spouse, but you don’t divorce your friend.
Friendship stabilizes relationships in the business and social worlds as well. A friendship is priceless and should be cherished, cultivated, and nurtured.
Remembering the golden rule
Without a doubt, the greatest human relations principle is to treat other people like you want to be treated. Friendship requires many qualities — unselfishness, genuine care for the other person, and the ability to listen when the other person needs to talk, to name a few. When you show respect for your friends and gratitude for their friendship, you’ll be blessed in untold ways.
Sometimes just being there — particularly in times of grief — can make a difference. Not knowing what to say doesn’t matter; your presence speaks volumes and says everything that needs to be said. People need to share their grief and love to share their joy. If friends were there only for those two occasions, they would still be invaluable.
Although the way you treat others affects the way they treat you, the way another person treats you shouldn’t determine the way you treat that person. Respond to rude behavior with the utmost kindness. You can’t know what has gone on in the rude person’s life that day, but you can assume that his or her day hasn’t gone well. Maybe a loved one lost his job, her boss reprimanded her unjustly, he’s coming down with the flu, or she just found out that her teenager is doing drugs. Whatever the cause of the rudeness, you don’t have to accentuate the problem. A kind word or a gentle, understanding smile may help the person more than returned rudeness would. When people are rude and ugly to you, they’re probably hurting; they aren’t looking to hurt you.
Giving more, getting more
Here’s a story that communicates a great message about friendship.
A city man bought a farm. When he went out to look at the line fence, which had been the source of much quarreling for the previous owner, the neighboring farmer said, “That fence is a full foot over on my side.” “Very well,” said the new owner, “we will set the fence two feet over on my side.” “Oh, but that’s more than I claim,” stammered the surprised farmer. “Never mind about that. I would much rather have peace with my neighbor than two feet of earth,” said the man. “That’s surely fine of you, sir,” replied the farmer, “but I couldn’t let you do a thing like that. That fence just won’t be moved at all.”
Most people seldom think through each situation completely and consider the other person’s point of view. If you take the time and effort to do this, you’ll end up with more friends.
Considering foes as friends
A friend looks after your own good, is attached to you by affection, and entertains other sentiments of esteem. On the other hand, a foe is someone who isn’t interested in your well-being.
Yet some students view their teachers as enemies. However, a student’s success in school partly depends on the teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom. Instead of being an enemy, a teacher who corrects you and helps you to achieve can be the best friend you ever had.
When you receive criticism, in many cases the critic turns out to be more of a friend than a person who praises, because the criticism prompts you to improve. If you properly evaluate each piece of criticism you receive, odds are that you realize that those people really are friends. This kind of thinking, along with a little attitude adjustment, helps you to convert foes to friends, and both of you are better off.
Making friends by being an optimist
Do you enjoy being around a pessimist, someone who is generally described as being able to brighten up a room just by leaving it? The answer is obvious. Most people prefer to be around people who believe that tomorrow is going to be better than today, rather than people who believe that today is even worse than yesterday.
Optimists spread cheer wherever they go and make others feel good about themselves. That’s a guaranteed way to make friends.
Capturing the pleasing personality
Virtually every time you say that so-and-so has “charisma,” you’re really talking about so-and-so’s great personality. When he walks into a room, he has a presence — not just looks — that attracts attention from people around him. Or when she’s in a crowd, you soon hear a soft buzz coming from the area where she is.
How do you develop a pleasing personality? Here are some steps you can take:
- Smile when you see someone. You don’t have to give a wide grin — just a pleasant, friendly smile.
- Speak in a pleasant, upbeat tone of voice. Talk to people as if they are good friends, even if they don’t really fall into that category yet.
- Take a course in public speaking. The ability to express yourself attracts favorable attention from many sources.
- Develop a sense of humor. Pick up a couple of joke books. This makes you a little more outgoing and friendly. When you combine that quality with the ability to express yourself before a group, your confidence grows.
Don’t criticize unjustly
Linus (of Peanuts fame) appeared with his security blanket in tow and asked Lucy, “Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?” Lucy’s response: “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.” Exasperated with that answer, Linus threw up his hands and asked, “What about your own faults?” Lucy didn’t hesitate: “I have a knack for overlooking them.”
Instead of being eager to dish out criticism all the time, take the humane, sensible approach. Look for the good in other people. Encourage them. Build them up.
Be a good-finder, not a fault-finder.