How to stop being a BAD friend: 10 things you need to do

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If you think you’re a bad friend, you probably have an idea what you’re doing to deserve that title.

If so, find ways to correct those behaviors.

Here are 10 things you can do to stop being a bad friend. It might cover some of the behaviors you are already aware of.

1. Put in the effort.

Friendships require effort. Close friendships require more effort than casual ones.

If you want to maintain a close friendship with someone, you must show willing.

Be the one to instigate contact sometimes.

Be the one to suggest meeting up, and then plan it out, sometimes.

Be the one to take on the mental and emotional load, sometimes.

Don’t be the only one to do these things. But do them enough so that your friends recognize your effort.

A good friendship is one in which effort is expended roughly equally.

2. Treat your friends as equals.

I assume your friends are human beings, right?

Then they are your equals.

They deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect as any other person.

What does this look like in a friendship?

It means each friend’s thoughts and opinions matter equally.

It means each friend’s preferences matter equally.

It means each friend’s feelings are equally as important.

Remember that and act as such.

This not only means making sure you don’t treat your friends as somehow inferior or less worthy, but also not treating them as superior or more worthy.

3. Treat your friends how THEY want to be treated.

There’s a common saying that goes something along the lines of, “Treat others how you would like to be treated.”

But this is wrong.

You should treat your friends how they would like to be treated.

You and they may have quite different preferences, tolerances, personalities.

As such, you may like to be treated in different ways.

For example, you might like sarcastic humor and people roasting you, but do your friends? If not, don’t do those things.

How do you know how they want to be treated?

Ask them!

It’s not complicated.

4. Be a friend in bad weather and fair weather.

You’ve probably heard of fair-weather friends.

You know, the type who disappears from the scene when things get “heavy” emotionally or practically speaking.

Perhaps you are one.

Well, to stop being a bad friend, you need to stop being a fair-weather friend.

Be there for your friends in the bad times as well as the good.

Yes, it might be difficult. You may not be comfortable with the turmoil and vulnerability on display.

But good friends are there for one another when dark clouds block out the sun.

5. Follow through.

Your word is your bond.

When you say something, treat those words as if they mean something.

And if those words are you saying you’ll do something or be somewhere, then do that thing or go to that place (and on time!)

It’s a matter of respect.

If you break your word and fail to follow through on commitments you have made, your friends will likely lose respect for you.

Why? Because you have shown such a lack of respect for them by flaking so often.

Don’t be that friend who everyone expects to break their promises and so doesn’t take their word seriously in the first place.

6. Respect your friend’s boundaries, enforce your own.

Friendships, like any type of relationship, work best when clear boundaries exist.

You need to know what your friends will and will not accept, and vice versa.

Did they tell you they were giving up alcohol? Then don’t try to pressure them into having a drink (or, worse still, buy them one without consulting them).

Does your friend have a red line when it comes to talking about mutual friends behind their back? Then don’t start those sorts of conversations.

Do you expect your friend to return the item they borrowed when they said they would and in good condition? Then express that clearly and be prepared to enforce consequences if they fail to meet that expectation.

Do you want them to knock before entering your room (if you live together)? Make that clear and let them know you’re not happy about it if they ignore your request.

Boundaries are healthy, assuming they are reasonable and realistic.

7. Make your friends feel like they matter.

Everyone wants to feel like they matter.

Your friends are no exception.

One way you can make your friends feel like they matter is to make them feel heard, understood, and validated.

Make them feel heard by truly listening to what they have to say.

Make them feel understood by asking clarifying questions and mirroring some of what they say back to them.

Make them feel validated by confirming to them that their thoughts and feelings about a particular thing are important and that it is okay for them to think and feel that way.

This combination will make them value you greatly as a friend.

8. Be constructively honest.

Honesty is always the best policy.

But the way you frame that honesty makes a difference to how your friends view you.

And that partly comes down to each friend’s preferences.

Some friends might like blunt honesty.

They may want you to tell them straight if they are making a questionable decision.

They may want your unfiltered truth if they ask your opinion about something.

But other friends may prefer a more diplomatic approach.

They may want you to give your feedback as constructive suggestions, while making it clear you support them whatever they choose to do.

Try to get to know how each of your friends likes to receive your honesty, then give it to them appropriately.

9. Be a cheerleader.

Are you more of a glass-half-empty kind of person?

Do you see the bad in every situation, the problems, the downsides?

If so, chances are you express this outlook with regard to your friends too.

But that’s only going to alienate you from your friends.

Instead, try to cheer them on, be enthusiastic about their goals, and express your desire to see them succeed.

Yes, use your constructive honesty like we just spoke about, but when in doubt, be the type of person who supports their friends and speaks positively about them.

That’s what good friends do.

10. Remain self-aware when interacting with your friends.

If you know the behaviors you exhibit that make you a bad friend, try to be aware of when those behaviors occur.

Be mindful of what you are saying, how you are saying it, and whether your actions match your words.

And try to judge how you are being received.

Are your friends sighing, rolling their eyes, or getting upset? That’s your cue to change tack.

Adjust your approach where necessary, but be sure not to compromise who you are to avoid ruffling feathers altogether.

If you have to silence part of your core self or go against your better judgment just to appease your friends, they probably shouldn’t be your friends.

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About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.