Disclaimer: The author’s current friends are awesome. Some of them have been around for a very long time. This article is based on thirty years of extensive social research into situations where one might need better friends.
Warning: Reading this guide may make you want to be a better friend.
Sign 1: Being with them makes you feel worse about yourself.
It’s quite simple, and all the other signs really just feed back this one – your friends should make you feel good! Every person that you choose to include in your life should enhance it. Anyone who makes you feel insignificant, ashamed, ignored or undermined doesn’t deserve you. You’re pretty cool. Probably. I don’t know you but you’re here so you’re probably pretty cool.
A bad friend would: Try and get one up on you and find ways to point out how her life is better than yours.
A better friend would: Know how to make you feel good about yourself and take every opportunity to do so.
Sign 2: They don’t acknowledge your problems.
Case in point: “Earshot“ – A wise woman called Buffy (okay, technically it was Jane Espenson who wrote the episode), once said that “every single person… is ignoring your pain because they’re too busy with their own.” This is incredibly good advice which helped me through many a lonely day.
Whilst it’s pretty important that friends notice when you are troubled, sometimes they don’t because they have their own stuff going on, and that’s okay. What’s most important is that you feel you can share your troubles and that they’ll want to help. The sign of a true friendship is that it’s still okay to share – and then work out a way to make both of your lives better, together.
You shouldn’t ever feel ashamed of what makes you feel bad. Yes, it may be a first world problem or it may be that others around you have more serious problems – but if it is making you feel sad or stressed then it’s worth addressing.
A bad friend would: Listen but then dismiss your problem/not ask you about it later because it’s not as bad as their own.
A better friend would: Listen, then help as much as they can, and check back with you to see if you’re feeling better.
Sign 3: They forget your birthday.
You realise they didn’t exactly forget your birthday – they just made no effort to remember it in the first place. Sigh.
A bad friend would: Apologise that they forgot your birthday.
A better friend would: Not only remember your birthday, but go out of their ways to make sure it’s special.
Sign 4: They don’t fit your budget.
Case in point: “The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant“.
Some friends like to do their social stuff ‘out’. Dinners, drinks, coffees, the movies – whenever you see them, you’re spending money. But what if your budget is more home-cooked meal than fancy restaurant? What if you just can’t afford the nights out any more, but don’t want to miss out on your friends?
Most friends will listen to budget concerns and do their best to fit plans around it, even when there’s a group involved. I once told two “good” friends that I could not go to the expensive Italian place for dinner with them but offered to cook for them instead – they decided to still go to the expensive Italian over having my company. That was odd, and somewhat unsettling. Why not come for dinner on that night and go to the Italian another time when I wasn’t around?
Luckily, a new friend with a similar budget to me just happened to come along around the same time – we grew close really quickly, bonding over quality time together at home over a bottle of supermarket wine instead of going on big group nights out. Now we have (slightly) more disposable income and can do more going out activities – but the closeness remains, and we still keep up our regular ‘tea and TV’ nights.
A bad friend would: Carry on with their expensive social life – without you.
A better friend would: Want to see you regardless – it’s about the people, not the place.
Sign 5: They continually cancel.
Stuff comes up, it happens. You feel ill, you feel tired, you double-book. Sometimes you just have to cancel an arrangement with a friend.
So, why do some friends do it all the time? Why do they call to say they have double-booked their evening an hour before it was due to kick off, after screening your calls all day? You realise they’ve known for ages that they needed to cancel but that they hadn’t the guts to tell you.
A bad friend would: Cancel on you, regularly and when it’s too late to make other plans.
A better friend would: Cancel every now and then, when life happens.
Sign 6: They won’t lend you their clothes.
It’s crucial that friends lend each other clothes. End of sign 6.
So, what happens next?
Well, that’s up to you. Losing a friend is tough, but it happens. These tips for surviving a best friend break-up are a good start.
Featured image via Shutterstock