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3 Ways To Be A Better Friend

3 Ways to Be a Better Friend

Last weekend, I went to Maryland with my friend Tam to support her as she spoke at the Whole Women Weekend Conference. When Tam posted about this on her Instagram account, comments popped up about what a wonderful and caring friend I was.

As I read the sweet and kind comments from Tam’s followers, I kept thinking in the back up my mind, “But that’s just what friends do…”

We support each other. We have each others’ backs. We rearrange our schedules for each other. Tam has done this time and time again for me and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to get to be on the cheering lines for her this time!

The past few days, I’ve been reflecting on friendship and how this is an area I’ve learned a lot about and grown in during the past five years. And I’ve been thinking about what a blessing it is that I now have these kinds of relationships — the deep, authentic friendships that I craved and prayed for for so long.

As I’ve shared here before, for many years, I craved authentic and meaningful friendships with other women but struggled to develop anything other than more surface-y relationships.

As time went on and I so longed for close friendships and it seemed like not many were happening, I began wondered if something was wrong with me, if I just wasn’t connecting with the right people, or in the right circles.

3 Ways to Be a Better Friend

It took me a long time to realize that these types of relationships are out there, but you have to look for them and work at them. They don’t just happen; they have to be cultivated.

You have to be willing to open up, to make sacrifices, to go deep, to rearrange your schedule, to be vulnerable, and to keep reaching out. After years of praying for safe friendships and learning many lessons along the way, I’m so humbly grateful for the rich gifts of deep friendships in my life that I have with a number of beautiful women.

These relationships didn’t just happen; they were cultivated, developed, and nurtured. I’m a work in progress when it comes to relationships, but I’ve grown and learned a lot in the last few years.

And because so many women have come to me in recent months sharing how lonely they are and how much they wish they could develop deeper relationships, I wanted to share three ways I’m learning to be a better friend.

{These are simple things and I’m barely scratching the surface when it comes to relationship-building in this post, but I hope that these might inspire you to think of ways to further develop relationships with women in your own life and circles!}

1. Show Up.

Sometimes it means sacrifice or rearranging schedules. Other times it may even mean getting less sleep. It might mean setting aside life for an hour or an afternoon to show up: to be with a friend, to call a friend, to drop everything to go sit with a friend who is struggling and just listen.

When you make a commitment to show up, that’s when friendships blossom. With Tam, we have a commitment to see each other every Monday evening. No matter what is going on in our lives, unless we are out of town or sick or some other something that can’t be changed, we show up at the same time every week as families to just be together. As a result, our friendship has flourished.

3 Ways to Be a Better Friend

Showing up doesn’t necessarily just mean being together in person. It could be showing up by texting a friend to ask how she’s doing. It could be sending a card. It could be making a phone call. It could be sending a gift. It could be an offer to help. It could be dropping something on someone’s front porch.

It will look different in different situations. But in every case, it will mean us being willing to open up ourselves — our time, our schedule, our gifts, our hearts — to show someone that we care about them.

2. Go First With Vulnerability.

Be the first to say “what’s going on in your life?” and to share authentically. Sometimes we are fearful of opening up and letting others into the deep, raw, vulnerable places of our hearts and souls.

When you choose to go first with vulnerability, it makes the other person feel comfortable to do the same as a natural response.

Bravery and honesty in relationships are what breeds depth. When we say, “This hurts.” Or, “This is hard.” Or, “I’m struggling.” Or, “Will you forgive me?”

3 Ways to Be a Better Friend

3. Ask Great Questions and Then Listen.

My mom taught me this. She is the most amazing “question asker” in existence. She can have a conversation with pretty much anyone for hours because she knows how to ask great questions.

When you ask questions, it opens up the door for people to share with you because it shows you’re interested. And the most important part is to listen after you ask the question. Wait for a response, and ask a follow-up question.

One thing I like to ask people when I meet them but know very little about them is to say, “Tell me about yourself.” It’s an open-ended question that usually provides enough springboard for me to ask follow-up questions and then really get to know someone.

If you struggle to know how to crack the door into deeper relationships, a few starter questions could be things like: “How are you really doing?”, “What are you excited about right now?” “What is the hardest thing going on in your life?” or “What are you learning right now?” or “How can I pray for you?”

These questions are so much better than just saying “How was your day?” These kinds of questions give you a peek into someone’s heart and pave the way for closer, authentic friendships.

How do you invest in your friendships? What suggestions or tips do you have for ways to be a better friend? Tell us in the comments.

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33 Comments

  • Laure says:

    I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for all you do.

    Your post today reminds me of how blessed I have been my entire life to have great girl friends. I often don’t count that as a blessing, since I’ve always been blessed that way — despite moves, and other changes — so thank you for the great reminder.

    In reading the start of your entry, I also thought “wow, great friend” because for me, flying anywhere to support a friend right now would mean taking on credit card debt. When I saw your comment of “that’s just what friends do”, I thought deeper, and am guessing maybe you have frequent flier miles from all your business travel? Or, maybe your finances are just much better than mine, and you can afford to spend such $.

    I would indeed take on credit card debt to travel for a friend if she really *needed* it, but if it wasn’t a desperate need, no friend would let me take on debt just because it would be *helpful* to have a friendly face in the crowd, nor would I allow a friend to take on new debt for that reason. Rather, I’d suggest anyone could be available for an encouraging call beforehand and a wrap-up/decompress call afterward, if desired.

    • Great question… and I should clarify that my comment about being there with my friend wasn’t so much about flying to be there with her but about rearranging my schedule to be a supportive friend. That doesn’t necessarily mean flying or driving somewhere as a friend, but it means making sacrifices to be available to someone and show your support to someone in whatever capacity you’re able to do so.

      I so am with you on not taking on credit card debt so please know that’s not what I’m advocating! What I am encouraging is for people to look for ways to reach out and give in a way that costs them something (not necessarily financially, but personally) in order to invest in someone else.

      {And just to further clarify: because I travel so often for business and also have founds lots of creative ways to cut costs on travel, we pay very, very little out of pocket for our personal travel expenses!}

      • Jeanine says:

        So, what are your creative ways to cut costs on travel? We travel frequently to the East Coast (From the Midwest) to see family, and I would love to hear about this!

  • Davonne says:

    Great post! I love the questions at the end. Each evening, my husband and I ask our children what their favorite part of the day was, but I think it’s time to change things up and ask them some of the questions you mentioned in point #3.

    I also think that part of being a good friend is understanding when a friend is truly too busy or overwhelmed to rearrange her schedule for a season. I’m currently working 50hrs a week (just for a short 8-month season at my husband’s office), and I’m shouldering the homeschool & housekeeping load since he works more hours than I do. This is a season where nurturing friendships would take away what little time is left for my family. Friends who are understanding and supportive of this without judging how God is leading us are such a blessing!

    • YES! This is so true! And that’s the mark of a true friend — that they love you even through those weeks when you don’t have much (or anything!) to invest other than an occasional text message or something else short and sweet.

  • Rhonda says:

    When you talk about showing up, I immediately think of my dear friend who sat through chemo with me. For every appointment she showed up on her lunch hour talking when I felt like it, praying over me as I slept, simply walking thru the journey with me. As I sat there half asleep, throwing up, generally feeling lousy, she was simply there…and after many weeks, I remember a special card of encouragement in which she simply said “hang in there WE only have a few more weeks to go. ” It was a time in my life when nobody could really fix my problems but the friends God placed in my life gathered around me and carried me through the journey with their loving presence and simple acts of kindness. I will forever be grateful!!

  • Melinda says:

    I love reading your blog. Thank you for being so open and real. This post right now is hard for me. I am older than most of you all. A grandmother and a mom with one daughter still at home. In the last 6 years or so friends have out of the blue blind sided me and another friended someone on Fakebook that would really hurt me and I found out by accident and when I confronted them about all they could say is I was going to tell you. Right now I really can’t say I have any close friends. I am in a very busy season and don’t have the time. The biggest obstacle is the thought of being so totally hurt and struck down again. I am praying for friends and people do tell me how sweet and thoughtful I am, but nothing never seems to happen. Everyone seems so exclusive now they have lots of friends and no room for more. We attend a small church but don’t seem to have anything in common with most of them. We live with in our means, keep the grandsons, have a small farm where we raise most of what we eat and hubby has his own business. Because we don’t live like the world does, friends just aren’t around. Sorry guess I needed to vent. Any suggestions?

    • Dawn says:

      To me, it sounds like you need to try something new. Maybe take some time to remember hobbies and talents you put aside and find a way to practice them again: book club, quilting group, visit a new coffee shop when there’s live music. Put yourself out there and be open to meeting new people. Forgive those who hurt you and try to move on, creating something new.

  • Emily says:

    Your words about creating authentic friendships really struck a cord with me. A close friend was recently going through a tough time adjusting to being a new mom. I followed up with her by sending emails and texts throughout several weeks asking how she was doing and just letting her know that I was thinking about her. She recently wrote me a beautiful card saying how much that meant to her, which really touched my heart. It’s wonderful that there are little ways to support one another that make a big difference! It’s also encouraging to hear you’ve made a lot of these friendships as an adult; I think it gets harder and harder to meet new friends as an adult without school or other unifying factors. It would be wonderful to do a reader meet up for developing friendships!

  • As a natural introvert, sometimes I struggle to come up with the right questions, even when I’m with my best friends! One of the habits I’ve started is to think about them before we meet and really consider what I’d like to ask them. There are always questions about their children, hobbies, plans that they mentioned last time we met, updates on their family members, etc…I just have to be intentional and make sure they are fresh in my mind when we meet.

  • Annie says:

    I thought of you this morning, Crystal, as I texted a friend whose husband is laid off, but has an interview for a great job at a different company. This opportunity is closer to home, a promotion, and a higher pay grade. I sent her a text, letting her know that they were in my prayers this morning. A simple thing, I know. But, it’s huge for me. I tend to be an all or nothing, go big or go home, paralyzed by perfection kind of person. Normally, sending a quick text wouldn’t be enough… I’d need to call, send a longer email, something …”more”. But, today, on a busy morning of getting the kids off to school for both of us (I have 2, she has 4), the text was enough. She’s knows how much “more” is behind the few words I sent, and I feel so much better knowing that I shared my hope with her. Thanks for always reminding me that in friendships (and, life general), the little things matter just as much as the big ones, sometimes more.

  • Lately I have been learning how to be a friend to someone when they are far away. A very dear friend of mine recently moved away. We had worked together and gone to church together for the past five years, so it was a huge blow to me. I am very thankful for phone calls, texts, and Skype–but they do take a real commitment. It is so much easier just to assume that you’ll see someone through the natural course of the day. When you have to go out of your way to talk with someone, it can be easy to let a friendship slide. It all comes down to priorities.

  • Laura says:

    I love these tips and the scope you did about it, Crystal!

    Asking good questions is so key – that’s how to get to know the heart of those we’re friends with or wanting to befriend.

    Simple, but I try to be the kind of friend I would want. I know how much it means to me when someone thinks of me when I’m under the weather and makes a meal so I can rest and don’t have to cook. So I try to do things like that for friends, as well.

    Whatever you’d love to see a friend do for you, do for them. For me, this means texting throughout the week and asking how they’re doing, letting them know I’m praying for them and setting up times to get together.

  • Victoria says:

    Great tips! My favorite advice to give on friendship building is for people to stop thinking that “friend time” needs to be some special event. Most of us in our busy lives have limited time for special events but we have plenty of mundane moments that can be made special when we invite friends along. For instance we all need groceries, invite a friend to go and grab them with you. Hit the Starbucks drive-thru before you begin and turn grocery shopping time into friend time. I once spent half a day running errands with a friend for something that came up last minute on a day we were going to grab coffee together, she kept saying “I am so sorry” but honestly I had the best time chatting with her as we drove and sipped coffee. We laughed so hard that day over silly things we found errand running…it turned mundane into memories.

  • Kariane says:

    Yes! These things are so true. Being a friend means caring for and loving your friends. This takes time, it takes sacrifice, but it’s also wonderfully beautiful and amazing. The effort you put out is more than worth the wonderful love and bond that forms. It’s good to know there’s someone (or a couple people, though I don’t think true friends are ever super numerous!) in the world who has your back.

  • Guest says:

    Great post and I agree with everything you wrote. I would post a different suggestion for how to “get better friends” and that is to essentially let go of those people who aren’t being good friends to you so you have time to find those who will be. I have spent many (too many) years trying to be a great friend to people who in retrospect were not invested. I was spending so much time and energy on those relationships and yet feeling so lonely because it wasn’t being reciprocated. I didn’t “cut off” anyone but let those relationships wither on their own. It was very telling how quickly they faded away because I was no longer doing the bulk of the work. BUT, it freed up my time and energy to find new friends that really are GOOD friends.

    So for those who are struggling with the finding part, maybe you need to let go so you can find those people who are supposed to be in your life.

  • Priscilla says:

    I like how the pastor at my church says ‘What’s your story?” That’s good way to begin a conversation.

  • Jennifer T says:

    I’m blessed to be able to say that I have those friends. For the longest time, before we lived where we are now, I didn’t. And the former was the town where I grew up!

    There are 5 of us that do our best to get together on Monday mornings for coffee. We started out as acquaintances who wanted to share a Bible study. That time wove an amazing connection of friendships for all of us. Now our kids and husbands are all friends. We have huge family cookouts and play dates. These ladies are such a precious gift.

    Friendship, like marriage, is a give and take. It’s support, listening, laughing, crying and just being. If we can say that we have that genuine connection with even one person, we are richly blessed.

    Thank you for sharing (again!)
    Jennifer

  • Jen says:

    Crystal,
    I have struggled with this for several years. But I have not asked myself what kind of friend I AM. Instead it was what kind of friend “they” were. I believe God moved through you in order to get my attention! For that I thank you and I am grateful in realizing that I, personally, need to be a better friend. 🙂

  • Gena Ferguson says:

    Thank you for this blog. I’m also struggling with friendships and feel I don’t have any close ones that are for me. As a stay at home mum to two wonderful daughters I have met loads of mums through play dates, etc. everything is focused around our children and all talk is about how our children are and that is the focus. I am a very outgoing person but am hurting on the inside right now. I really miss my friends from my teens. I’ve never been able to cultivate any true friendships you mention as an adult. I have lived in England for thirteen years now and feel most of the issue is because of a culture difference, I just feel hurt and think no one really likes me, but likes my girls. This is good food for my soul and I will pray for opportunities to cultivate friendships. I have also learned I have sometimes sacrificed my friendship with my husband to work at unfulfilled friendships with others. It’s like finding ways to cultivate friendships with a few instead of too many.

  • Becky says:

    This was a great post! My biggest struggle is the asking questions part that aren’t just surface-y. It’s something I’m still learning. Can you offer any more examples of some good questions?

  • Lindsey says:

    I have been blessed with several, long term close friendships. My best friend and I met over 25 years ago when we were 8 years old. I agree with everything you wrote! Showing up is so important. When my best friend’s husband went to rehab and she had to take a paper route to support her children, I made several 5 hours trips just to help her with the paper route. When another friend’s husband had an affair- I left an important meeting to be with her. And they have done the same for me. Also, when you act like you have it all together, people don’t feel like it’s safe to share their issues with you- so be transparent!

  • Karen says:

    I think you could write a whole book on this topic! It is so hard to find close friends, but it starts with being a true friend. Thank you so much for your reminders and encouragement.

  • Elizabeth Kamm says:

    Hey Crystal- There is something that has been on my heart since you have been posting about friendships & being authentic. I remember us being friends years ago in Kansas City and I truly was authentic and enjoyed very much so being around you and your family. I remember sitting in your kitchen when you told me about your idea to start Money Saving Mom, and oh the yard sale! But I have to be completely honest, I cringe a bit when you say you never felt like you had real authentic relationships until now. I honestly did my best as a friend, even though I am sure you remember that was a very rough time for both of us as young moms. I am so happy you have found friendship and community in Nashville. I know life took us different places but I treasure those days.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I look back on those Kansas City days and wish that I had known how to be a better friend.

      As I mentioned in the post, I realize now that reason I didn’t have very many friendships for years of my life was because I was scared to be more authentic — scared that if I showed my true self and all my struggles and short-comings, no one would like me. I wish I hadn’t lived with so much insecurity for so long, because it held me back so much in my relationships.

      You were such a gift to me during that hard season… I just wish I would have been a better friend. Please forgive me for that and for how I lived under lies that I wasn’t good enough and let that hold me back in relationships!

  • Bonita says:

    Thanks for your article you guys please pray for me.. I am in a new state with my hubbie and 4 kids miss all og my old friends ..very lonely,.. .trying to reach out..praying for great relationships we have been here a yr in tx..moved from Massachusetts…

  • Lorelei says:

    It’s been a confusing season for me with friendships. Life seems too complicated for others that they’re not as willing to involve in deep friendships. Not having anybody nearby that I could consider as a soul sister, or even a best-friend really cripples me in some ways. I just accept whatever friends nearby have to offer now. If “crumbs” are what they give, I’d just have to contend with it. I miss being needed as a friend. I miss being mutually close and loyal to a friend.
    I have no problem with vulnerability because I don’t know how else to connect with others than being myself.
    Maybe God’s favor isn’t on me with this. My heart aches when I read blogs about friendships.

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