Are you a friend indeed?
In the age of facebook and Twitter, it's easy to spend more time online chatting to 'acquaintances' than speaking to real friends.
And when you do find the time to drop them a line, are you being a good friend? Psychologist Dr Cecilia d’Felice, resident relationship expert for Match.com, knows about patching up awkward situations and appeared on UK TV show ‘Best Friend Rehab’. Here’s some tips from Dr Cecilia to help you be the sort of pal you would want in your corner:
You may be constantly rushed off your feet and find it very hard to stay in touch but that’s no longer a good excuse says Dr Cecilia.
“In this day of advanced technology, there are few excuses for not being a good friend - a simple text message offering support takes no time to send but makes all the difference to the person receiving it,” she says. “However busy we are, we can type an email, send a text, or message someone on facebook and let them know we’re thinking of them.
“We’re living busy, stressful lives but we can still be there for each other in simple ways. If you plan to see friends, don’t let them down. Make the effort, but always be realistic about what you can manage when you make plans. The more honest we are, the more our friendships survive and thrive. It’s when we lie, let people down, or make them feel like they don’t count that friendships wither and die.”
Are you sort that blabs after your friend has spoken to you in confidence? You can make amends if you act fast says Dr Cecilia. “First clear up your mess. Acknowledge what you’ve done was very wrong and apologise sincerely. If you have an insight as to why you betrayed their confidence, offer it up. It may be that there’s something going on in your friendship that means neither of you have trusted each other from the start, so clear that up then promise not to do it again and ask for their patience so they can see you’re a changed person.
“Finally, offer your friend all the things you want in a friendship - loyalty, kindness, thoughtfulness and support. Remember, we’re all allowed to make mistakes - just don’t keep repeating them!”
Giving good advice
Dishing out advice is not an exact science and can sometimes cause more harm than good, explains Dr Cecilia.
“We often feel we’ve to fix our friends’ problems. In reality, most of the time they already know what they need to do and just need someone to listen to them as they work it out. So when in doubt, don’t offer advice; offer understanding and support instead,” she says.
“If they do want your advice, remember what’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for them. To help them arrive at the best solution, ask open-ended questions such as ‘what do you think?’, ‘how do you feel?’ and ‘what is your preferred outcome?’
“They can then arrive at the right solution for themselves. Make it clear they need to make their own choices and take responsibility for themselves. By doing this you will be helping, not hindering them.”
High and not so mighty
You may hate to say ‘I told you so’ - so don’t.
“When you’ve been able to foresee an outcome a friend was blinded to, it’s easy to feel smug but the reason you were able to see it so clearly is because you were able to be objective, which is much harder when you’re caught up in the middle of something. So instead of saying ‘I told you so’, just remember all the times that you were unable to be objective about your own issues.
“Remind your friend we’re all human, we all make mistakes and it is really hard to be objective when the chips are down.”
“Good communication is a skill that involves 30 per cent speaking and 70 per cent listening. That’s why we have two ears and only one mouth. Whatever’s bubbling up inside you when your friend is pouring her heart out to you, bite your lip and wait until she’s finished.
“Every now and then say soothing statements such as ‘I understand’, ‘yes’ or ‘oh goodness’ to release internal pressure. That way you’re showing that you’re listening without taking over. When she’s finished, ask if she’d like your thoughts or whether she just needed someone to listen to her. Often we just need someone to let off steam to!”