It’s easy to be there for friends and family members during the Big Life Events, like weddings, milestone birthdays, or a new job. These are big-ticket happenings that don’t take too much effort on our part, that allow us to show our appreciation for our friends simply by showing up.
While those moments can certainly be meaningful, it’s all of the small, seemingly insignificant moments – the maintenance – that build your rock solid, true friendships to begin with, and add depth, comfort, support and beauty to our lives.
In other words, true friendship takes work. If you’re looking for ways, big and small, to invest in your relationships with friends and family, writers at BuzzFeed’s Goodful have put together a lengthy list of ways to show true appreciation.
“On the Goodful team, we all really believe that strong and emotionally supportive relationships are such an important foundation for maintaining positive mental health and existing as a human in general,” Anna Borges, a senior staff writer for BuzzFeed and one of the authors, wrote to me on Twitter. “But, y’know, cultivating those bonds takes work and a lot of people don’t know what it takes to go from a good friend to a truly invaluable one — so hopefully this gives people a starting point.”
It’s worth reading in full, but a few stuck out as particularly useful.
Set Up Calendar Notifications for Important Dates
This one is simple, but effective: Set up calendar alerts not only for your friends’ and family members’ birthdays, but also for important dates in their lives, “especially ones tied to grief.” Your loved ones will be grateful you remembered.
It doesn’t just need to be for important dates, though. I have “catch up with friends” scheduled in my iCal every Sunday, for example, and it’s simply a reminder to send a text to or call a friend I haven’t spoken to in a bit. Ideally we wouldn’t need to be reminded, but life is busy. It’s easy to fall into a Netflix binge or spend all your time with your SO and forget that our friends deserve our attention, too.
Be Interested in Their Interests
No, this doesn’t mean you need to become a part-time LARPer or listen to all 200 episodes of the true crime podcast they’re into. But at least try to be interested.
“If they keep talking about a Netflix show or comic book they are into, or they recommend a recipe or product, make a point to check it out,” writes BF. “Even if you don’t love it, you’ll still learn a bit more about them in the process, and they will appreciate that you tried.”
Have a Monthly Recipe Club
Rather than a monthly book club meet up that could prove too time-consuming for your busiest buds, BuzzFeed writer Terri Pous recommends organising a monthly recipe club instead. You pick a key ingredient or a theme — say, ricotta cheese or “global dishes” — and then everyone brings a dish with that ingredient included.
“None of us are master chefs, but pouring our hearts into making something delicious happens to be all of our love languages,” writes Pous. “Even when one of us is having a rough week or month and can only muster the energy to bring a container of pre-cut berries, we accept it for what it symbolises — a commitment to showing up for each other.”
I like the idea of cooking for one another in particular, but any recurring event — or meeting spot — will do. The point is that you have scheduled time to do something together.
Notice Differences in Demeanour/Appearance
No, this doesn’t just mean compliment their hair cuts and new gym routine. It means noticing small signs that not everything is right. As BF writes:
Pay attention to physical cues that they might not be doing great — like looking super tired/not sleeping, poor hygiene, a home in total disarray, or weight fluctuations. You don’t need to comment or anything; it’s all just data that might tell you a story if you start to notice other little flags as well.
And if you think something is off, offer to help them.
Support Them Even When It’s Not Convenient
If something bad happens, be there for them, even if it’s not convenient for you. Something I’ll never forget: When an ex-boyfriend broke up with me at 9:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, my friend K.C. immediately came over with a bottle of wine and a shoulder to (literally) cry on, despite having work in the morning and living across town. The next day she sent me a box of cookies and an inspirational note that I still have. And my friend Katie flew to New York from Detroit that weekend just to make sure I was OK. The breakup sucked, but it made me realise just how blessed I was, and am, to have such amazing friends in my life. I try to be a little more like K.C. and Katie every day.
In that case, my friends knew I just needed to complain for a while, watch crappy movies and maybe flirt with someone new to feel a little bit better. But if you don’t know how to be there for your friend, ask them. They might just need to vent, or they might need you to do something for them. And when that happens, they will forever appreciate your help. (And read this Twitter thread.)
Just Be Fully There
This is the most important one in my book, and something I’m guilty of not adhering to all of the time. But when you’re with someone, be with them. Actually listen to them, ask questions, be engaged — put your phone away, turn off the part of your mind running through the 1,000 things you need to do. Focus on your friend. The people I’ve come to appreciate the most as I’ve gotten older — the ones I actively seek out to spend more time with — are the ones who actually listen to me when I speak. It’s a low bar, but the number of people who surpass it is surprisingly small. Be one of the people who do. You and your friends will be better for it.