What is the key to maintaining quality relationships, especially in today’s hurried world? Karol Ladd, bestselling author of The Power of a Positive Woman, believes it goes back to something our grandmothers told us: “If you want to have friends, you must show yourself friendly.”
After years of speaking to women’s groups on the topic of friendship, I have discovered a pattern of characteristics that women typically appreciate in other people. Here are the top seven relationship ingredients that have surfaced over the years. I encourage you to consider these qualities in light of your current friendships and, if you are married, in light of your relationship with your spouse. (They’re great building blocks for marriage.) These are qualities to internalize in your own life in order to become a better friend. You can also use them as a measure to consider (not judge) potential friendships in the future.
1. Take a genuine interest in others.
Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” As we listen to others and show an interest in what is important to them, we begin to truly love and understand them. Every person has an invisible sign around his or her neck that reads, “I want to feel important.” Everyone has something to offer this world. We need to search for it, find it, and bring it to the surface.
I’ve found that scheduling an “Others Hour” is a good way to make time to be attentive to others. What is an Others Hour? It’s a sixty minute period we reserve on our schedules each week in order to focus solely on our friends and their needs. I know for me, if something is not on the calendar, it typically doesn’t happen. An Others Hour is a time when we can write a note or make a call or deliver a gift or do a favor. It’s a time when we can pray for a certain friend in need. Try it. Who knows? You may find your Others Hour multiplies throughout the week!
2. Be a giver, not a taker
Ask not what your friends can give to you but rather what you can give to your friends. (Sound familiar? Sorry, John, for reworking your quote.) What can we give to others? How about a smile, a hug, a kind word, a listening ear, help with an errand, a prayer, an encouraging note, a meal? We can come up with many things to give others if we are willing to be attentive to their needs. (Hint, hint: To know someone’s needs, you must take a genuine interest in the person first.) Giving may take time. It may take us out of our way. But giving and self-sacrifice are part of the definition of love. I like this little poem by John Oxenham:
Art thou lonely, O my brother?
Share thy little with another.
Stretch a hand to one unfriended,
And thy loneliness is ended.
3. Be loyal.
Loyalty is a rare commodity in today’s world, but it’s an absolute requirement in true and abiding friendships. When we are loyal to one friend, we prove ourselves worthy of many.