How to Be A Good Friend
By Maureen Kennedy Salaman,
Nutrition Health Expert
They're not related by blood, they're there by choice. They pay no heed if the dishes are still in the sink but they notice immediately if you have a new haircut. They listen sympathetically, may offer too much advice, and often ignore your own. They are, by turns, petty, solicitous, infuriating, wonderful. But the truth is, we can't live without them.
Taking Time for Friends
Betty has a social calendar that looks like an airline timetable. She goes to so many social and professional gatherings, that I swear she once signed her own guest book. Yet, she confided to me recently, when a personal disaster struck, she didn't know one person she could call.
Friendship isn't how many friends you have, but how closely you are connected. Getting close to a few people is more important than being popular enough to receive 300 Christmas cards every year. Like money, your time is finite. You must choose wisely with whom to spend it.
A close community and the support of friends, helps its members live longer, better. The emotional support alone provides so many benefits to health that it's no wonder we instinctively reach out to others. We know what's good for us.
Other benefits to health include regular, moderate social exercise like tennis and golf; and supplemental nutrition, for example, B-complex for mental alertness, minerals for bones and muscles, vitamin E for sex and circulation, and vitamin C for colds and flu.
Give Your Friends Space
Relationships of any kind - between a man and a woman, a parent and child, close friends - are a balancing act between intimacy and independence. It is not enough to love, you must love freely. There are two things a parent can give a child -roots and wings. The same might be said of any nourishing relationship. At the heart of love there is a simple secret: the lover lets the beloved be free. In interviews with hundreds of couples, married, living together or divorced, researchers found that what people wanted most was a relationship and freedom. While these desires may seem mutually exclusive, the best friendships and marriages fulfill both needs.
A single-woman friend of mine asked me if I could fix her up with someone. "What kind of person do you have in mind?" I asked. "I don't care what he looks like or what he does," she said. "As long as he talks."
Conversation is the glue of relationships, even sexual ones. Even if you're not good at small talk, you can learn to excel in the art of intimacy. Here are a few simple rules:
1. The road to the heart is the ear. It's great to be sparkling, witty, well-informed, and impress others with your mind. But nothing is more interesting to another person than someone who is truly interested in them.
2. Make eye contact. When you are really involved in what someone is saying, you fasten your eyes on that person. The eye talk between you says, "At this moment in time, you are the only one in the world for me." Watch how a couple who are flirting look at one another. Prolonged eye contact is the most important gesture in courting.
3. Be stingy with advice. One of the biggest mistakes we can make in conversation is to assume that when someone asks us for advice, he or she really means it. What they really want - and need - in most cases, is a friendly listener. By allowing them to speak their mind and vent their feelings, you often help them reach their own decision about what should be done. This is especially true in dealing with young people, who can easily be overwhelmed by too much advice from their elders.
4. Safeguard secrets. Trust is the basis of deep friendships. A woman friend, who told me about a shady incident in her past, prefaced her story by saying, "I'm trusting you with my life." When people confide their fears and secrets, they need reassurance that you won't think any less of them. It is a great honor to be privy to information with which you could harm the other. If you freely show your gratitude, you will open the way for greater intimacy.
5. Close the conversation loop. Communication takes place when there is a sender and a receiver. Silence, noncommittal grunts or changing the subject leaves the sender a dial tone. A woman who divorced her husband after ten years of marriage told me, "I felt like everything I said disappeared into a black hole." Often, all that is needed is a smile, a nod, a murmur of assent, which says, "I hear you, I know what you're saying." Attentive listening is the biggest ego booster there is.
6. Be generous with your affections. The way to win friends is not by making yourself the focus of attention but by letting others know you care. Risk showing your feelings and talk about your affection. It can be in the form of a phone call, a note, a compliment, a bouquet of flowers - small messages that say, "I'm thinking of you." Ben Franklin said, "Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know of everybody." Praise is a gift you can freely bestow on others, which comes back to you manyfold.
A woman living during the Victorian era had the great good luck to dine on consecutive nights with two of the most distinguished prime ministers in British history, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. "When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone," she said, "I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England."
Maureen Kennedy Salaman is an internationally-known, award-winning author and lecturer. Maureen is the author of six books, "All Your Health Questions Answered Naturally", "Foods That Heal", "Nutrition: The Cancer Answer I & II", "The Diet Bible", "The Light at the End of the Refrigerator" cookbook and the Nutrition Bites Newsletter. For information please call: (800) 445-HEAL or 1 (650) 854-3922, or write to: MKS, Inc., 1259 El Camino Real, Suite 1500, Menlo Park, CA 94025, or e-mail MKSALAMAN.com .
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