‘Truth springs from argument amongst friends.’
The advice on how to be a good friend could be summed up in one word: listen. Your job as a friend is to be there when needed, at all times and in all scenarios – as comedian Milton Berle commented, ‘Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies’.
It is useful to understand both the passive and active parts that go into the high-octane cocktail of true amity. Passively, you listen, comfort, support; you know not to give direct advice but merely reflect back a slightly tweaked version of their own view. You always turn up at their birthday parties, bail them out of boring situations at other people’s parties, you act as alibi or frontman in complicated situations, you are unstinting in your generosity in lending clothes, money and time. You resist the inevitable envy when your friend tops you on the love, career, and looks front. Actively, you know when to cross into the dangerous territory of saying something to your friend that no one else can (whether it’s about their bad behaviour or their bad taste); you can anticipate their needs without them having to ask for your help every time; you positively avoid flirting with their partner. Sometimes you will have to be a good friend even when you don’t quite agree with the friend’s point of view.
You may fall out with your friend, but you will manage this so that it’s a good clean blowout, not a festering boil of resentment that is far more painful to lance.
Never make the mistake of merely neglecting a good friendship; no matter how tried and tested, it is still a plant that needs watering. We are probably ruder to our good friends than to anyone else: social niceties are deemed superfluous, but friendships can be surprisingly fragile.
If you are obeying all these strictures, the least you can expect is the same in return. Sometimes, the hardest thing is recognising that a friendship is not truly reciprocal, and ending it.