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Friendships Don't
Just Happen

Many years ago, I attended the funeral of a relative. I saw another funeral ceremony also in progress on the ground, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that a large crowd had gathered to pay their last respects to the person who had passed away. I approached a man in the crowd and asked, “Why are so many people here? Was the person who passed away someone prominent??/font>

The man looked perplexed and then replied: “Oh, these people who have gathered here are mostly friends.?/font>

I left the ground feeling awed at the loss felt by the people there. The experience flooded me with images of my own friends ?of those who had stood beside me through times of tears and laughter, and of those who had drifted away.

Being a good friend, and having a good friend, can enrich your days and bring you lifelong satisfaction. But friendships don’t just happen. They have to be created and nurtured. Like any other skill, building friendship has to be practised.

What makes someone a good friend? In the years since the above episode, I have learnt many lessons about friendship ?sometimes the hard way. Here are some factors that are vital for building healthy ?and perhaps everlasting ? friendships.

Make your friends a priority: We all have time for things that we truly want to do and there is no reason why we cannot do the same for our friends. It may sometimes mean a bit of an inconvenience in our busy schedule, but isn’t this a small price to pay for the pleasures of companionship?

Note the little things: Standing by a friend during difficult times is important. But the seemingly trivial acts of caring are what keep friendships going: remembering to call on a birthday; saying a cheery good morning over the phone; a small note scrawled in a greeting card.

Risk being yourself: Some people resist telling friends their deepest feelings. They’re afraid to vent their fears, disappointments and negative emotions. But there comes a time in all friendships when you must open up.

You may think if you allow your friends to see your flaws, they’ll like you less. But the chances are that they’ll like you more. Friends support us by letting us know we are not alone in our human frailties. That’s why it is important to let them know the real ?imperfect ?you.

Embrace your differences: One recipe for friendship is the right mixture of commonality and difference. You’ve got to have enough in common so that you understand each other and enough differences so that there is something to exchange.

Don’t keep score: Too often, people get hung up on the duties of friendship. For example, who was the last one to phone or write? When you forget about getting as much as you give, you’ll make more friends. You must practise the art of friendship as the French novelist Alexandre Dumas defined it: “Forgetting what one gives, and remembering what one receives.?/font>

Let your friends feel generous: It may be better to give than to receive but it’s important to let your friends know you need them. Just as you feel happy to help a friend, give your friend the chance to help you.

Laugh with your friend: Physician and writer Sir William Osler called laughter “the music of life? It is laughter that can brighten a friend’s day and bring good friends closer. And at critical times, laughter can help release tension and give your friend a new perspective on a seemingly grave or hopeless situation.

Friends demand a lot from you. They ask you to listen to their problems, and take up a lot of your time and attention. But the commitment is worth it. In the end, you realise that Robert Louis Stevenson was right when he said, “A friend is a present you give yourself.?/font>

Sam F. Ayem
Personnel & Administration Department