Friendship is one of the themes that crops up in my books all the time. I’ve made lots of mistakes with my friendships, and learnt plenty of lessons along the way (the hard way). I thought I’d share some of the good stuff.
1. To Have a Friend, Be a Friend
You can’t “make” someone be your friend. The only person you can control is you. So look for ways to be friendly and let friendships evolve naturally.
How can you be a friend? Keep your eyes and ears open. When I was in the equivalent of middle grade I made a friend when I sat next to the new girl at after-school care. I had pretty much ignored her at school, but at after-school I knew I was the only person she would know. We stayed close friends until we went to different high schools, and we’re still in touch today.
Does Annie need someone to walk with her to the bus? Did Jack forget his umbrella and raincoat, while you have one of each? Can you stick up for someone having a hard time? When I was four I forgot to change out of my pyjama pants one day and wore them to pre-school. Of course I was teased about it, but my best friend sprang to my defence by telling everyone my pyjama pants were actually part of my “big school” uniform (luckily they were the right colour!). Clearly I’ve never forgotten that moment of kindness, and quick thinking, on her part.
2. Remember Your Friend’s Interests
Discover what it is that makes your friend light up, then be the person who always asks how they are going with their dance lessons/art work/writing/ukulele playing. And then be the person who listens patiently and sincerely as they go on and on and on about it.
3. Make Your Friend Feel Liked
We are all quite selfish when you look at the real core of our behaviour. It’s all about us. And friendship is all about having someone who treats you as if you are amazing. So turn it around – treat your friend like gold. Smile at them often—smile when they enter the room you’re in, even if they only left for a few minutes. If they arrive while you’re talking to someone else, pause your conversation to say hi. Contact them if you haven’t spoken for a while. Send them little notes (if that’s your thing). Make them little gifts. Lend them something special to you (and trust them with it).
Give it a try this week. Next time we’ll look further at the fine art of making conversation.
Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and the teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job.