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1. First, ask about them. Too often, I’ll call a friend to tell them about something that happened to me without checking in first to see if they’re in the mood to hear my stuff. “You’ll never guess what happened,” I say and off I go. To be a better friend, I want to more often ask about them first, follow up on a previous conversation to see how things turned out (with a call they had to make, their job interview, etc.). I’m always impressed when someone remembers a detail I told them previously and asks me about it later.

2. Listen for their clues. By following #1, it becomes easier and easier to be a better friend. For example, I’ve noted in my calendar when someone said they had to travel or when their baby is due, or when they might hear news about something important. When that week comes around I am reminded about their plans and remember to ask them about it the next time we talk. I’ve also had people hear my desire to start a new habit, for example, and later encourage my efforts. It feels good. This seems to come naturally to some people. I want to work harder on it.

3. Surprise them. The more #1 and #2 are practiced, the easier it will be to surprise people in special ways. I’ve found a piece of chocolate at my desk on a particularly stressful day. Come home to find my previously muddy running shoes washed and clean again. Had a long-distance colleague ask specifically about one of my family members. Been given a book borrow to me that was exactly my kind of reading and was given at just the right time. These are wonderful expressions of friendship that I want to reciprocate more often.

Three simple actions to be a better friend. What are some of your ideas?