How to be a Better Friend

I am not the best friend. I occasionally flake out on plans and parties to stay in and watch Netflix in my sweatpants. Even when I dream up thoughtful things I want to do for others, life often gets in the way and I forget to act on them.

How to be a better friend

As I make my final trip around the sun as a twenty-something, I’ve come to cherish my relationships with friends. People often call the late 20s/early 30s some of the loneliest years of life – accentuated by some of the longest nights at the office, late nights and early mornings taking care of newborn babies, and the financial stress that comes along with buying first homes, weddings, and providing for others.

It’s an exciting time, a busy time, and oftentimes, a secluded time. Friendships have never felt so important and so difficult to keep up with, which is why I’m trying to make goals to prioritize these relationships in 2019.

It feels a bit weird to make SMART goals and resolutions for something like friendship. How are we supposed to quantify a relationship with another person? Measurable goals keep us more accountable, and while we can’t always put numbers on friendships, we can put them on actions.

Here’s some friendship goals I’m thinking about to keep myself more connected next year.

1. Try one new activity with a friend each month

Oftentimes, I find myself defaulting to the plan of “getting a drink” with friends I haven’t seen in a while. Come that random Wednesday night we planned to get a drink on, one of us usually isn’t feeling it, and those plans often fall apart. Instead of getting drinks next year, I’ll try to opt for trying a new workout class, a new coffee shop in a different neighborhood, or checking out what ‘Things To Do’ are on Groupon.

2. Send a handwritten letter or card once a month

File this under the category “things I always say I’m going to do but never actually do”. This year, I’m going to try to send a letter to a friend at least once a month – I’m hoping my friends will appreciate to get snail mail that isn’t filled solely with credit card offers.

3. Visit someone else’s neighborhood twice a month

It’s easy to get stuck in your own neighborhood in any city you live in, but it’s important to get out of the bubbles we create for ourselves. I find I’m often meeting friends in popular neighborhoods after work or meeting half-way instead of committing to visiting a neighborhood that might be a little out of the way. This year, I’m going to make the effort to meet others in new ‘hoods at least twice a month. I see you, west side of 90/94.

4. RSVP within one week of getting invited – especially if it’s a “No”

I didn’t realize how bad I was at RSVPing until recently. Lately, I’ve found that I don’t respond very timely (or, if I do respond, it’s to click on the ever-hated ‘maybe’). I also have some serious FOMO – so even if I know I can’t make it, I try to tell myself (and the host) that it’s a possibility (read: it’s not). Planning any event is a lot easier if guests RSVP, and the truth is – people won’t be mad at you for a “no” RSVP, they’ll respect the honesty and be able to plan better. They might not be so understanding if you haven’t committed and don’t show up without saying anything.

5. Every time I finish a book, recommend it to one friend

I love getting book recommendations. Many of us recommend books on GoodReads, but rarely personalize our recommendations to friends we know will like them most. Next year, I’m going to try to recommend (and, if I own a hard copy, lend) every book I finish to at least one friend who I believe will enjoy it. It’s an easy way to connect with someone and creates a good excuse to follow-up.

6. Call one friend a week

My fiancé is really great about calling people, partially because he spends a lot of his mornings and afternoons commuting in a car – and while the commute isn’t very fun, it creates a time to catch up with people when he would otherwise be sitting in traffic.

Like most millennials, I opt for texting over phone calls. Let’s face it – phone calls aren’t very efficient. But friendship isn’t about being efficient, it’s about taking the time. I’m going to make it a goal to catch up, no matter how awkward it may be at first, at least once a week with a friend over a phone call instead of text.


While we can quantify goals to help us be better friends, the bottom line is this: life gets busy, but you need to show up for others and be present for them. And the good news is – with a little effort (like setting a few seemingly silly goals), we can get better at them. Here’s to feeling a little less lonely in 2019!


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About Cass Gunderson

Cass hails from the southwest suburbs as a proud White Sox fan and a graduate of University of Illinois. By day, Cass is a full-time student at the University of Chicago's Booth Graduate Business School. Before deciding to throw away all her money to go back to school, Cass worked for a private equity firm that buys technology companies. Raised as the youngest in a family of older brothers, Cass grew up a tomboy and remains active in sports. To her mother’s satisfaction, Cass learned how to embrace her feminine side in college and has developed an interest for fitness activities that require spandex as opposed to knee-length basketball shorts. In her spare time, she runs a lot because it is cheaper than paying for real therapy. Cass has completed four marathons and one ultramarathon (she claims she'll never do this to herself again, but that's TBD). She can still be found on the basketball courts in Lincoln Park wearing knee-length basketball shorts.