Woody Allen gets the ultimate credit for the idea, but Wendy Atterberry offers great advice on what it takes to be a good friend, how to know whether your friend is a real friend and what you should to do make and sustain friendships.
Her advice: Show up!
The injunction is more important in an era where people are accustomed to communicate via text messaging. True friends are the ones who are there for you. They are not, Atterberry says, the ones who you had the most fun with, and they are not, she implies, the ones who share their most intimate feelings. They are the ones who put in the time to be physically present at important and even not-so-important moments.
… the best friends aren’t necessarily the ones you have the most fun partying with but are the ones who SHOW UP. Showing up is THE single most important thing you can do as a friend.
Show up for film premieres and plays and races and weddings. Show up for your designer friend’s fashion show and your artist friend’s gallery opening and the dinner to celebrate your friend finally getting her PhD. Go to baby showers even though they’re kind of a drag. Better yet, offer to throw one because you love your friend and this is a big deal. Go to your friend’s mother’s memorial even though it’s a two-hour drive away and it will eat up half your weekend. Go to retirement parties and milestone birthday parties and parties celebrating the end of a nasty divorce. Offer to pet-sit or babysit or house-sit. Cook casseroles and coo over new babies. Drive to airports and weddings and reunions. Drive your friend to her chemo appointment and sit with her afterward and talk to her about whatever she wants to talk about.
When choosing friends, take account of why shows up and who is too busy or is constantly canceling on you.
The show-up test matters because it offers an objective standard to guide your choice of friends. It does not depend on how you feel or how the other person feels. Get closer to those who consistently show up and take your distance from those who keep letting you down. Atterberry is obviously recommending that you choose among people you like.
The key to long-lasting friendships, I think, is to weed out the ones who keep letting you down — not just once, but over and over — and to hang on to those who keep showing up, as long as they are people whose company you enjoy.