Character Chats

How to be an excellent friend

This month’s word-of-the-month is excellence.

Every month for our social emotional learning program, called True Character, we have a word-of-the-month. We’re talking about excellence this month.

Excellence means consistently striving towards our personal best in order to reach our potential. It means we’re always working hard to try to be better than we were before.

Remember, it never means being perfect, perfect isn’t something we can ever get. Excellence means we’re just working to try to be better than we were before.

Being an excellent friend

How can we be an excellent friend?

Being an excellent friend is an important part of being a good person.

We want to make sure that we’re the kind of person that can be trusted and relied on — the kind of person that our friends can go to when they need us, just like we need friends that we can go to when we need them.

So here are a couple of ways how to be an excellent friend:


Being a good listener is very important for showing somebody that you feel they are important.

With listening, you want to make sure you’re actually listening. You can’t do two things at once. You’re not listening if you’re looking at your phone while they’re talking.

When you’re listening, you want to use your eyes and your ears — and your mind.

You want to put down whatever you’re doing and give the person 100% attention. It shows them that you care.

Show you care

One of the ways for parents with kids to show our kids that we care is with our time. For a kid, how much we care about them — how much we love them — equals the time we spend with them.

And I know it can be tough. We’re busy as adults. We’re always doing things and they want to tell us all about their day.

But it really shows that we care a lot about them when we stop what we’re doing and actually listen to them.

Kids, the counter-lesson is: parents really do want to listen to you.

Make sure you ask them if they can chat for a second. There are a lot of times I’m in the middle of something when my kids want to talk to me and I’ll say to them, “You know what? Could you just wait one minute, I really want to listen to you, but I really need to finish this first, then I can give you my whole attention.”

So kids, in order to be a good kid, ask mom and dad, “Hey, can I tell you this now?” And they might tell you, “Hey, one second, let me wrap this up so I can pay attention to it. Then I can give you my full attention.”

As a friend, you want to make sure you’re always listening to them. Make eye contact, nod, repeat back what people say.

It really helps them feel important, it shows you’re being an excellent friend.

Show gratitude

You can show gratitude as part of being a great friend.

When we’re showing gratitude, always saying thanks, we won’t want to be a taker — we want to be a giver. We want to be thankful for the things that people do for us.

As a good friend, you don’t want one of your friends to just always be taking.

It doesn’t feel like a good friend if you make them something — for example, you get them an ice cream and you got an ice cream — and they just say, “Give me.”

It feels better when they say, “Thank you for bringing me some of the ice cream. I really appreciate it.”

Whenever you show gratitude, you really show the other person that you care about them. It shows that you understand what they did to help you out, and it shows that you respect them, respect their time, and respect who they are.

So make sure that we’re always valuing our friends and people around us by showing that gratitude. Especially with our family.

Sometimes we talk about being a good friend, but we also have to be a good family member.

I know you’re with your parents and your siblings all the time, but saying a nice “thank you,” even though your mom and dad make you breakfast every single morning, is a nice thing to do. It’s important to still say that thank you every single morning — it’s part of being a good kid.

Show kindness

Another thing we need to do is show kindness. We always want to show we’re a great friend by showing kindness to each other.

As all my students know, I really love dogs. We have two dogs at home. When you show kindness to a dog, they reciprocate by being a great friend.

Dogs are a fairly simple relationship, they’re not as complicated as people. When you’re nice to the dog, you give them something like a treat, you’re showing that kindness to them.

The person who shows them the most kindness is the person they come and greet first when they walk in the door. They’re the ones that they come up to, lick their face, lie down by them — they really show that kindness back.

We want to make sure we’re showing kindness to our friends in a similar way: doing things for them, holding the door, showing we know and understand them.

Just saying nice things like “Hey, that shirt looks really nice today” and “I like what you did with your hair” (well, I don’t get that one too often anymore), “Hey, nice uniform,” “Congratulations on your belt. What a great accomplishment.”

Just take a moment to show that kindness. It never feels bad to get a compliment, and it always feels good for somebody to give a compliment.

Show empathy

Being an excellent friend includes showing empathy.

When we show empathy towards someone, we show that we feel what they feel. For example, when a friend gets a paper cut and you go, “Ooh, that hurts.” That’s showing empathy. You can almost feel it because you’ve gotten a paper cut too.

They fall off their bike and skin their knee, and you say, “Oh, are you okay? Man, I did that the other day, that really hurts, I understand how…”

When we show empathy towards someone, we show we care deeply about them. We’re working to be an excellent friend or an excellent family member.

Especially in our family, show that empathy.

Maybe Dad’s back hurts, or maybe Mom had to work extra long hours. You can show that empathy towards them — even do something a little nice for them when they come home.

Help others

We can be helpful to people to show that we care about them.

For example, last month we did a kick-a-thon to help our family that lost their house in the tornado. We raised over $3,000 to help them out — to help build their life back.

And we got Legos for our friend that lost their house and lost all of his toys. We were really here to help our friends in need.

Helping out is a great way to show people how much you care about them. Help them when they need it.

Someday, you might need help too and they’ll be there for you.

And that is really what helps make you an excellent friend or family member.

Thanks, and we’ll see everybody on the mat.
– Master Helsdon