There is always talk about how we’re born alone and how we die alone– but no one ever really talks about what comes in between. Friendship is a beautiful thing which can nurture and bring out the best in people, stemming from a promising bud and gradually flourishing into an unending bloom. But it can also be a scary, intimidating thing which begins from a glimmer of hope that eventually rears its head to show its true colours which can be ugly, sinister and shady. While these poisonous friendships often take a while to recover from and can hurt just as much, if not more, than an actual breakup, in the end we come out of it realizing that sometimes situations like these happen for a reason, even if it’s only to teach you a good lesson that you’ll never forget.

However, being the realistic people that we are, there is no discounting the slim possibility that you could be the toxic one in the relationship. While it’s a frightful thought, it can happen to the best of us and at the end of the day, at the risk of sounding corny and clichéd, it is never too late to change who you are. So here are a few classic dos and don’ts on how to be the type of friend that you would be proud to have in your life:

1. Do dedicate as much time and attention to them as you’d like them to dedicate back to you

It’s a simple case of treating others the way you want to be treated. While we’re definitely not condoning doing something simply for the sake of gaining something back in return, it’s always a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that you’re being appreciated. Be considerate and practice equality. However…

2. Don’t be the type of friend who’s only there when they have something to rant about

An important tip to remember (which you would think is common sense, although you’d be surprised to find that not a lot of people realize this) is that a friend is so much more than a pair of ears. While listening to each other rant over generous servings of chocolate cheesecake is pretty much a given in any friendship, it is also so much more than that. People who talk and talk and only stop to ask you how you are while they’re catching their breath are unpleasant creatures to interact with, let alone be friends with. A conversation, like a friendship, should resemble more of a two-way street than a bumpy, rocky lane in a cow-infested village.

3. Do try your best to be there, especially when your friend needs you

We are all adults leading busy lives and pursuing ambitious dreams which means that no one should be considered more important than the other in a proper friendship. Keep the excuses to a minimum and make it a point to clear your schedule whenever possible; be available for your friend when they need a shoulder to lean on the most. Even if it’s just picking up the phone or simply letting them know via text that you’re there for them and that they’re free to bombard you with two hundred messages recounting the horrific day that they’ve had, it really does makes a difference.

4. Don’t be the person who never shows up and always cancels at the last minute

We all know the type. Despite always having a good time with each other and seemingly enjoying each other’s company, the disappearing acts that these acquaintances usually pull, often for weeks or months at a time, usually leave one feeling like they’ve just been ghosted. “Was it something I did? Was it something I said?” you think, before realizing that they’re just one of those perpetually unavailable people who float in and out of your life, trailing an array of colourful excuses in their wake each time. Believe it when we say, it is not a great feeling.

5. Do try and read between the lines

Being opinionated and outspoken isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Sometimes being straightforward isn’t only daunting and intimidating, it is just straight up unpleasant. Which is why a good friend understands the importance of being able to truly comprehend what is being said, even when it hasn’t actually been said. Go the extra mile and be more perceptive when it comes to looking beneath the surface, especially when it concerns your friend’s feelings.

6. Don’t be the type of person who disappears the moment something big happens

Whether it’s a new boyfriend, a new job, a new country or just a new crowd that you’ve adopted into your life, don’t forget the people who have stuck with you the whole time. While we understand that it’s difficult to keep up with everything all at once (we may not be Britney Spears but everyone has those days when we can relate with the whole “Everybody wants a piece of me” headache). But there’s really nothing worse than being the type of friend who vanishes into thin air the moment something new and shiny arrests their attention. Allocate a specific time for those old friends, create a journal, write it down on a post-it and stick it on your shirt if you have to, just don’t be that friend who takes theirs for granted.

With all those guidelines being said, a friendship shouldn’t be forced, nor should it be one where both parties feel the need to tread lightly with every single step. Rather, it should be soul-enriching and beneficial for your mental health and your well-being and of course, always rearing for a good time.

Now go out there and be the best kind of friend you can be!