A Guest Blog Post by Victoria Laurie
The most valuable lesson I ever learned came early. I was eleven—painfully shy, damaged, and in desperate need of some kindness at a new school in a foreign country.
The second day of my sixth grade class I spotted a pretty girl with long blond hair, big brown eyes, and a smile as wide as Texas. While all the kids gathered out on the soccer field for some fresh air and exercise, I did something very unlike me—I hedged up to the little girl and said, “Hi. I’m Victoria and you’re going to be my best friend.”
It was such a weird thing to say, that bold declarative statement, but to my surprise, she merely nodded, smiled and said, “Okay. My name’s Alice, your new best friend.”
And for the next dozen or so years, we were the very best of friends.
Then one day, I blew it. I lashed out in anger and said some incredibly hurtful things, and I lost not just my best friend, but truly the best friend I’ve ever had.
Years later, after not hearing from her, I reached out and sincerely apologized. She graciously accepted that apology, but we were never close again. It’s been the biggest regret of my life, losing such a faithful, lovely, kind person in my life. But, like most things, first comes the lesson, then comes the gift.
In the years that followed, I slowly began to realize all the ways that Alice had been different from any other friend I’d ever had. It slowly dawned on me what the difference was, and in realizing that uniqueness, I changed, and became a better person. You see, Alice didn’t just teach me the value of a great friendship, she taught me how to be a great friend.
And, as Alice had always been an exceptional listener, I began to emulate her more by talking less and listening more—which was no easy task when you’re used to commanding every single conversation all the time, (me-me-me-me-me!) And as I started listening, really listening, I began to understand that the difference between being a good friend and being a great friend isn’t just in being able to sit patiently while the other person speaks; it’s actually far more sincere than that and requires something from the heart. The key, I discovered, to being a truly great friend was in being able to listen first, and validate second. It turns out; being a good friend wasn’t about me at all. It’s always been about how I can serve that other person, and how I can serve them is to validate their struggles, their accomplishments, their successes, and all those exceptional things they can’t see in themselves.
It can be something as simple as, “You’re such a beautifully bright person. I learn something new from you every time we hang out!” Or, “I see how hard you try every day to be the best person you can be, and it I’m so honored to know someone like you.”
Basically, it’s looking for that thing that’s extraordinary in the other person, and pointing it out as something that you hold dear or special. What happens when you employ such tactics is that you soon discover that you know some truly exceptional people! People who can teach you how to be strong, how to be kind, how to be giving, how to be beautiful, how to be courageous, how to be smart, how to be adventurous, how to be outgoing, how to be better. When you see all the amazing gifts your friends are naturally employed with, you will find a way to be more like them, and all the better for it.
So now I look for not the ordinary in others, I look for those things that make them special, and I tell them about it. Often. And thirty years after losing Alice as my best friend, I think I’ve become far more like her than my old bratty self. Nothing makes me prouder, actually. And nothing makes me feel more secure than looking around at the inner circle of my friends and seeing them for the amazing and extraordinary group of individuals they are. It’s like being on a team full of Alices, and it makes me feel so blessed.
Of everything that I’ve incorporated from my real life into my imaginary one on the page when I write in Abby Cooper’s voice for the Psychic Eye Mysteries, it’s when I talk about her close friendship with Candice that’s probably the most genuine. Candice is an amalgamation of all my closest girlfriends. Sure, she’s Alice, but she’s also Karen, and Sandy, and Leanne, and Terry, and Nicole, and Julie. She’s the sum of all of my extraordinary gal pals, and the friendship between Candice and Abby is at the heart of every book. Yes, there’s romance to titillate, and suspense to keep you turning those pages, but the friendship between Abby and Candice is the glue that holds every new mystery together.
In my latest releases, Sense of Deception (which was out in paperback June 7th) and Grave Prediction, (out in Hardcover July 26th), you’ll see this friendship once again front and center, always evolving, which serves both Abby and Candice very well, I should think. And between now and the time I write the next installment, I’ll be working hard to make sure that all my closest girlfriends know how much I love and appreciate those things that make them exceptional—which is the only way left to honor the extraordinary gift a little girl named Alice once gave to me.
Victoria Laurie, New York Times bestselling author and professional psychic, drew from her career as a gifted intuitive to create the characters of Abigail Cooper and M. J. Holliday, protagonists in her Psychic Eye and Ghost Hunter mystery series. She lives in suburban Michigan.