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Gifts your girlfriends can really use

A native of the storied coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina, Julie Sprankles has been a lover of words her entire life. As a Southerner, she certainly has what her mama calls “the gift of gab.” When she’s not writing, Julie can be...

The gifts your friends really need can't be wrapped in paper

Sure, your best girl would undoubtedly be pretty excited if you bought her that book she's been eyeing at Barnes & Noble or if you slipped her a gift card loaded with coffee. But, as they say, there are some things money simply can't buy, and those are the things your friends will really appreciate.

No-strings-attached encouragement

"The finest kind of friendship is between people who expect a great deal of each other but never ask it." – Sylvia Bremer

In today's society, we are programmed to think that no one does something for nothing. And, sadly, it's often true — even when it comes to something as simple as words of encouragement. You told your best friend it looked like she'd lost weight but, if you're being honest with yourself, it's because you really wanted her to notice that you'd dropped a dress size. We're all guilty of doing it sometimes. We are giving with the expectation of something in return. The next time you're chatting with your mom or your sister or your bestie, do her a solid and give her the gift of completely selfless encouragement — the kind where the only thing you hope to get back is a smile.

Open conversation

"It's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter." – Marlene Dietrich

How can women have come so far in our fight to have the right to have a voice, and then not even use it to its fullest extent? The time has come to speak up. If women can't even talk to each other in full disclosure, how are we going to go out into the world and say what needs to be said? You should be able to talk to the women in your life about anything, and especially about things relating to your body — we should be able to tell each other if we're having vaginal issues without stifling a giggle or having to whisper. Open conversation is healthy and, even more so, liberating. Try it out.

License to be herself

"I always feel that the great high privilege, relief and comfort for friendship was that one had to explain nothing." – Katherine Mansfield

Once you've cleared the way for open conversation in your friendships, there's something critically important to keep in mind: You are now a judgment-free zone. If you tell your friend she can talk to you about anything and then you criticize, shame or ridicule her for what she tells you, you've just as quickly closed the path of communication. Give her a chance to truly be herself. After all, that's what being a friend is all about, right? If you can't be yourself around your girlfriends, when can you?

The truth

"What you didn't tell someone was just as debilitating as what you did." – Jodi Picoult

Just as you want to encourage the women in your life to be honest with you and with themselves in conversation, you should be honest with them as well. Not in a way that is critical or patronizing, but in that way that only women know how to speak to each other — gentle yet firm, soft yet harsh. Sometimes, the absolute best thing you can give your girlfriend is the truth. We often tiptoe around the truth for fear of hurting each other's feelings, but here's the thing: Your friend wouldn't have asked for your opinion if she didn't want it. And if she does want to be let down easy, you'll know.

Love, plain and simple

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." – Maya Angelou

As modern women, we have to be tough. Gutsy. No-holds-barred. There's nothing wrong with that, either. Sometimes, though, we forget to let our guard down when we're around the people we care about most. All of the gifts you've ever given the women in your life have been rooted in the same emotion: love. So let's start there. Forget the gift wrap. Toss the bow. Love doesn't have to be dressed up. Besides, what's more beautiful than a hug?

More on women's health

Loneliness kills — so why don't we ever talk about it?
Proof that women handle stress better than men
The message Ban Bossy is missing

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