By Our Reporter
Modern-day technology and social media make it easier to stay connected with friends and keep up with their successes, interests and status updates. But busy lifestyles, superficial communication, false intimacy and even neediness make it harder to develop and keep real friendships.
If you have good friends who enrich your life, bring you positive energy, boost your well being, and serve as trusted confidants, these tips can definitely help you keep them:
1. Make time to connect.
Cultivating durable friendships involves building a solid foundation, resolving disagreements and misunderstandings, and showing appreciation for the person’s presence in your life. These all require staying in touch with your friends, not just online but offline as well.
While inviting them to parties and happy hours are part of staying connected, you want to include one-on-one and small group meetings to have quality time together. Set a date to get together, whether it’s for a Saturday brunch at the neighborhood restaurant, a coffee chat before work, or a bowling game on a Friday evening. Then show up and treat them like a VIP.
2. Set and respect boundaries.
When your friend is going through a tough time or facing a crisis, let her know how and when to best reach you for support. If you answer telephone calls only during certain hours, respond to text messages on your lunch break, or check your emails only once or twice a day, inform her of these habits. Likewise, don’t call your friend at odd hours (unless you have explicit consent from her) or expect an immediate reply from her (unless you have a mutual understanding) to hash out the latest drama and dilemma in your life.
Constant complaining and venting can undermine the long-term viability of your friendship, no matter how close it is. While revealing your frustrations and disappointments to good friends is natural and healthy, you also want to avoid relying on them for free therapy. Setting and respecting healthy boundaries are critical to maintaining real friendships.
3. Communicate mindfully.
When you’re talking with a friend, it can be tempting to chime in and give a comment here and there. You might even interrupt and finish her sentences because you know her so well.
Of course, communication is a two-way street. If you repetitively pepper your friend with questions and sit quietly, do no revealing yourself, or have no response to her stories, the interaction can feel like an interrogation rather than a conversation. Back and forth banter and selective listening are very common among friends. But it can also stop you from forging a strong connection and true intimacy.
Take the Full Life Assessment
Checking your voice mail, eyeing your text messages, or otherwise being distracted might seem acceptable when you’re with good friends, but it could turn them off from spending time with you. If you are interrupted and need to attend to something else, briefly explain why and re-direct your focus as quickly as possible.
Deep listening allows you to be completely present with the other person and to develop empathy for her emotions and experiences. Feeling fully heard and completely understood are some of the greatest gifts your friend can receive from you.
4. Be open to feedback.
Asking for your friend’s comments, thoughts and opinions on your latest project or a decision you have to make is a huge compliment to them. If you solicit their feedback to help you build self-awareness, create new habits, and make positive changes, this shows how much you value their insights. Whether they have similar or different backgrounds, beliefs and philosophies, good friends bring a unique perspective to your life.
5. Keep them accountable.
Healthy friendships are built on equality and respect, not co-dependence and obligation. Hold your good friends in high regard and expect them to keep their promises and act in alignment with their values and ideals.
While being non-judgmental goes a long way, you can gently ask your friend questions to help him become more self-aware and conscious of his choices. This is not about telling your friend what to do, but reminding him of his own capabilities and desires. Although your friend might be defensive and embarrassed at first, he will likely thank you later for helping him grow and stay true to his commitments.