…the feeling’s oh so strong. When Bette Midler belts out this song, you know how critical friendship is for survival in this world. Friends have an enormous influence on your life and can make the difference between health and happiness or loneliness and isolation. Studies show close friends enhance your mood and how well you function—they are important to your emotional and physical health. If you have a good network of friends you can literally add years to your life.
Good friends are open and honest with you, and you feel you can be the same with them. You tolerate each other’s weaknesses and enjoy each other’s strengths. Good friends are there for you during troubled times, and mourn your losses. They also share in your joys and genuinely celebrate your successes. You do the same for them.
So how do you cultivate good friends? Even if you’re shy, you can find connections with people. You don’t have to be outgoing. But you do have to make an effort. Here are some ideas:
Demonstrate Your Interest. It’s not about you. Even if you will ultimately benefit by another’s friendship, you must first show an interest in the other person. What are their thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes? Ask them questions, try to understand their opinions, get to know their experiences. Showing your interest in other people is far more compelling to them than when you try to get them to be interested in you. Once you learn about another person, you may not feel a connection. It may take awhile to find someone your simpatico with. But the only way to find out is to be genuinely curious. If you aren’t genuine, people will know.
Be in the Moment. Be there and available with your friend. That means your online friends are put away for the moment. If you are constantly on your phone in the presence of your friend, you signal that you phone is more important. Actions speak louder than words. So turn off your devices, pay attention to your friend, and practice really listening. Try to remember their stories, their preferences, their activities. See if you can connect with them on some level.
Share Intimate Thoughts. We all know people who over share, or share too early in a relationship. You have to gauge when this is appropriate. And how much is appropriate. You don’t want to be guilty of TMI (Too Much Information). But the only way to develop a true and deep friendship is to get to know your friend’s values, struggles, and goals in life. This is a two-way street, so you must share yours, too. True and lasting friends often share many goals and values, and yet, you can still be great friends and disagree on fundamental issues. Let your heart be your guide.
Be the Friend You’d Like to Have. You want a trustworthy, forgiving, positive friend, right? So be that kind of friend yourself. Be trustworthy—never repeat a confidence. Be forgiving—nobody’s perfect and flaws make life more interesting anyway. Be a positive influence—that doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time, but don’t be a downer. Be a good listener. Be easy about your expectations and let your friendship evolve naturally. Be supportive and be there for your friend when he needs you.
When you have good friends, you’re bound to have a rich and full life.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact