At one point or another, we’ve all been a bad friend.
There’s no way around it. We learn by trial and error, and sometimes this process can take longer for some than for others. We fail at friendships, and as a result, we grow and hopefully become better friends in the future. It’s important to embrace failure. We need to understand why it has happened in order to come face to face with our undesirable idiosyncrasies. Even if you’re not a bad friend currently, we all need reminders once in a while as to how we can be better friends and have closer relationships.
There are four principles that make for more intimate and healthy friendships. These principles create and deepen what is known as Friendtimicy.
1. Quality Time
Friendships, like romantic relationships, need special care and attention. The most important factor for building strong friendships is spending quality time together. Friendships that stand the test of time don’t happen overnight. You may connect with someone instantly, but there is so much more that goes into building a long-lasting and quality friendship.
Researchers at the University of Kansas conducted a study detailing just how long it takes to make a friend.
They concluded that casual friends are made within 40–60 hours of interaction, whereas to move on as real friends you need to build 80–100 hours of interaction, and over 200 hours together before you’re considered close friends. So if COVID-19 and social distancing has made your friendships more strained, it’s important to reach out to folks over video chat or phone calls as often as you can. Letting them know you’re thinking of them and care about them. Ideally, you’d want to see your friends face to face and in person. When that is not an option use a more personal platform of communication.
You need to be the initiator when it comes to social meet-ups. Everyone is waiting for others to reach out to them, to invite them to hangout. It may seem one-sided to always be the one reaching out at first. In reality, everyone is intimidated by this, this is stopping others from being the first to reach out. No one wants to put themselves in a vulnerable position of rejection. If we can embrace this vulnerability, and put ourselves out there we will find that people are very receptive. Be the person who puts in the effort, your friends will see this and appreciate and value you for it.
Now once you have plans with someone, don’t back out at the last minute, and strive to be timely. Being late shows your friends how valuable their time is to you. Canceling plans last minute doesn’t give your friends time to adjust their own schedule, and can leave them feeling rejected.
One on One
It’s not enough to hang out with a group of friends and expect to be closer to everyone. Having a one-on-one interaction is our best bet at creating a deep and meaningful connection. We can be our vulnerable selves and focus our attention more specifically on one person. Group interactions are important, but when we’re trying to create tighter bonds with specific people, don’t expect it to happen in a group setting.
2. Be Positive
People want to be around folks that make them feel good about themselves. Bringing your friends up as much as you can, will also make you feel better. It’s a wonderful feeling to feel appreciated and seen, so why shouldn’t we make our friends feel this way? In this same breath, being a negative person can bring down the feelings of the conversation and other people’s perceptions of you. This isn’t to say you should always keep it light around your friends. If you’re going through a hard time you should allow your friends to be there for you. However, it is draining to be around someone who constantly never has anything positive to say or bring to the relationship; who is always bringing the focus of the conversation back on themselves.
Give your friends the spotlight, build others up, highlight their strengths! Tell your friends what they mean to you, what you like about them, and how much you appreciate them.
We can’t solely expect our friends to be there for us, we need to be the ones who step up and are there for our friends. Make sure you are a person that they can rely on. Be the person that shows up to help a friend tow their car, or be there for someone while they’re grieving. People remember who was there when it mattered, and aren’t just around for the fun times.
3. Be an Active Listener
Don’t focus the conversation on yourself. If your friend is telling a story, don’t interject with a personal anecdote! Even if it is seemingly related. Let your friends finish their conversation without bringing yourself into the picture. Explore their story rather than taking a tangent in your direction.
Be present in the conversation, don’t have your attention divided between them and something else, such as your phone or other people coming into the room. Your friends will notice this and feel disregarded.
Explore your friend’s feelings rather than giving advice when they are disclosing to you a personal struggle. People aren’t searching for advice when they come to a friend. They’re searching for a connection, so rather than trying to fix your friend’s problems, just let them be heard. Let them know you love them.
Pay attention to the little details. Remember little things about your friends, like their birthday, their favorite treats, or favorite movie. Use this information to make their lives a little better, show up at their house with dinner and a movie, surprise them on their birthday! Little things like this can go a long way to having your friend value and appreciate your relationship.
4. Be Vulnerable
Let yourself be open and honest around your friends. It doesn’t serve you to always talk about easy things. Let the parts of you that you’re afraid to show openly, be seen by your friends. This will build trust for both you and your friends who will feel honored to have been allowed into your world.
Being vulnerable isn’t just talking about difficult things, it is also about being loving with your friends with physical touch. Many people feel closer to others after a hug, or simply by being touched, even if it’s just on the shoulder. It’s a basic human need that we all require. It can feel intimidating to initiate physical touch, especially because you don’t know how someone else is going to react. Again be the one to initiate, link arms with your friends, rest your head on their shoulder, let your thighs touch while you’re sitting together. Friendly cuddling is also welcomed. If your friend tells you they’re uncomfortable with physical touch, respect that boundary. With a new friend ask them if they’re comfortable with physical touch, and if they are then great!
Lastly, be vulnerable by asking your friends how you can be a better friend. If you’re feeling tension, don’t just brush it under the carpet. Sit down with your friend and tell them face to face. When feelings go unresolved for a long time, bitterness and resentment build up, until it is too late to fix. Show them that you care enough to communicate your needs and that you want to know what their needs are as well.
I will leave you with my favorite quote by Zig Ziglar that my brother once told to me
“If you go out looking for friends, you’re going to find that they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”
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