Start the new year by focusing on your relationships, especially your friendships! Having quality, life-long friendships allows us to share some of the emotional burdens of our daily lives. It’s time to give them the care and attention they deserve. Read on to learn simple steps you can take right now to be a better friend.
First, Differentiate Active From Passive Friends
Categorizing your friends as active relationships (close connections you see often) or passive relationships (newer connections you see less frequently) will give you more time to prioritize the friends that mean the most to you. And when you nurture your active relationships, this will allow you to allocate most of your energy and time to maintaining your established friendships versus your weak ties. You can also work on strengthening your weak ties (those passive relationships), which will provide networking opportunities and make you feel more connected to other social groups.
Create Time for Friends
It’s important to give your friends time and attention (it’s rewarding for both parties). Some suggestions include: scheduling friend dates on your calendar; taking five minutes to call or FaceTime a friend; starting an annual or monthly tradition so you can meet your friends regularly,; and exercising or taking a class with a friend, which is a great way to nurture your hobbies and your friends at the same time and as a bonus for both of you, it can be fun and healthy!
Make Small Gestures
Small gestures can make a momentous difference! They can help show your friends you are thinking about them and can go a long way toward nurturing relationships that may not always get as much one-on-one time as you’d both prefer. Some suggestions include: texting a photo, bringing home treats from travels, sharing a song, video, book or article you think they would find intriguing (based on your knowledge of their interests), feeding your friends, or just showing up for the milestones, such as weddings, graduations, birthdays, etc.
Really Listen to Your Friends
When you ask a friend a question (such as “How are you?”), really listen to the answer. Maintain eye contact, stay present and show that you’re interested in what they have to say. Repeat what you hear. When you summarize and repeat thoughts back to someone, it shows them you are really hearing them. Keep the focus on them. Don’t shift the focus of the conversation to your situation and feelings. Lastly, try brainstorming with your friend to find solutions rather than jumping in with advice.
Show Your True Colors
Numerous studies show we form deeper connections with friends when we are willing to be vulnerable and venture into more personal territory in our conversations by revealing our opinions and feelings rather than sticking to basic facts about our lives. Ask yourself how much you’ve revealed to your friend and how much they’ve revealed to you. Knowing that self-disclosure fosters closeness, make it a priority, especially if you feel like a friendship lacks true connection.