Friendships are necessary for our survival. We’re social creatures, and we crave interaction. Some think that friendships are even more necessary to personal satisfaction than spouses and family. “Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health. A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends” (NY Times).
Yet more and more often, finding a true friend is difficult. While we may have 1,000 friends on social media, we’re not interacting with those people on a daily basis or even on a substantial basis.
Indeed, we seem to have lost our ability to make and keep friends. If you’d like to increase your circle of friends (and improve your health, according to researchers), keep these tips in mind:
Ask about others (and care about the response).
We automatically ask one another, “How are you?”, but if the answer is anything more than a perfunctory, “Fine”, we don’t want to hear it. If you’d like to make and keep friends, be willing to listen to the answer, even if it’s not a happy one.
Keep in touch regularly.
As teens and college students, we spend an inordinate amount of time with our friends. But as we grow older, marry, and have children, there is less and less time to spend with our friends. However, keeping in touch regularly doesn’t have to be time consuming. If you can’t meet your friends for dinner or a movie, you can still keep in touch by sending a quick text letting her know you are thinking about her or asking about her day.
Even Warren Buffett, one of the richest (and presumably busiest) men in the world takes time to cultivate his friendships. “Warren does little things with his friends, like he will send you an article of something he is thinking about, reading about” (Business Insider). While you may be too busy for long telephone conversations or a night out together, you likely have time to connect quickly with at least one of your friends every day. This helps you stay connected until you have more time for a lengthier interaction.
Spend time together in person.
There is no getting around this. If you want to maintain a close relationship, you can’t do it solely through Facebook or texting. You must make time to spend together in person.
Remember things that are important to the other person.
The best friendship is a two-way street. You help one another through difficult situation and celebrate with one another during happy times. More and more, though, friendships seem to be one-sided. A friend may be going through a difficult situation, so she, understandably, needs to vent. However, sometimes, the friend can go on and on with her problems and never takes the time to ask about you or your situation.
While you may keep these friends, don’t expect to make them your closest friends. A true friendship requires two people who aren’t selfish and truly care about one another. “If someone is both totally self-involved and uncaring about anyone else, they are not likely to be very responsive to you in any way other than evaluating how you meet their needs” (Psychology Today).
Be willing to change and grow.
Friendships require shared experiences. If you’ve never taken a cooking class, would you be willing to go to one with your friend? If you allow yourself to be open to new experiences, you’ll not only become a better friend, but you’ll grow and change as well.
You never know what activities and interests your friend can help you cultivate, if you’re open to change.
What other criteria would you add? What is required to be a good friend? Why do so many people have trouble making and keeping friends?