How To Cultivate Stronger, Better Friendships
Friendships come in many forms, and in this hyper-connected digital age, we can forge incredibly strong bonds with friends we never actually see or meet in real life. But it’s also easy to fall into shallow friendships and false intimacy, both on and offline. Navigating the world of friendship – from making new pals to nurturing old relationships, to letting go of toxic attachments – can be complicated. And with more and more people adopting transient, nomadic lifestyles in the current day, finding community can be difficult. Humans are social creatures and we need community. We need friends we can turn to when times get tough, we need cheerleaders in our corner, and we need people around us to lift us up, inspire us, make us feel seen, and give us a darn good laugh. The bottom line is that friendships enrich our lives and help us grow. Here’s how to find and keep the ones that will do just that.
Do the things you love
Going about enjoying the things you love, learning about them, and finding like-minded people that love what you love too is a great way to meet people. Having something to bond over can lay a solid foundation upon which friendships can develop. Prioritizing what you love can also strengthen your relationships with other people in other ways: Even if your friends don’t enjoy the same things or understand your passions, doing so will ensure that you can bring more to the table yourself. You’ll show up for each other in a better, happier space when you support each other to go off and fill your cups.
Bring your authentic self to every interaction
The quickest way to attract “your” people is by being completely and utterly yourself. Showing up with authenticity isn’t easy for everyone. Many of us try to hide our true selves because we’re afraid that we won’t be accepted. But maintaining a façade is draining and damaging to your sense of self, and it prevents the right people from connecting with your energy. Don’t be afraid to talk about your weird obsessions, call out behavior that doesn’t align with your values, be honest about how you’re feeling, and lean into your own brand of humor. The ones who get it will likely be friends for life.
Be willing to get vulnerable
Good-time pals are great to keep around, but strong, lasting friendships are built on mutual trust, respect, and vulnerability. This is a big one. We all feel more compassion and connection when we hear of somebody’s struggles, and we need to share our own for true connections to be built. We have to allow ourselves to be seen, and we need to be prepared to receive as much love and care as we give in a friendship. Opening up to friends about what you are thinking and feeling is a signal that you trust them, and the right people will respond by holding space for you and supporting you – just as you do for them.
Uphold your boundaries
Respecting each other’s boundaries is central to a solid friendship, and this can prevent a healthy and balanced relationship from tipping into a codependency. Friends that aren’t respecting your boundaries are depleting your energy, which takes you away from nurturing the social connections that do nourish you in your life. An important boundary to maintain in any relationship is resisting the urge to try and “fix” someone or their situation. Support them by being there, and your confidence in their strength of character might just help them figure out the right solution for themselves.
Put your own needs first
If you’re feeling anxious and insecure about your friendships, this means that you need to do some internal work to build up your own self-esteem. Try not to project your own anxieties onto the people you’re building a relationship with. When you approach a friendship with a secure sense of self, you’ll be able to put boundaries in place, respect the other person’s, be authentic, and feel safe to get vulnerable, all while having a great time with this awesome human you've made a connection with.
You will also be able to intuit when a friendship might have run its course or needs a little space – it’s ok for friendships to evolve as new people enter your life in the many different phases and chapters of it that we move through. By doing the work on yourself, you'll be able to show up fully grounded and present. You will be more compassionate, non-judgmental, relaxed, and simply awesome to be around. By doing your own inner work on a regular basis, your emotional growth will ripple out to your friends, and help them grow in turn. And you will be a magnet for the deep, lasting, and nourishing friendships that you deserve.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: An Exploratory Study Of Friendship Characteristics And Their Relations With Hedonic And Eudaimonic Wellbeing; Social Relations And Life Satisfaction: The Role Of Friends; The Benefits Of Being Yourself.
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