William Shakespeare once said, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” Friends are the family we choose for ourselves. They make up the highs and lows of our lives, and in some ways, they affect our daily well-being even more than our actual family does. For better or for worse, friendships, or the lack thereof, can largely determine our happiness. They help us develop the rhythm of our days and can even shape our goals and our dreams, encouraging us to become who we want to be.
The closer we get to someone, the more invested we become in their emotions and behavior. We are far more likely to be reactive to our best friends. Our friends make us feel comfortable; they can unravel the moments of weakness, and also know our shortcomings but still love us anyway.
Despite their vital importance, though, true friendships in adulthood can be much harder to make and maintain than they were during school or college days. So, how would you build a strong and lasting friendship? Here are fifteen ways to encourage a stronger relationship with your best friends:
- Lift each other up.
Being a good listener and communicator is an integral part of being a caring friend. Humans tend to lean on each other for support, particularly in times of need. You may feel the need to reaffirm that you can count on others through the ups and downs of life.
Similarly, you can support and lift your friend by validating their feelings, reminding them of their accomplishments and positive qualities, and getting them to laugh and have a fun time when they need a break.
- Be genuine.
Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones. A strong and long-lasting friendship should be built with honesty.
You don’t have to be someone else just to gain a lot of friends because real buddies will give you the freedom to be yourself and accept you for who you are. Moreover, you may not have to agree with everything they do or say, but it’s important to try to be nonjudgmental and compassionate. Judging them could weaken the relationship.
- Embrace quality and ditch quantity.
Many of us spend countless hours every week on very superficial friendships, getting caught up in a minefield of generic texts or the endless treadmill of social networking. We may spend hours each day fiddling on Instagram or Facebook, but doing nothing to make true connections—all the while feeling too “busy” to go out and form friendships that are much more real.
Show your friends that you want to be around them no matter how hectic your schedule is. If both of you are far away from each other, you may send text messages, email, chat, or call to make them feel that they are important in your life.
- Express gratitude.
Practicing gratitude can improve your mood, self-esteem, and empathy. This extends to deepening friendships as well. It feels good to be appreciated and show appreciation for others.
When a friend displays kindness and thoughtfulness, try to express your gratitude for their efforts. This reassures them that you notice their contributions to the friendship. It can also boost their feelings toward the bond.
- Manage your expectations and don’t make assumptions.
In any relationship, we can start to impose certain expectations on others that set us up to feel hurt or disappointed. Don’t be quick to pick apart your friends. Accept that they are human and that they will make mistakes.
We may show our friendship in one way, whether through affection, favors, or gifts, but we shouldn’t necessarily expect the same from them. Don’t assume what your friends are thinking; and accept that you could be wrong about their viewpoint—every individual possesses a different mind and their own perceptions of the world. They may, in turn, have a very different way of expressing their feelings or showing that they care.
- Admit your mistake and apologize.
Sometimes when a friend is upset, all they want to hear from you is a simple “sorry”. Learn to admit and apologize when you do something wrong instead of allowing your pride to eat you.
Just swallow your pride, and accept your mistakes because that is part of growing up.
- Resolve conflicts.
In any relationship, conflicts are bound to arise. Friends are individuals with their own lives, thoughts, feelings, and opinions. You may disagree on an issue or situation from time to time that results in a conflict.
Though it’s difficult and often uncomfortable, resolving conflicts is vital for salvaging friendships. Disagreements sever the relationship altogether if left unresolved. Remember that friendship maintenance is an act of love and sometimes requires stepping in uncomfortable situations.
- Try new things and have fun together.
Friendships can fall into a rut sometimes if all you ever do is share your latest complaints every time you see each other.
Why not go out and do some new adventures together? It is a great way to create some happy memories and lighten the burden load you feel.