There is research that indicates there are health benefits to having good friends. We often don’t know how to maintain and improve those relationships though. It seems like once you’re friends with someone, the idea of changing or improving the relationship is somehow awkward. As children, we don’t feel this hesitant, but we also don’t change our BFF like underwear, either. As adults, maintaining and strengthening friendships is important, and here are some ideas from Psychology Today that make it easier.
- Ask a question you’ve been putting off, because you thought you didn’t have time to talk about it. Confiding in each other is important. Taking the time to ask questions and respond to questions and concerns is a big part of being a good friend.
- Think of a memory that makes you laugh, and text or email it to your friend. A bit cheesy, I’ll admit. It allows you to connect based on a past shared experience though. Healthy reflection is…healthy.
- Reveal something about yourself that you need to talk through but feel vulnerable about. This requires trust and time. You might think that you don’t have the time for this sort of vulnerability, but you might re-evaluate that. It could be that you need to do more to strengthen that bond of trust.
- Figure out a date that’s important to your friend — their birthday, their anniversary, or even a difficult milestone in their lives, like a parent’s death — and write it in your calendar so that you will know to do something personal when the time comes. This doesn’t mean adding “Happy Birthday” to their Facebook wall either. A written note goes a long way.
- Plan the next time you can see each other in person — and if that’s not possible, plan a time to catch up, for real. Anticipation is great. We frequently have large gatherings at our house, but if you get invited more than a few days in advance, that is really something. The “fly by the seat of my pants” saying fits me too well, and deliberately planning something weeks in advance only happens a few times a year for me. Intentionally seeking moments to spend with a friend are something that needs improvement.
- Write a thank-you note to your friend about something they’ve done that means a lot to you. It is particularly meaningful if the friend did something and is totally unaware of their impact too.
- Take 15 minutes to send a funny postcard or a small package of your friend’s favorite candy in the actual mail. No, this isn’t an advertisement for the US Postal Service, but it is nice to receive something that isn’t junk mail. (Two notes on this from experience: Be mindful of weather because chocolate melts! and Wrap items well***ants!)
- Let your friend in on a personal goal that you’ve been working on — and see if you can be accountability partners for each other. Celebrating successes further strengths your bond.
- Tell your friend about something new in your life that they may not know about. If it is important to you, it can be important to your friend too.
- Try to recall your last conversation, and vow to follow up on something specific from it the next time you communicate. This takes me a bit; usually about 20 minutes after a conversation, I remember that I should have asked about… It is difficult for me to keep those things in mind, but I’ve found that even the next day, I can always connect with the person again simply to ask the question that I forgot to ask.
You can learn more about strengthening friendships by reviewing the article in Psychology Today, written by Andrea Bonior Ph.D.