Friendships can be tricky. How do we start friendships, maintain them, and get beyond just surface chatting and laughs? We all want to have friendships where we are known and accepted, but this can be tough to develop, especially into adulthood. There can be many things that affect friendships such as moving to a new state, career changes, and busyness of life that seem to happen more frequently as we settle into adulthood. Even though life transitions and changes happen, there are still ways to build and maintain great friendships. Here are some ways to have more authentic and connected friendships:
Drop the façade.
Vulnerability is attractive. Think about the friendships you have enjoyed the most in your life; they were likely vulnerable and relatable. They helped you feel like you weren’t alone and you had someone who understood you and your feelings in the stage of life you were in. Try dropping your public image or façade with some trusted friends and see if they will do the same with you.
Show interest and ask follow-up questions. Most people are looking for friends who listen well and regularly show they care. If you invest time and energy into your friends' lives they are more likely to invest more deeply into yours as well. Try asking these type of questions:
“Tell me more about … your vacation, your stressful day, etc.
“Did you decide what you are going to do with the situation you were telling me about the other day?
“What is your greatest fear?”
“What are you looking forward to lately?”
These types of questions invite your friends to share more of who they are and what they are experiencing in authentic ways and will likely lead to more opportunities for you to do the same.
Reach out and regularly spend time together. It is hard to have an authentic and connected friendship without quality time so find a rhythm for your friendship such as monthly dinner or daily walks. When you are together make a point to remember important dates, events, and experiences your friend shares. Everyone wants to be noticed and heard, so when you remember their anniversary or send them a card to celebrate their success they will know you are listening and this will help to deepen the connection in your friendship.
Don’t force it.
You will not click with everyone you meet and that is OK. You might find out you have different values, personalities, or availability that simply don’t line up. If you don’t click with someone then trying to deepen a friendship that is not working will likely be frustrating and discouraging to both of you over time.
Authentic friendships are a give and take, meaning there are times to vulnerably share and other times to listen and be curious. When you do find friends you trust, be intentional to invest your time, thoughtfulness, and vulnerability into the friendship as this can go a long way in building a deeper, more meaningful, and authentic friendship.
By: Jennifer Wilmoth, LMFT