Ever since college, it has been harder and harder to meet and keep friends. But with these ten secrets to making lifelong friends, you’ll be rocking new and deeper friendships before you know it. Here they are:
1. Say, “Yes”
Be open to connection. When your friend calls, pick up. Get a message? Call back. If it’s texting, respond reasonably quickly if at all possible. When invited over, go. It takes time and energy to build a deep and lasting connection. So put in the time and say, “Yes,” as much as you’re able. If you’re over-scheduled and often find yourself saying, “No,” to invitations from friends, re-assess your priorities and clear some time and space for your social connections.
2. Reach out to connect more often
Phone calls, emails, texts: if you’re keeping track of whose turn it is, give it up and reach out more. But here’s the trick, you can’t expect anything in return. If you’re giving to get, you’ll get nothing. People are very sensitive to our unconscious desires, and even though they don’t understand why they don’t want to call back, they won’t. On the other hand, if you make lots of invitations with no strings attached, you’ll eventually get a yes, and after dropping your attachment to a specific outcome, you’ll probably be surprised at how often people say, “Yes,” to your invitations.
3. Bring a gift
Doing the little extras can be really fun and can help deepen your friendship. Did you know that some people’s primary love language is gifts? The cost of the gift doesn’t much matter, it really is the thought that counts. If you’re far away, sending a package is a super sweet way to reach over the miles and connect. If you’re going to dinner, bring some flowers or a bottle of wine. If you’re invited to a party, same thing. When you’re thoughtful and generous toward your friends, you’ll be the one that they want to stick around.
4. Get curious
Being inquisitive and listening to others is the hallmark of a good friend. If you find yourself constantly talking about yourself and your own life, or asking for advice, take a moment to consider switching that dynamic so that your friendship can be an equal partnership of mutual support. Ask questions about your friend’s life, their dreams and desires, and their struggles. And instead of jumping in to fix their problems for them, try asking clarifying questions and listen to their process as they figure things out for themselves.
5. Share something vulnerable
Again, there must be heartfelt sharing in order to foster a strong and healthy friendship. If you’re too scared to tell your friend how you truly feel, you’re not allowing your friendship to mature to the next level. Instead, be brave and be willing to risk the friendship. We can only foster a deep and lasting connection if we’re able to share our true thoughts and feelings. And if your friend doesn’t like it when you vulnerably share your deep truth, then it’s time to put your friendship energy elsewhere. This doesn’t mean you can use your friends as emotional dumping grounds, it’s important to get permission to share something deeply emotional, but a true friend will be there for you and feel even more connected when you share your unedited truth.
6. Offer a hug
Physical touch is incredibly nurturing and, personally, I can never get enough hugs and snuggles. Not everyone’s a hugger, but if you are, you can certainly find others who also enjoy hugs by offering them. Sometimes it’s as simple as opening up your arms as your friend is about to leave (or when they arrive). I haven’t found too many people who will refuse to hug when one is offered. This can be a great way to get your needs for physical touch met, but do be careful not to hang on too long. It’s creepy to be hugged for a super long time by someone you hardly know. Super short hugs can also be off-putting, so my rule of thumb is to squeeze, take a deep breath and then let go with a smile.
7. Gratitude and acknowledgments
Different from compliments, which only go skin deep, offering gratitude and acknowledgment is a way to share your heart and deepen your connections with everyone in your life. Take the following example: “I like your new haircut,” is a nice thing to say, but it’s not deeply impactful. On the other hand, “I really appreciated it when you called to invite me to lunch. I love spending time with you, and life gets so busy. I’m grateful that our friendship is important to you, too,” has a far greater emotional impact. If that’s too sappy for you, try this, “Hey bro, playing basketball with you last week was the highlight of my week. You rock!”
8. Provide a service
Help out, do the dishes, fix the sink, offer to run to the store. These acts of service are also perceived as love. Also, begin to see other people’s acts of service as love and notice how much more loved and appreciated you feel. And when your friend says, “Thank you,” try to fully receive the gratitude without minimizing your contribution. If that’s tough for you, try shutting your mouth, taking a deep breath through your nose and making eye contact. After a moment of silence, simply say, “You’re welcome,” and mean it.
9. Communicate when there’s trouble
If you feel there’s something wrong, talk about it. Most often, there’s been some sort of miscommunication and by bringing it up, you can resolve it quickly before too much upset builds. You may want to learn some communication skills like Nonviolent Communication. But they key is not to let your upset or confusion fester. Find out what’s really going on by asking for clarification and share your feelings using “I” statements and describing your experience, rather than “you” statements, which infer blame and may cause your friend to become defensive.
10. Ask for support
Asking for help when you need it can be incredibly hard and feels very vulnerable, but if you want to deepen your friendships it’s important to allow your friends to help you out. Maybe you need help moving, or a ride to the airport. Or perhaps you need someone to listen to you about how messed up your relationship with your mom is. Maybe you even need a wing man or woman to go out and help you get laid. Whatever it is that you need and are afraid to ask for help with is the exact thing that will help to deepen your friendship. Consider how good you feel when you’ve helped a friend with something. Do you really want to deny your friends the opportunity to contribute to you?
Some of these tips may be easy for you and others might be harder. But if you keep them in mind and practice them often, you can’t help but build stronger, longer lasting, and deeper friendships.