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10 Tips to Help You Keep More Good Friends

10 Tips to Help You Keep More Good Friends

Modern-day technology and social media make it easier to stay connected with friends and keep up with their successes, interests and status updates. But busy lifestyles, superficial communication, false intimacy and even neediness make it harder to develop and keep real friendships.

If you have good friends who enrich your life, bring you positive energy, boost your well being, and serve as trusted confidants, these 10 tips can definitely help you keep them:

1. Make time to connect. 

In The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, author and palliative nurse Bronnie Ware reveals that one of the common regrets of the dying is, “I wish I had stayed in touch with friends.” She notes that among the people she cared for, “There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved.”

Cultivating durable friendships involves building a solid foundation, resolving disagreements and misunderstandings, and showing appreciation for the person’s presence in your life. These all require staying in touch with your friends, not just online but offline as well.

When you’re dealing with deadlines at work, attending to your family’s needs, traveling the world, or pursuing hobbies, it’s challenging to connect with friends. But making time for friends is essential if you want to keep them.

Staying connected includes spontaneous telephone calls, quick emails, and online chatting just to say hi or to touch base on challenges and successes in life. It also means making time for face-to-face meetups, which are key to creating and maintaining a close bond.

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While inviting them to parties and happy hours are part of staying connected, you want to include one-on-one and small group meetings to have quality time together. Set a date to get together, whether it’s for a Saturday brunch at the neighborhood restaurant, a coffee chat before work, or a bowling game on a Friday evening. Then show up and treat them like a VIP.

2. Set and respect boundaries. 

When your friend is going through a tough time or facing a crisis, let her know how and when to best reach you for support. If you answer telephone calls only during certain hours, respond to text messages on your lunch break, or check your emails only once or twice a day, inform her of these habits. Likewise, don’t call your friend at odd hours (unless you have explicit consent from her) or expect an immediate reply from her (unless you have a mutual understanding) to hash out the latest drama and dilemma in your life.

Constant complaining and venting can undermine the long-term viability of your friendship, no matter how close it is. While revealing your frustrations and disappointments to good friends is natural and healthy, you also want to avoid relying on them for free therapy. Setting and respecting healthy boundaries are critical to maintaining real friendships.

3. Communicate mindfully.

When you’re talking with a friend, it can be tempting to chime in and give a comment here and there. You might even interrupt and finish her sentences because you know her so well.

Of course, communication is a two-way street. If you repetitively pepper your friend with questions and sit quietly, do no revealing yourself, or have no response to her stories, the interaction can feel like an interrogation rather than a conversation. Back and forth banter and selective listening are very common among friends. But it can also stop you from forging a strong connection and true intimacy.

Checking your voice mail, eyeing your text messages, or otherwise being distracted might seem acceptable when you’re with good friends, but it could turn them off from spending time with you. If you are interrupted and need to attend to something else, briefly explain why and re-direct your focus as quickly as possible.

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When it comes to meaningful conversations, the best friends are those who are able to listen deeply, without giving endless commentary or unsolicited advice. They know how to hold off on speaking when a sympathetic ear or calm space is really what’s needed.

Deep listening allows you to be completely present with the other person and to develop empathy for her emotions and experiences. Feeling fully heard and completely understood are some of the greatest gifts your friend can receive from you.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” — Karl A. Menniger

Mindful speaking is also necessary to keeping good friends. The words you speak can be pleasant (such as when you pay a true compliment) or painful (like when you offer unnecessary and unkind criticism). Your speech influences your environment, shapes your reality, affects others’ perceptions, and makes or breaks friendships.

Be deliberate about what you say, when you say it and how you say it. Knowing when to speak up and when to stay silent has ripple effects on the quality and sustainability of friendships.

4. Be open to feedback

Asking for your friend’s comments, thoughts and opinions on your latest project or a decision you have to make is a huge compliment to them. If you solicit their feedback to help you build self-awareness, create new habits, and make positive changes, this shows how much you value their insights. Whether they have similar or different backgrounds, beliefs and philosophies, good friends bring a unique perspective to your life.

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5. Keep them accountable.

Healthy friendships are built on equality and respect, not co-dependence and obligation. Hold your good friends in high regard and expect them to keep their promises and act in alignment with their values and ideals.

While being non-judgmental goes a long way, you can gently ask your friend questions to help him become more self-aware and conscious of his choices. This is not about telling your friend what to do, but reminding him of his own capabilities and desires. Although your friend might be defensive and embarrassed at first, he will likely thank you later for helping him grow and stay true to his commitments.

6. Get to know them personally. 

If you want to keep good friends, show up at their celebrations, including birthday parties,  graduation shindigs, weddings and baby showers. Even if it’s just for an hour, your putting in face time at special events will be remembered and appreciated. You get to capture touching photos and make lasting memories of a shared experience and unique occasion.

Create or take advantage of opportunities to meet their significant others, spouses, children, cherished family members, and other friends. Develop common hobbies and mutual interests or learn about the activities they enjoy and what makes them come alive. Being a part of your friends’ community will help to strengthen your personal relationship with them.

“”Doing all we can to promote our friend’s happiness is better than to continually drink to his prosperity.” – Minna Thomas Antrim

7. Give them space. 

Being too needy or clingy can drive good friends away. When your friend doesn’t call you back, return your email, or reply to your text message as quickly as you’d like, don’t make it into a big deal.

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Good friends have full lives and personal responsibilities of their own, so don’t be surprised if their world doesn’t revolve around you. Explore your own interests, form a strong network and community, and savor solitude so that you can give each of your good friendships room to breathe.

8. Build trust.

Disclosing your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and failures and successes encourages your friend to reciprocate and build a true connection with you. When a friend shares personal information with you, consider it as a step further into cultivating an authentic friendship, not as a means to gain leverage, content for gossip, or social power.

Practicing honesty and transparency, keeping confidences, and showing genuine interest in your friend’s well being are key to establishing trust. Do what you say you’re going to do. Keep your promises or renegotiate if you can’t keep them.

9. Resolve disagreements in emotionally mature ways. 

Get through conflicts by expressing what’s on your mind instead of allowing resentment to fester. State your preferences and point of view to create clarity and encourage dialogue, instead of making arguments to try and coerce your friend into agreeing with you. Attempting to instill fear, obligation and guilt or using any type of emotional blackmail are no-nos if you want to keep a good friendship.

10. Be a positive force.

 Although good friends can inspire you, you want to avoid obsessive comparisons that might bring you down or drive you to constant one-upping. Making negative comments, finding fault, and passing judgments are major turn-offs.

Instead, be  a vocal witness to your friend’s best qualities and most joyful experiences. Notice when your friends are most excited and energized — whether it’s when they speak about their latest work project or make progress on a creative hobby — and share your observation with them. They will enjoy being your friend when you remind them about what’s working for them and when you feel good about your own life.

No matter what you do, some good friends will naturally drift away as time passes or when circumstances change. But applying these 10 tips will help you keep more good friends for many years to come (and even for a lifetime).

Featured photo credit: mcconnmama via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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