Close friendships give us the gift of security, belonging and love in a relationship that is not romantic and that is different from family. An honest and sincere friend vulnerably shares her heart with you and makes it feel safe for you to do the same. Even if you don't see each other every day, when you do get together, it is as if no time has passed. You know your friend will pick up the phone when you call late at night, and there is a sense of joy at hearing each others' voices. The friendship is a safe haven to share, explore, change, grow, celebrate, grieve and be fully you. The path to finding that kind of friendship is not all about finding the right person; you also need to look inside yourself.
Set a Path for Personal Growth
Think about the kind of friend you want to attract into your life, and write down those attributes. Good friends are normally honest, sincere, trustworthy, loving, compassionate, understanding, forgiving and nonjudgmental. They are not perfect at any of those things and do not expect you to be either, but they are consistently growing and their heart is in the right place. They can admit when they are wrong and ask for forgiveness, but they also offer forgiveness freely when you ask.
Once you have an idea of the kind of friend you are looking for, become that kind of friend to yourself so that you know what it feels like and are not looking to another person to fill a hole or void within you. Then live out and grow in those areas with the people already in your professional and personal lives. Become the kind of friend you want to attract into your life. Offer everyone around you the same love and care you hope to receive in return.
Acknowledge Your Boundaries
Everyone has different ideas about what is acceptable or unacceptable in a friendship. Be aware of your own triggers and deal-breakers. Some people have a hard time with friends who do not typically reply to messages or return phone calls. Others have trouble with people who make a pattern of sudden changes in plans, addictions, codependency, lies or any number of other things. Consider the things that you know trigger you, and make a commitment not to do them yourself before you have those expectations of others. As you seek new friendships, it is okay to choose not to invest your heart in a friendship where these patterns are evident early on.
Find Potential Friends
When you are ready to develop new friendships, make some effort to step into the world in new ways. Join a place of worship and attend services or evening gatherings. Find an interest group for something you enjoy, like hiking, swimming, gaming, dog training, reading or dancing. Enroll in fitness or community education classes. Volunteer somewhere important to you, like a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, safe home or volunteer fire department. As you meet new people, make eye contact and treat them the way you hope a friend will treat you. Pay attention to who responds in kind, and take the time to gradually get to know them.
Allow Friendships to Grow
Deep, honest and sincere friendships are not formed overnight, so have patience while they grow. As you get involved in interests and the community, you will naturally click well with certain people and quickly become acquaintances. Be consistent in showing up to the activities where you see them, and those acquaintances could become social friends. When it feels right, offer to host a potluck or movie night so that you can all socialize together.
Eventually, you are bound to click with someone in a deeper way or discover that you have something important in common. Offer to meet for coffee or lunch to share and listen more. Your personal friendship begins to grow and deepen as you spend one-on-one time together. Send an encouraging text from time to time, connect on social media, and show support for one another's interests. Over time, as you get together for more one-on-one time, your friendship will naturally deepen and evolve into something special and unforgettable.
One day, you will realize how important your friendship has become when she is the first person you tell about something exciting in your life, or she calls you right away and you cry with her as she is grieving. This deep emotional level of connection is a good indication that your friendship has reached a level of sincerity, honesty and vulnerability that is likely to last for the long haul.
- Psychological Bulletin: The Need to Belong – Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation
- Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health: Why Do Friendships Matter for Survival?
- Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day; Anne Katherine
- Journal of Social and Personal Relationships: Self-Referent Motivation and the Intrinsic Quality of Friendship
- Personal Coping: Theory, Research, and Application – Life Crises and Personal Growth
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