Relationships are a necessary part of life, and without them we wouldn’t survive.
Have you ever glanced through the self-help aisle of the bookstore? You might’ve noticed it’s filled to the brim with everything romance-related—how to get a man, how to dump him, and how to get over him.
Yet, despite the significance placed on romantic relationships—or even family, for that matter—friend relationships, or lack thereof, can largely contribute to our happiness.
Sometimes, however, our friendships fall to the wayside when a) life changes occur, such as your new romance or having children, or b) we become busier than usual (new promotion, your kids are home for the summer, etc). Maybe we feel we need to prioritize our children, our family or our careers before we can give ourselves to our friends.
The unfortunate truth? Life will never stop getting in the way, and friendships aren’t as easy to maintain as they once were on the playground at recess (and sorry, our parents won’t be setting up playdates anytime soon). So, we’ve gotta deal. Here’s how to make being a better friend your top New Year’s resolution for 2019:
1. Quality Over Quantity
First, and most importantly, the definition of “friendship” needs to change. It doesn’t have to be a big group to count—in fact, you’re truly blessed if you have one friend who gets you and loves you. Be sure to clear through toxic relationships to make room for healthy ones. Why? Because once you know your life is filled with people who encourage you to be your most authentic self, you’ll surely want to make more time for them (and you may realize the toxic ones were taking up too much space in your life, blocking the more important ones).
Exercise: Take a moment and make a list of all your friendships, healthy or toxic. Next, work through each person on your list, asking yourself if there has been a long-term pattern of stress, imbalance or resentment with the friendship. Have you come to hate spending time with them? Leave them feeling drained? Maybe you feel you’re not yourself when you’re around them. Once you’ve gone through your list and answered some tough questions, be ready to have some tough, but necessary conversations (read more about my personal journey here).
2. Social Media vs. Reality
Facebook and other social media platforms have redefined the term “friend” for us. “Friends” on social media are not to be confused with true friends in “real” life. Make sure to know the difference. True, direct messages, email and texting make it easier now more than ever to stay in touch with your BFF, but just remember that it’s not a substitute for the true emotional substance your relationship desperately needs in order to thrive. Simply put, when we turn to social media interaction instead of using our faces and voices, our relationships can become dehumanized—we lose engagement, happiness, warmth, among many other necessary interactions.
Exercise: Remember that list you made earlier? Reach out to each of your friends (the healthy ones) and make in-person plans ASAP. If you rely heavily on your calendar, create a recurring notification for yourself on one day each month to text or call each of your friends to book reservations, go for a walk, see a movie, etc. If some of them are out of town, set up a standing date each month where the two of you can talk for hours without interruption. Make it a priority (because it is).
3. Show Gratitude for Your Friends
When it comes to your besties, you have to have a healthy give-and-take balance. The fact is, relationships take time, and we must invest in order to make a withdrawal. You have what you build and you can’t expect to get what you don’t give. We can’t forget to call back, bail on plans consistently, postpone, temporarily disappear and expect to get the fulfillment that comes from true connection.
Exercise: Go through each friend on your list from earlier and write down three things you love about them. Make it meaningful and specific to them. Is it their sense of humor? Their willingness to always help others? Next, write it in a letter and send it to their address. No need to go all out—some pretty stationary with three bullet points saying “Why I Love You” is more than enough. More importantly, when plans are made, be sure to keep them. Sure, cancellations happen, but don’t make them a pattern. Your friends are one of the most important relationships you have. Treat them as such!
I’ve been guilty in my own friendships and I’ve had to apologize and strive to become a better friend. Kindness begets kindness; be the type of friend you want to have.
What do you think?