Having supportive, honest people in your life can make a huge difference in your overall happiness (and theirs). But fostering friendships that go beyond the surface can be a challenge -- they take a lot of time and energy, and it can feel awkward at first. If you want to build deeper connections with your friends, here's how to get started.
Evaluate Your Relationships
Take a closer look at your current friendships. Whether your friendship started at work, childhood, university or elsewhere, ask yourself the following questions (and be honest with your answers).
- Which friendships need a deeper connection?
- Are you really "close" to your close friends or do you just talk about superficial topics?
- Who supports you the most?
- Who do you enjoy being around the most?
- Which relationships do you want to spend extra effort on?
If you usually see someone in a group, you'll need to make an effort to see them one on one to create a deeper connection. You probably won't find these questions easy to answer, but you can't figure out which relationships to focus on otherwise.
Plan Conversation-Sparking Activities
To build your friendship, you should make plans that encourage conversation -- like going to an art exhibit, taking a class, or cooking together.
The first step to feeling more loved is creating close relationships, and that starts with meaningful, engaged conversations. These don't necessarily need to be deep and spiritual in nature. They just need to be honest, authentic, and reciprocal.
If you haven't spent time with your friend in a while, reconnect by sharing what you've learned since the two of you last caught up.
Don't Shy Away From Difficult Talks
It isn't your responsibility to be your social circle's therapist, but diving into more emotional subjects can bring you closer. Take a deep breath and ask difficult check-in questions like "How are you really doing?" Once, a friend told me that they were taking a break from school due to some personal issues. I felt like a terrible friend because I had no idea they were struggling. If I'd made the effort to check-in with them and see how they were really doing, I wouldn't have been blindsided by the news.
If you're trying to rekindle a friendship that used to be much deeper, you should be honest with the person and tell them what you want from the friendship. Think of a few ways to express yourself beforehand so that you can keep talking even if you're overwhelmed by emotion. An example is: "I feel like we have been drifting apart. I really enjoy your friendship. How do you feel? Can we make an effort to become better friends again?"
Don't shy away from topics just because talking about them is difficult. If you notice changes in your friend's behaviour, ask them about it.
Create Time To Be Supportive Of Them
Deeper relationships take more time and effort to maintain, so make sure you set time aside in your schedule to do just that. Of course, you both probably have a lot on your plates, so make a "no guilt agreement" so that if plans do get cancelled, your friendship can stay strong.
The person who builds great relationships doesn't think about what she wants; she starts by thinking about what she can give. She sees giving as the best way to establish a real relationship and a lasting connection. She approaches building relationships as if it's all about the other person and not about her, and in the process builds relationships with people who follow the same approach.
Focusing on your friend and the support they need is an important part of a meaningful relationship, don't forget that sometimes you may need to tell them "no".
Whether you're an introvert, an extrovert, or a mix of both, maintaining strong relationships is essential to your well being. Follow the tips above and you'll be able to cultivate deeper connections with those in your life.