Friendship Day is approaching. This year (2022), it’s on August 7. Perhaps you are already making plans on how to celebrate it and what gifts to buy for your BFFs? But have you ever wondered about how real your friendships are? Or, how healthy? The truth is, most friendships these days are quite shallow and superficial. So how does one maintain genuine and healthy friendships?
Jess C. Scott says that ‘friends are the family you choose’. And if you want to keep this family close to your heart and life forever, here are some tips to create and maintain healthy friendships.
Find time to connect
Bronnie Ware, a writer and palliative nurse, writes in her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, that one of the common regrets of people who are dying is not keeping in touch with friends. Staying in touch with friends is one way to have a healthy friendship.
If you want someone to be your friend for life, you need to make time for them. Stay connected via face-to-face meetings, phone calls, emails, online chats, etc. This is essential for maintaining a close bond. Get together for a Sunday brunch or a weekend movie, or even some coffee before work. Make sure you focus on your friend when you meet and not on your phone.
Establish and respect boundaries
In any relationship, it is a healthy practice to establish and respect boundaries. Even your bestie needs her space and privacy. So avoid calling your friends at odd hours, and don’t expect instant replies to your messages and calls. Don’t keep venting about your problems constantly as it will impair your friendship. It is okay to share your frustrations and disappointments with trusted friends, but your friend is not a therapist who is always available.
Communicate in a mindful manner
When talking with a friend, avoid interrupting them often or finishing their sentences. Be mindful in your communication. Listen patiently and avoid unwanted advice or non-stop commentary when your friend is talking. Try not to keep checking your text messages, voice mail, etc. If you look distracted, they will feel slighted.
If it’s something important, explain it to them briefly. If they feel fully heard and understood, it is the greatest gift you can give them. It is also important to speak mindfully. There is a time to speak and a time to remain silent. If you know both, it can improve the quality of your friendships.
Ask for your friend’s opinions on things that are important to you. It is like a big compliment to them as it shows that you value their opinions. Good friends can bring a refreshing perspective to your life.
Make them accountable
Equality and respect form the basis of healthy friendships, while co-dependence and obligation can mar them. Hold your friends accountable. Let them know that they should uphold their promises to you and act in tune with their values and ideals.
Help your friend to be more self-aware and conscious of their choices. Initially, your friend may be a little defensive, but later, they will see that you helped them to grow and uphold their commitments.
Know them personally
Make it a point to attend your friends’ birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, weddings, and baby showers. Turning up for such special events will make them feel that you are an integral part of their lives.
Try to meet their lovers, spouses, children, parents, cousins, and other friends. By being a part of their community, you can deepen your personal relationship with them.
Don’t be clingy
Avoid being too needy or clingy. If your friend doesn’t respond to a call or message quickly, don’t make a fuss. They have their own lives and responsibilities, so give them space and room to breathe.
Be open about your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. This will show that you trust your friend, and they will also reciprocate. Mutual trust helps build a true connection. Do not use their secrets or personal information to gain leverage or social power.
Be honest, keep their secrets safe, and be genuinely interested in your friend’s welfare. Never break promises. In case you can’t keep them, renegotiate.
Resolve problems with emotional maturity
If problems arise, express your feelings honestly. Do not allow resentment to fester. Have a frank dialogue. Do not force your friend to agree with you. Trying to instill fear, guilt, obligation, or emotional blackmail is detrimental to the friendship.
Be a positive presence in their life
Affirm your friend’s good qualities. Avoid being judgmental and negative. Believe in them and their abilities. Inspire them to do better. Support them when they fail. Gently point out their mistakes. They should know that you have their back. All this will make them know that they can count on you and that you genuinely care about them.
Good friends are like blessings. But remember, to have a good friend, you must be one first. Happy Friendship Day!