Many of us realize that the relationship with our spouse or our beloved one requires constant work and effort, but we rarely think like that about friendship. We believe that the bond that we share with our friends will last forever. But the truth is that friendship is not so different from your love relationships. Many of the same rules still apply. You should trust a person. You should share the same interests. You should spend time together to keep your relationship strong. And you should not take your friends for granted!
If you feel that you are slowly growing apart from your friends or would like to make more friends and maintain long-lasting relationships with them, here are 12 friendship musts that will help you to do that:
1. Let go of expectations. In friendship, just as in your relationship with your beloved, you should accept 100% responsibility for making it work. It is never 50/50, otherwise any genuine friendship quickly turns into a business arrangement, e.g. “I will do something for you, but then you will have to do the same for me”. Stop keeping tabs on who has given most in the friendship and do not expect that your efforts or nice gestures will be appreciated or repaid. You can only become true friends with someone you genuinely like, not with someone that you can benefit from.
2. Invite your friends over for a dinner. If your friends live nearby, invite them for dinner every so often. It does not mean that you have to be a gourmet chef. There are plenty of delicious dishes that you can prepare in just an hour.
3. Get together for a weekend. If your friends live far away, invite them to stay at your place for a few days. Plan this weekend in advance. Decide what you want to see or do together. Nothing brings people closer together than happy memories that they can later share.
4. Give your friends personal presents. Gift cards or money are great gifts that do not require a lot of imagination or effort, but they are just as easily forgotten. I honestly do not remember who gave me gift cards for my last birthday, but I will always treasure a painting that my friend drew especially for me. To me it is the most beautiful piece of artwork that I have ever seen, because she put a piece of her heart in it. If you can, make personal gifts for your friends! It really shows them how much they mean to you and where your priorities are.
5. Renew your friendship through little surprises. We all love unexpected surprises, be it a “thank you” note, a chocolate bar, a funny joke in the email box or a surprise party that our friend has thrown for us. Remember it is the little things that count in the long run!
6. Show sincere interest in your friend’s life. Ask your friend about their life, family, work, accomplishments and challenges. Then listen. I mean really listen! Do not think of the next thing that you want to say. Do not give clever advice unless asked. Do not state triumphantly, “I told you so!” Very often our friends are not looking for an opinion or advice. They just need to vent their emotions, sort out their thoughts and have someone to listen to them.
7. Know when to speak up and when to nod in agreement. A huge blessing in having a good friend is in their ability to notice things that we might not be able to see and give us valuable advice. But it is also important to know when and how to be honest. If you friend has just broke up with their beloved one, saying, “Forget it! They will never come back! I’m sure they are already dating someone else!” is an honesty that no one needs. There are certain stressful situations in life when we do not want to listen to “the truth”. We simply want to share our troubles and hear that everything will be ok.
8. Do something together. To strengthen your bond with your friends, think of activities that two of you can do together. For example, I often help my girlfriends to clean their house and they come over to help me out. It takes a lot less time. It is fun, because we chat and joke around. And it is a great excuse to hang out together without feeling guilty or unproductive. Exercising together with your friends is another great way to stay in touch and improve your health at the same time.
9. Learn to keep private information private. Trust takes a long time to build and seconds to destroy. If your friend confides in you some private information, it should remain between you two and not be shared with anyone else.
10. Inspire and encourage your friends. True friends inspire, motivate and support each other, rather than bring each other down. Sincerely celebrate your friend’s successes and accomplishments and ignore their failures and imperfections. After all this is what friendship is all about!
11. Make an effort to stay in touch. Frequent communication is vital to keep your friendship strong. I have noticed that when I talk with my friends almost every day we still never seem to run out of topics to discuss. But the longer we do not see each other, the more our conversations look like news updates, “I bought a new car… I signed up for a Spanish language course… I went to France last month…” The details and emotions that you felt just last week are no longer there. If you really want to maintain your friendship, make a constant effort to stay in touch. Send frequent emails. Call at least once a week. Chat on Facebook, MSN, Skype or Twitter. Go out for lunch at least once a month. Do not forget your friends or their family members’ Birthdays.
12. Become your own best friend. Very often our own insecurities make us act needy or controlling around our friends. We might feel threatened if our friend starts spending more time with another person and less time with us. Therefore, before becoming friends with anyone else, learn to spend time with yourself. Get to know yourself! Value and appreciate who you are! Do not be afraid to do something alone!
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson