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7 Tips on Building Strong Friendships

January 25th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

little girls holding handsThere are many different types of relationships in the human experience.  Most of us desire closeness with other people.  Our mental, emotional and physical health depends on our abilities to form close and loving relationships.  Many people have as much difficulty cracking the friendship code, as I would understanding any one of Einstein’s equations.

There are many different friendship relationships; mentor/coach, acquaintances, business and circumstantial, and long lasting close connections.  One thing that they all have in common is that they start out superficial, or the “getting to know you stage”.  Some relationships never progress beyond that, and stay in the acquaintance level.  To progress beyond the acquaintance level requires a different set of skills and needs.

In humans, the differences between male and female is very pronounced even as infants.  Female infants tend to look at human faces much more intensely than their male counterparts.  But, how much after that is social conditioning and how much is physiological?  Do adults hug and hold their female children more often than their male offspring?  Do we encourage “female bonding” in their games and activities vs the games males are encouraged to participate in? Those questions are best left to the clinicians who study human behavior.

The argument can be made that women have an easier time forming close personal relationships than men.  Is that true or a convenient excuse?  I seem to be raising more questions than I am answering.  I do know, that if the need or desire is not there for close personal relations, it won’t be accomplished.  Many people don’t feel the need for this until they have suffered a health or emotional crisis.  Putting all the differences aside and making the assumption that this closeness is desired, I would like to present the traits or skill set a person needs to learn to form close personal relationships that last.

1.  Loyalty – this skill is often debated regarding its importance.  I, personally, find this trait to be one of the most important to me.  I call it a skill because it can be learned at any age.  Without loyalty it is difficult to completely relax and let our guard down.  Some friendships are born out of competitive relationships ie; sports, business, etc.  Matters of the heart can’t be drawn into that competition.

2.  The ability to keep confidences.  Our family calls telling confidences to others as “baby mouse syndrome”, named after Sniffles the mouse in the old time cartoon.  The little mouse, Sniffles, followed the other character in the cartoon around telling everything he knows and asking too many questions. In our family, if you get called “Baby Mouse” you spoken a confidence or said too much.  Feelings can be hurt if we say too much about someone else.  It becomes gossip.  No one trusts a gossip.

3.  Honesty – this one can be difficult.  We don’t want to hurt others.  The sign of a true friend is one that will tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it.  A loving person is honest.  Many people confuse being honest with a lack of tact.  It is possible to be honest with compassion and empathy.

4.  Compassion – Truly caring about someone else’s life and feelings.  Showing interest and remembering facts that are important in someone else helps lower the other person’s guard. As the old saying goes, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

5.  Common values – It is very difficult to sustain a lasting relationships without this.  It helps us understand one another.  We could meet someone from another culture or place and form a lasting friendship if we have common values.  Sometimes, can look at a friendship and wonder what common values they have.  If you look hard enough, you will find them.

6.  Empathy – Caring and understanding – no matter what.  This means suspending judgement on them.  Listening to what they have to say.  Leaving those hurtful words, “I told you so”, out of the conversation.  Those words only serve to hurt the other.  If it is important for you to be recognized as the  superior intellect in the relationship, you might want to question your motives.

7.  Share the good times and the bad.  A relationship that is one sided where only the bad things are shared becomes burdensome for the person being dumped on.  Do you want a friend or a counselor?  If your life seems to be one big bite off the pooh-pooh sandwich and that is all you have to share with your friend, I suggest you get a counselor.  They can point you in the right direction.  They are paid to listen to you and to teach you coping skills.  We all have times where our life seems to be falling apart.  That is understandable.  But, if all you know how to share is the crap, why would anyone want to be your friend?  Those are the times we need to see the good things.  Sometimes, being a friend to someone is pointing out the good things even when they aren’t in the mood to hear them.  When the shoulder to cry on becomes the thing you have in common and that is all you hear, it could be time for honesty.

In our lives we will have different friends for different moments.  When we don’t have those things in common, such as a job or an association we lose track of them. What we can strive for is long lasting friendships that it doesn’t matter how long it has been since you have seen them, you can pick up where you left off.  The closeness of heart is always there.

Related articles:

How to Cultivate Closeness

Forming Friendships

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  1. July 7th, 2010 at 15:20 | #1

    This is a very interesting post, I was looking for this knowledge.

  2. February 2nd, 2011 at 14:47 | #2

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  3. May 17th, 2011 at 02:49 | #3

    Nice! Great article! Thank you.

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