I’ve always been the type of person who made friends easily and prided myself on having a lot of them. However, as we get older, it’s not uncommon for our circle of friends to get smaller. We should be placing a higher importance on quality over quantity and our tribe should be a reflection of who we are and who we strive to be.
Having moved around quite a bit, I have friends scattered across the US. Through this, I’ve not only learned how to find quality friends, but also learned how to create lasting relationships with them. Below are some tried and true tips to building stronger friendships:
1. Create rituals.
Some of my favorite things to do are the rituals I have created with various friends of mine. One of my best friends is someone I grew up with so we had a lot of our own rituals: Going sledding every Christmas Eve, a road trip every summer, watching new episodes of The Hills together. I truly believe these rituals are a part of the reason we are still so close! Even as we’ve grown older and moved farther apart, we still manage to incorporate and recreate some of these rituals into our time together. One weekend we even had a “sleepover” like we did in high school and stayed up all night watching DVDs of The Hills!
Rituals are incredibly important in building lasting bonds. Even if you don’t see someone often, it is those rituals that will always give you a shared point of reference and help you to share commonalities as you grow separately. Friendships forged in childhood can drift apart over time but rituals will allow you to maintain a special connection.
2. Be a shoulder to cry on.
A strong friendship means knowing they can turn to you for the good times and the bad. A few years ago, I had to have a pretty major surgery that left me anxious and fearful. I was living six hours from my parents and many of my closest friends. While she couldn’t be there in person, my friend Emily surprised me by sending a care package full of items. Each one was individually wrapped with a note telling me why she had chosen it just for me! How cute is that?! Not only did I feel like she really knew and appreciated me but it also let me know she would be there in any way she could!
When you are excited about something positive in your life, you want everyone to know. You’d shout it from the rooftops if you could! Imagine you are struggling with something in your life. How many people would you feel comfortable sharing that with? Chances are, it’s a lot less. To have good friends, you have to be a good friend. Be someone your friends can lean on in good times and bad. Most likely, they will return the favor if ever needed.
3. Practice acceptance.
No matter how close you are or how much you have in common, you and your friends are not going to see eye to eye on everything. You also each have some quirks and traits that will probably get on your nerves once in a while. Being a true friend means loving them unconditionally and accepting their “flaws”. Isn’t it the best feeling when you can be completely yourself around someone and know they won’t judge you? Be that person for your friends!
4. Share experiences.
A lot of my closest friendships have developed over shared interests and hobbies. However, it is these shared interests that have led to some of my best memories and strongest friendships! My friend Sarah and I both love baseball and planned a getaway to Chicago to watch the Twins play the Chicago White Sox. This was before I lived there so we explored the city, ate all the deep-dish pizza and had an amazing girls’ weekend. It doesn’t have to be as big (or expensive!) as a trip. We also both love wine so sometimes we’ll go check out a new winery together.
Think about your bestie. How long have you known each other? How did you become friends? In most cases, you met by chance through sharing a job, a class, or a mutual friend. However, it was the things you had in common and your shared interests that probably led to developing a friendship. Use these same practices to strengthen the other friendships in your life! Share a love of fitness? Try a new class together! History buffs? Take a local history tour or visit a nearby historical site!
5. Prioritize each other.
Does anyone else feel like they wake up, work, workout, eat, sleep and repeat? We live in a culture where it’s acceptable and expected to be constantly on the go! This doesn’t mean we can’t carve out some time for those most important to us. Nothing helps me to recharge like a little one-on-one time with one of my closest friends! My friend Alison has recently gone back to school and her schedule puts even my game-filled calendar to shame. We might not see each other as often as we like but we manage to fit the occasional happy hour or ballgame in. Her commitment to prioritizing these get-togethers lets me know our friendship is just as important to her as it is to me!
6. Be present.
If you don’t get to see each other very often (or even if you do), don’t waste the time you do have! I always give my mom a hard time about checking her Facebook while we wait for our food at a restaurant but I’m guilty of this at times as well! Who isn’t?! I’ll be talking to a friend and feel my phone vibrate with an incoming text. Instead of ignoring it, I find myself looking down to check the message. Let it wait! Even better if you can turn your phone off or leave it behind altogether. It can be hurtful to feel like something is more important than your full attention. You also can’t completely enjoy something if your mind is someplace else! Live in the moment!!
7. Celebrate the small things.
First dates. Hitting a fitness goal. Acing an exam. While on paper, these might not seem like major accomplishments but when they’re happening to you, they feel like everything! I remember just before winter break when my friend Alison was stressed about a paper and a test she didn’t feel good about. We had planned to go to a basketball game Friday night after her last class of the semester was over. She ended up finding out before the game she had done way better than expected on her test. We have been to a million basketball games together but that one felt more special because we were celebrating and she had someone to share it with!
Friendships are one of the most important things we have in our lives. The strongest friendships will challenge you to be a better version of you, cheer you on when you need it the most, be honest with you when you need to hear it, and be there to let you know you’re not alone in the best and worst times of your life. Surround yourself with people who reflect the qualities you value and invest in them. Behind every great woman is a tribe of badass babes who helped inspire and uplift them.