A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow. ― William Shakespeare
If it wasn’t for friends, I would have never survived some of the most difficult moments in my life.
When I was going through one of the most challenging and painful events in my life after a divorce, it was friends old and new that came to the rescue and saved not only the day but my sanity!
Friends were there to give me advice and a perspective on my life. Friends were there for strength and courage. They were also there for laughter and encouragement. I now realize that friendship is tested during life’s tough moments and become strengthened when facing and overcoming adversity.
While I am not seeking more problems in my life merely for the sake of nurturing friendships, I’ve found that we can always deepen and strengthen our relationships with others.
Here are ten ways to encourage stronger relationship with your friends:
1. Be more conscious of your friendships
Sometimes we are so busy with life and family that we forget that we have friends. We need to be aware that the friends in our lives won’t be there forever. Although they may be “just” a neighbor or classmate today, it doesn’t mean they will be tomorrow. Be aware that the people you spend time with as friends is the first step in building stronger relationships.
2. Don’t take friendships for granted
Don’t forget that friendship is a choice, not an obligation. If you don’t value your friendships, they’ll eventually disappear.
In today’s hectic world, we are constantly on the go. If we ignore our friendships, they drift away until one day we wonder what happened to the people who were so important in our lives.
3. See how you can help a friend in trouble.
There’s no better time to be a great friend than in times of hardship and trouble.
You don’t have to solve the problem but you can be a shoulder to lean on, someone to share a meal with or help with an errand.
Often, friends who are experiencing hardship don’t reach out for fear of imposing on others. I was fortunate that many of my friends made the effort to reach out to me and ask how they could help.
4. Find ways to make their lives better
You don’t have to reach out to friends only during times of hardship. Find ways to add value to their lives. If they’re busy with a project and could use some babysitting time, offer to help. If they work long hours, drop off or pick up their children, run errands or surprise them with a home-cooked meal.
Find ways to help your friends and they will be truly grateful but even more appreciative of your thoughtfulness.
5. Spend time with friends
This may seem like a no-brainer but when was the last time you spent some quality time with your friends?
Again, this goes backs to taking friendships for granted in our lives.
Understandably, the demands of work or family consume most our time. Our daily lives may be an endless to-do list but it is always possible to set time aside for friends. Block off time or day of the week for friend time!
6. Communicate with them regularly
In addition to not allocating enough time to spend with friends, lack of communication also affects your friendships.
In a world where technology makes it so easy to communicate, reaching out to a friend nowadays requires only a quick text message, brief email, phone call or visit.
Be proactive in keeping in touch even it’s just to say hello and see how they’re doing.
7. Encourage their dreams.
When friends are lost, confused or seek your advice, listen and help guide them. Many people in life are quick to shoot down someone’s dream or passion, but without goals or dreams our lives become a meaningless existence.
Share your passion to inspire others and see what a difference it makes to your life and theirs. If you’re seeking to strengthen a friendship, try to provide valuable and constructive advice.
Even if you think your friend’s ideas are a little out there, help them navigate the pros and cons of their dream without shooting it down.
8. Make friendship a priority
We spend time on the relationships that matter to us. Never having enough time is not an excuse. When you say you don’t have enough time, what it really means is that you don’t have enough time for friendship.
We are burdened with often too much in our lives but if friendship is important to you, make it a priority. When you make friendship a priority, you empower yourself to say no to other less important things in your life and elevate the value of friends in your life. Always remember that jobs, issues and problems come and go. It’s always friendships that transcend the routine of daily life.
9. Overlook their shortcomings
Friends might upset you or anger you because of their characteristics, mannerisms or behavior. If they are a good long-term friend and you value the relationship, overlook their shortcomings.
Regardless of race, color or creed, people are people. We all have our positive and negative qualities.
As difficult as it may be sometimes to overlook an annoying or unpleasant shortcoming, learn to accept it for the sake of your long-term friendship with the person you value.
10. Limit expectations
Many times when friends anger or upset us, it is usually because of unrealistic expectations.
We expect friends to thank us for kind gestures, to call us on our birthdays or remember our important events. In the real world, however, friends make mistakes and don’t always do what you think they should.
The easiest way to ruin a friendship is to allow this kind of attitude to get out of hand. Stop expecting people to behave the way you expect. In fact, reducing expectations or demands of friends will reduce potential disappointment in them.
Good friends are hard to come by so value the friendships you do have and they will last you a lifetime.
What have you done to maintain your friendships? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
About the author
Vishnu writes about career, life and spirituality tips for his community of world-changers. For inspiration, sign up to receive weekly posts at vishnusvirtues.com