Research has found that successful relationships, more than any other factor, contribute the most to our happiness. Fifty percent of people report that they want to spend more time with family and friends. Many people say that they would like closer friendships, more friends, and more reciprocal friendships, in addition to more time with current friends. Do you have a hard time making new friends? Do you pursue or initiate getting together with your friends more than they do? Do you feel like you give more than normal? Are you shy or anxious about being open and authentic with your friends?
If you want your friendships to grow, perhaps you need to be proactive and invest in them even more.
Many people I know report that we do not enough have time for friends, especially if we are busy with careers, partners or families. Keep in mind that small, but regular commitments can go a long way. Please consider: Weekly exercise/walk/yoga date with a friend; Monthly dinner date with a friend; Weekly phone call with a friend; Take a weekend class with a friend; What about a commitment to an annual Girls Weekend away? (Even if that means just one night away!)
Spend More Time
Social Psychology studies show that “Proximity Leads to Liking”. So, spending more face to face time together really does make a difference in growing friendships. If you are someone who likes to exercise, what about asking a friend to join you in your exercise commitment? Running, walking, yoga or exercise classes with a friend is a great way to combine friendship time with fitness. If you like to read books, what about asking a friend to read the same book as you and have your very own private book club? How about asking a friend to do volunteer work with you? Yes, people are busy, but we need to prioritize our time with friends if we want them to become a more integral, satisfying aspect of our lives.
Be the Initiator
Many times friendships need to be given a chance to see if they will grow. Try increasing the amount of interaction you have with a friend. Let them know how much you appreciate spending time with them. Hopefully it will be mutual. Some of us are planners who like to initiate, organize and invite others. There is nothing wrong with you being a planner or pursuer. Often those people with the most satisfying friendships describe themselves as willing to invite often, even if it is not reciprocated. So what if you call or email more often? Does your friend accept your invitations, and appear to have fun with you? Forget about keeping score. Maybe you are better at getting together, and your friend is better at something else. I find it helpful to accept that in many of my friendships, I am the organizer and the one who make things happen.
Take Emotional Risks
Do you take any emotional risks with your friends? Do you keep conversations casual and light-hearted? Do you let your friends know about your history, background, challenges and successes? Take a risk this year with a friend or two, and share some things that are more private and deeper. Let them know ahead of time if it is difficult for you, but that you would like to be more open and revealing with friends. Sharing private information deepens our emotional connection, intimacy and closeness.
Imagine the kind of friendships that you would like to have in your life. How important are friends to you? How can you be more proactive about your friendships?
Dr Michelle Gannon is a Psychologist, Relationship Expert and Marriage Prep 101 Founder.
She is a writer, speaker, seminar leader, media expert, individual and couples therapist.