Sophie is a professional fashion and lifestyle expert. She obtained her master's degree in psychology from Boston University.
One of the first things you notice about a friend is how they are with you. The first time they offered to watch your child for the afternoon or joined you to pack for a move, the support they show in tough times and through celebrations, the way they treat your children in a manner consistent with their values and interests, and the way they give and receive love are just some of the attributes of a positive friend.
Having a kind, giving, and loving friend, who understands our wants and needs and can handle life's setbacks with grace, is a gift worth cultivating and nurturing.
If you'd like to build healthier relationships with your friends in your life, here are three steps to consider:
1. Talk about your values
At any given time, we know a fraction of what we believe in terms of core values. Our ideas about how we want to live out our lives are not set in stone. We can work to improve, improve to maintain, or maintain to improve our beliefs. Some friends are excellent listeners, letting you know when they agree with you, disagree with you, or know what you really mean when you say a particular statement. Others can be just as honest with you, bringing you to reality.
Communicating your core values is a way to begin building a foundation for a relationship based on shared understanding and respect. Most people fail to realize how valuable these words are and how much others value them. An excellent way to ask questions about your friends' values and ask them about their own is through a simple, thoughtful exercise.
Ask them, "What is your favorite part of living your life?" Ask them what keeps them awake at night. Do they consider their goals or values in the big picture of life? Do they have a history of making choices that support their values? Do they know what their values are and what behaviors and situations cause them to change or uphold their values? Once you can identify the importance of their values to them, the discussion can become easier.
2. Find out what's important to them
In life, there are few things that are more enjoyable than sharing in the accomplishments of others. In that spirit, it's important to do your best to be a supportive friend. This means showing up when you can, being ready with a supportive word, and offering your own opinion if the opportunity presents itself. Too often we think, "I'll let them know when I see them next," but that is a risk because not everyone responds to text messages, especially after hours or on weekends.
If you are looking to strengthen your relationship with a friend, especially someone you have been on a journey with, you may want to ask them about things that are important to them. When asking them what is most important to them, it is best to be curious, empathetic, and respectful. Do not interrupt when a person is speaking, and when appropriate, let a person finish talking. When they are finished, ask the person what they are passionate about and then let them know how you feel. The more you are empathetic, the easier the conversation will flow.
To be an effective listener:
- Give your full attention to what the person is saying.
- As they are speaking, remember that your actions affect the relationship.
- Do not ask for affirmation or approval, but rather ask for clarification.
3. Provide a nurturing environment
In addition to building your own relationship and creating an open dialogue, we also need to foster a supportive environment for friendship in our lives. Being close to friends gives us a sense of purpose and community. Friends support each other in times of need and cheer each other on during the joys of life.
Providing a safe, supportive space to share life's joys and challenges is a great way to strengthen your friendships. Provide this space by being approachable, asking the other person how they are doing, and really listening. Sharing your own perspective can be helpful. I often encourage my clients to try something new with their friends, like taking turns asking questions, and it helps to create a space where you're willing to be vulnerable and share your emotions.
When you look at the word "friend," what's the first thing that comes to your mind? Think about the time you felt free and open and could share what you were feeling without fear of being judged. This is how I've always thought about friendship: as an opportunity to be safe and connected with someone.
Friendships and relationships are a diverse mystery filled with emotions, thoughts, and many unknowns. With so many moving parts, any friendship can be a hassle.
And it's totally okay.
As long as we continue to do our best, there's a world of possibilities ahead for any friendship.
Thank you for reading.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Sophie Wright