Building Lasting Friendships

Do you have a trusted confidante with whom you can share your innermost feelings; one who has your best interests at heart? What about someone who will encourage you to be your absolute best and hold you accountable in your career, relationships, and even your spiritual life? Is there someone you can turn to when life throws you a curveball? A person of your gender with whom you can connect on a regular basis?

If your answers are “No,” then this could be a valuable New Year’s resolution for you!  Here’s why: Friendship—the enduring, here-til-the-end-for-you, holding-you-accountable kind—is good for you! These friendships make you a better person and are an essential ingredient to a strong support system.

It doesn’t just make intuitive sense, it’s also supported by clinical studies.  People with long-time friends live longer. They experience less stress. They are more likely to survive cancer. They even contract fewer colds! I am not kidding here, folks!

Just last year, Virginia Tech researchers took a group of students from the University of Virginia to the base of a steep hill, fitted them with a weighted backpack, and asked them to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others stood alone.

Interestingly, the students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the hill’s steepness—and the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared to them.

This principle holds true across the board. Trusted friends make our life journey smoother (especially when the going gets rough) and our experiences all the richer. They enable us to live life fuller and provide companionship and support along the way.

Granted, it takes time and effort to build a trusted friendship of that caliber. It’s easy today to be lulled by the superficial “friendship” that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and online forums offer. But, remember that true friendship takes time: getting to know each other, identifying and building on shared values, accumulating a library of shared memories, weathering conflict and crisis, and more. It’s all worth the investment, and the best part is, it’s never too late to start.

Not sure where to begin? Here a few tips to help get you there.

  1. Take a personal inventory of your interests and the qualities and values most important to you. Chances are, your forever friendships will reside where your interests and values intersect. Together with trust, they’re the building blocks of companionship.
  2. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down. People relate to others who are real and transparent. Instead of trying to appear a certain way to your friends, be your authentic self, warts and all!
  3. Ask questions that will reveal their inner selves. While it’s easy to gauge compatibility of interests, it takes time, in-depth conversation, and experiences to gauge compatibility of values.
  4. Say yes. Even if you don’t feel like getting off the couch and changing out of your sweatpants, it’s important to say “yes” to new opportunities with new friends.. You never know what might come from each new experience!  Saying yes also means returning phone calls with phone calls (and not text messages). Remember, cultivating friendships takes energy and personal engagement!

Who is your most trusted confidante? How have you invested in that relationship throughout your life? Have you been cultivating and investing in new ones?

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