There’s nothing better than having that close friend you can turn to with all your successes and struggles. Random lunch dates, late-night texts and calls, and shared laughter and tears are #goals for everyone.
It can be hard enough to find that person, or people, who get you. You know, the ones you can truly be yourself around. And socializing in a post-COVID world has taken on an entirely new look. But you don’t need to surround yourself with a group of superficial acquaintances posing as friends. You just need one or two real friends, the ride-or-die kind that you know you can trust with your life and vice versa.
They’re out there; you just have to learn how to grow and cultivate those relationships. These tips will guide you through your journey to build stronger and better friendships.
1. Be Totally You from the Start
You’ve probably been advised to “just be yourself” a thousand times over the years. But that piece of advice is often one of the hardest to follow!
We’re conditioned at a young age to act, dress, and speak certain ways so that we will be liked. If someone doesn’t like us, it must be because of something we said or did, right? No. If you’re genuine, the right people will like you for you. And those who don’t? Well, they’re not your people. On the other hand, if you try to be someone you’re not, you’ll attract people looking for those fake qualities. This will lead to problems because you can’t stay someone else forever.
When you start revealing the true you, the other person is going to be upset, rightfully so. But if you try to keep up the false persona you put on originally, you’ll burn yourself out.
Take the cliched advice and just be yourself from the beginning!
2. Be Picky About Who You Hang Around
There’s an old saying that declares you are who you hang out with. While that’s a little extreme, there is a lot of truth in it. If the crowd you run with isn’t the type of crowd you want to run with, you’ll never meet the types of people you want to meet.
You don’t have to step far outside your comfort zone to meet people. In fact, those that you meet outside your comfort zone are less likely to be “your kind” of person. Take the bar or party scene, for instance. The people who go there enjoy the atmosphere. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as everyone is having fun and being safe. But if it’s not your scene, are you going to have a good time?
You’re probably not going to meet other non-partiers at a party. They’re somewhere else, having a good time doing what you’d rather be doing. If you stay choosy about your crowd and the activities you engage in, you’re eventually going to meet your own tribe of people.
3. Recognize Their Boundaries and Set Your Own
Have you ever had an argument with a friend or loved one, and you weren’t even sure what you did? You likely crossed a boundary of theirs. It wasn’t your fault, but the results were problematic all the same. Everyone has boundaries, even if they don’t come out and tell you explicitly what they are. They themselves might not even realize their boundaries are there.
As you’re learning your new friend, pay attention to their words and actions in conversation. Try to learn their boundaries. Maybe they have lots of other friends and are willing to include you. That’s great, but you can’t be jealous of the time they spend with others. Boundary appreciation goes both ways. Don’t be nervous about sharing your feelings.
Make sure you let your friend know when something bothers you and what your boundaries are. Otherwise, you could end up in an argument over something they don’t even realize they did!
4. Understand That Vulnerability is a Two-Way Street
There are two main types of emotional people: those who are comfortable expressing their feelings and those who aren’t. For the many people who aren’t inclined to be emotional, it’s hard to show vulnerability.
But in a real friendship, you go to each other with your joys and your struggles. If you want to build stronger bonds with your friends, you can be their biggest cheerleader. You also have to be willing to be totally honest, which includes sharing your pain. A healthy relationship has a natural equilibrium to it. It’s not always in sync, but you’re there to help each other through the hard times and celebrate the good.
If one of you is always the vulnerable one and the other is strong and doesn’t need help, the balance of equality shifts. This imbalance can destroy a friendship.
5. Focus on Quality Time, Not Quantity
If you’ve never had a solid friendship before, there is one major rule you must learn:
Friends do not have to be together or speak every day to be loyal. Don’t get your feelings hurt if your bestie is too busy with their own life to respond to you on demand. Once you understand that, you can move on to making sure the time you do spend together is quality.
If it’s been a few days and you’re missing your friend’s company, shoot them a text. Tell them you hope they’re doing well. Ask if they want to hang out soon, but don’t accuse or attack. A true friend will be there for you no matter how much time has passed since you spoke.
The fact that you are spending time reading this and learning how to be a better friend says so much about you! Give yourself a little grace and be patient. Good friendships take time to grow and cultivate. Pat yourself on the back, though, because you’re on the right track to weeding out the fake friends and making room for true ones.
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