Why do we frequently prioritize family and professional obligations over our friendships when friends have a greater impact on our psychological wellbeing than family relationships? What causes friendships to end? Sometimes it occurs as a result of the transitions and new phases in our own lives. The friends we choose while we are teenagers serve a distinct function than the people we choose when we are young adults. As we get married or partner, have kids, and have an empty nest, our demands shift once more. According to studies, friendships can also alter within a short period of time in terms of their character. When Dutch researchers questioned 1,007 people about their interactions with neighbors in 2000, they found that many of them talked about personal connections and job stress and frequently visited or assisted one another with odd jobs.But roughly half of these correlations had vanished when the researchers checked in again seven years later.
While it’s important to keep in mind that friendships change naturally as our lives change, sometimes friendships die because we’ve neglected them. Of course, strong friendships can frequently withstand these highs and lows, but consider how much stronger those bonds would be if we regularly gave our friendships the attention and nourishment they required. Here are some tips for improving your friendships.
1. Active vs. Passive Friends
We all have a finite amount of time and energy, so it helps to give some of our most essential friendships top priority. Yet, we also don’t want to pass up the chance to make new friendships through chance encounters. How do I choose? Start by imagining the active or passive connections you have with your pals. Both are crucial to our general pleasure, but passive friends need less of your time and attention, freeing you up to give your closest friends more priority.
2. Strengthen your “weak ties.”
Our informal social networks are bigger than we realize; we frequently have brief interactions with our neighbors, the barista at the coffee shop, or other gym members. These low-risk connections are referred to as “weak bonds” by the sociologist Mark Granovetter. However, the name is a little deceptive. Despite the weak ties, these connections might nevertheless have a lot of advantages. They give us the chance to network and strengthen our sense of social integration. According to a 2014 study, a person feels happy the more weak ties they have. Researchers discovered that keeping up this network of contacts helps one feel a part of a community.
3. Nurture your active friendships
Our active friendships, in contrast to our passive friendships, are with those friends with whom we share similar values and a deeper connection. These are the friends with whom, in the words of Dr. Akbari, “you go out of your way to schedule with, to show up for, to learn from, to make new memories with.” Dr. Akbari proposes asking these straightforward questions to determine who gets the job done:
From whom do I learn?
Who is my opponent?
Who can I trust with this?
Whom do I enjoy being with?
Not on a material level, but rather on a human level, Dr. Akbari says, “I want the individuals I spend time with to reflect back to me something that is admirable or aspirational for me.” The bottom line is that by recognizing our passive “weak” relationships and our active “strong” ties, we may better nurture developing friendships while focusing the majority of our time and energy on upholding our current friendships.
4. Finding Time for Friends
We frequently concentrate on two things—work and family—when we consider maintaining a balanced life. But a life that is truly balanced comprises these five essential elements: Our love life, self-care activities like exercise and hobbies, and relationships with friends should also be considered. Work, family, love, self-care, and friends are all equally important, even though we may not always pay them equal attention (a new baby or a job deadline might occasionally change our life balance). The good news is that taking care of our friendships can take up a lot less time than other demands because friends often expect less of our time than family members and bosses.
5. Small Gestures Make a Difference
Friends, by definition, don’t need the same level of care that love partners and young children do. Because of this, even tiny acts of kindness can go a long way in fostering relationships with friends who might not always get the one-on-one time you both would like. Technology has made it much simpler to express our affection for friends. Here are some ideas for quick acts that will keep friendships strong.
6. Feed your friends
Giving food as a present has a way of making us feel appreciated and cared for. When my volleyball team had evening practices, another volleyball mom would frequently bring me a cup of soup or chili because she knew I had just gotten off the job and hadn’t had time for food. Despite the fact that our children are now adults, she continues to be one of my favorite friends. It’s interesting to note that even chimpanzees will swap grooming rights for gifts of food.