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How To Build More Meaningful Friendships

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Building meaningful friendships, much like any other skill, is something that you can work to improve. It might take a bit of practice, but in no time you’ll be heading on holiday with your friends and making memories like never before.

We reached out to experts in the field to find out their advice on how to build more meaningful friendships. 

#1 Listen And Understand Your Friend

When building friendships, it is important to put in the effort to listen and understand your friend. It can be easy to take what your friend is talking about, relate to it, and make the conversation about you, but really listening to your friend, understanding your friend and reflecting on what he or she is going through will help you strengthen your bond with him or her. It will help your friend feel more comfortable and secure with you, which will help them open themselves up to you more. Eventually, you will find your friend doing the same for you.

Contributors: GinaMarie Guarino from PsychPoint

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#2 Take Some Time To Understand Your Friend

  1. Be present in all conversations, focused on the speaker, your friend.  This means one needs to stop what they are doing or thinking - stop texting, writing emails or thinking about your to-do list.  Instead one needs to focus, notice body language, maintain eye contact, paying attention to what is being said.
  2. Choose to listen in a way that is open and non-judging.  We all judge each other all the time, which limits our ability to understand and closes us to the opportunities of learning more about others.  If we pre-judge we are already labeling a person in a certain way.  This is not respectful of our friends.  To change to creating more meaningful friendships, one needs to stop judging and be open to what the person is saying.
  3. Ask open questions (begin with who, what, where, when, how) to dig deeper and better understand.
  4. Test assumptions - we all make assumptions all the time.  If we are really listening to someone and curious, we will naturally begin to notice what we could be assuming and jump in to test the assumption.

Contributors: Kathy Taberner from Institute of Curiosity

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#3 Invest In Being A Giver

The Hebrew word for love is ahavah, which derives from the root hav, meaning give.  In our self-absorbed culture, we enter into relationships looking for what we will get from them.  But anything worthwhile requires investment -- in this case investment of time, energy, thought, and consideration.  The way to build successful friendships is to think first about what you have to offer to another person.  The same formula works for marriage as well.

Contributors: Yonason Goldson from Ethical Imperatives, LLC

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#4 Be A Friend

We've all heard that in order to gain a friend is to be one. For me the tip I have learned is that you have to be willing to encourage,offer advice and maintain a presence that is looked at as someone who will be loyal, honest and dependable.

My best friend of 15 years and I have used this in our friendship and it has served us well. Do we butt heads? Of course, but when we are able to admit what might have been the issue, discuss it openly and honestly and then support the other in decision-making it has definitely served us well.

I've found this principle applies just as well in business as in life.

Contributors: Cyrus Webb from Conversations Media Group

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#5 Host Dinner Parties

I believe a good tip to build more meaningful friendships is by hosting dinner parties.  At these dinners, the host should provide all food, but have attendees bring wine.  This empowers them to be part of the process.

At the dinners, the host can delegate tasks, creating shared activities and opportunities for people to work together to create the meal, this strengthens bonds by them being a part of an activity together.  I think it's key for the host to pose questions to the group and have people going around giving answers.  Example question would be: If you could give credit or thanks to one person in your life that you don't give enough credit to, who would it be.  This empowers people to have a voice and share things they wouldn't normally share in surface level conversations.

The dinner structure can work that the first time someone comes, they come alone, the second time they come, they bring a friend.  This expands the friend group in a meaningful way.

Contributors: Chris Schembra from 747 Club

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#6 Treat Your Friendship Like a Romantic Relationship

Often, our closest friends are lifelong partners that we don’t fully acknowledge. When deciding how to pursue and build a friendship, use the same framework that you'd use with a potential love interest. As you get to know a new friend, look for commitment, reliability, and acceptance. Does this person show up for you, both physically and emotionally, when they say they will? Do you feel good about yourself after hanging out with them? Can you show your real self to them? If the answer is yes, it sounds like you've found a friendship that's really worth investing in.

Contributor: Louise Head from Life Unscripted Counseling

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#7 Communicate and Use Your Friend’s Love Language

In romantic relationships, it's common sense to show love and care for your partner over time and to talk through disagreements when things go wrong. However, lots of people don't consciously think about how they communicate, show love, and resolve conflict in friendships.

Pay attention to what makes you feel connected in your friendship–maybe it’s thoughtful conversation, your shared love of kayaking, or testing out new recipes together. Once you know what’s meaningful to the two of you, you can be intentional about how you bond.

And when you feel disconnected, don’t be shy about bringing it up! Friends need to have relationship talks too.

Contributor: Louise Head from Life Unscripted Counseling

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#8 Know When to Break Up

Sometimes people change and grow in ways that make you incompatible. If you and your friend have grown apart, no one is at fault, but you're not doing either of you a favor by hanging on out of a sense of obligation.

Remember that you can be heartbroken over a lost friendship. Have the courage to end the friendship and allow yourself time to miss that person and heal.

Contributor: Louise Head from Life Unscripted Counseling

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#9 Learn To Be Vulnerable

If you really want to build a meaningful friendship, you need to learn to be truly vulnerable. We find that sharing your fears, your concerns, your ups, your downs and being really, super honest with your friends allows for you to learn, grow and build a deep, authentic friendship! You can't be afraid to be vulnerable with your friends or its all just superficial.

Contributors: Angela Melpolder from The B Hive Apiary

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#10 Get Together In Person

If you want to have more meaningful friendships, get out from behind just social media, for starters. Yes, social media is a quick, easy, and free way to communicate, but you're telling everyone in your network about yourself, and what's going on in your life, at once. Truly meaningful friendships have to be selective and personal.

Get together in person.

Talk on the phone. Text each other, selectively, of course, respecting each other's schedules and other relationships and competing demands.

Remember each other's birthdays but do more than just posting a birthday note on your friend's Timeline on Facebook. Yes, send a card, call on the phone, get together and do something special, send a token gift, if you exchange gifts.

Listen to your friend and be there for him/her when he/she needs you. Emotional support is key but so is having fun together!

Contributors: Jan Yager from DrJanYager

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#11 Tech Free Meal

Schedule a tech-free meal. All devices off and out of sight.

Listen actively to whomever is speaking without focusing on what you plan to say in response or what you need to do later.

Contributors: Cardyn Brooks from Chocomots

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