Whether they’re the Anne Perkins to your Leslie Knope, the Bert to your Ernie, or peanut butter to your jelly, true friends are the ones that have stuck by you through thick and thin, from happiness to heartbreak. They never see past you, they love you for everything you are and can be; and aside from your partner or parents — no one else knows you better.
While friendship is a two-way street, investing and nurturing in them should be a priority for everyone involved. Not only can time with friends boost happy hormones and deepen relationships based on love and care, but researchers at Harvard University suggest strong social ties could also stimulate brain health as we age.
If you’ve been out of the loop with friends in recent months, it’s completely doable to be awesome again — all it takes is a few pointers to get back in the game!
Aim for “real” communication
Social media can be an effective tool in maintaining friendships, but all those text-based mediums shouldn’t be a substitute for real communication. Treat it as an additive and if you must, look towards electronic communications that require one-one-one time — like Skype or even the phone. Taking time out of your schedule for monthly Skype dates or a weekly phone call can make all the difference as it strengthens relationships, respectfully, through verbal cues and body language. Plus, nothing really beats seeing their face or hearing their voice.
Make plans together
Between babies and careers, life happens. Yet the truth is it happens every day to all of us, so something has to give to make it work for the better. Whether it’s a new movie at the theater, a concert, running sessions or even grocery days — create dates in your schedule for get-togethers based on everyone’s schedule, and stick to them. Do whatever you all truly please and rotate on the fun with activities you love doing all-year round.
Consider small gestures
If you see something that reminds you of a friend, let them know in various ways. Whether you drop by their house to say “hello” with coffee cake, leave a heartfelt voicemail telling them how you’re their favorite human being, or even pull them out of work for a quick bite to eat — think outside the box. You don’t have to go through great lengths to show your love and care. Moreover, it doesn’t take a lot of time and is a thoughtful gesture.
Try new things together
One of the best ways to be a better friend is to try new things with the people that help you grow. Find something that piques your curiosity and let your friends know about it. Whether it’s skydiving, kickboxing or a cooking class, letting them in on your new found interest will also help them to move out of their comfort zone and challenge their own personality with a more daring attitude. Not to mention, it will be super fun to tackle new things together and create novel memories.
Be more compassionate
Being a great friend reaches far beyond verbal communication — it’s rooted deep in compassion and listening. With the way our lives are though, we tend to be a little more self-serving and forgo the listening aspect. But listening is a skill that’s significantly important. Sometimes all we really need is an ear to project thoughts and feelings onto without the need for advice. Ask questions, be inquisitive and most importantly, be genuinely interested. It not only strengthens your relationship, but it also boosts that already solid bond of trust.
Show your real self to people
One of the most important aspects of knowing yourself is living out your true self. So many of us socialize to just “fit in,” but it’s essential to not be afraid of who you are because real friends will see this honesty and accept you as is. When you’re with them, always be yourself. That entails everything from sharing vulnerabilities to fears. Struggling openly puts others at ease and encourages them to drop their persona, and just be themselves through a common dialogue. Keep in mind, the best friendships benefit from fresh air.