Building Strong Friendships
By: Jade Hermosillo
If you have ever been in a situation such as moving to a new school, joining a new sports team, or a new club then you are probably familiar with that awkward and sometimes scary feeling that comes when you meet new people. However, what do you do when you meet someone really cool, someone you want to be friends with? You find out that you have a lot of things in common with this person and the next thing you know BOOM you're friends now. Sounds easy, right? While finding friends may happen quickly, what's important is what comes soon after, beginning to build the friendship. Imagine how boring it would be to see your friend everyday and just have the conversation go something like:
“Hey, how are you?”
“I’m good! You?”
“I’m good too, did you finish the homework”
“Yeah it wasn’t too hard”
Doesn’t sound too interesting does it? This is where strengthening friendships comes into play. As much as I wish that there were some formula or set of guidelines for “how to be a good friend” I think that part of becoming a good friend is the process of trying to be one. I may only be a college student but I have had many experiences of making new friends and unfortunately losing some too, and that’s normal. So, what I can offer are a couple of general tips from my experiences and those from my friends who were also willing to share some advice.
How to build better friendships:
Tip #1 : Start by asking better questions
Though conversations like the one above are nice and quick, they won’t get you very far if you’re trying to become closer friends with someone. For example, if you can tell that your friend looks stressed or has been distant you may think “maybe they want some space, I shouldn’t bother them”. While that may be the case in some situations, your friend may actually want someone to ask how they really are. It may be scary at first but know that your friend will appreciate someone looking out for them and notices when they are feeling down.
Some examples of how to ask a friend how they are feeling:
What’s been on your mind lately?
Are you looking forward to anything in the next few days?
Is there anything making you sad?
Can I help you with something? I’m here for you.
Your friend will appreciate any support you have to give It can be something as simple as “I’m here for you” that can help reassure your friend no matter what they are going through. Not only will you and your friend grow closer but your friend will also know that they can confide in you and come to you in times of need.
Tip #2: Communication
When I say “communication” I’m not just referring to the action of talking, that would be too easy. I mean “communication” in the sense that you should be making sure that you and your friend are on the same page to help avoid problems. For example, let’s say that your best friend brings another new friend that wants to join your friend group. However, sometimes this new friend may be closer to your best friend and not make an effort to become friends with you. You might feel hurt and left out if they started hanging out more without you. Instead of giving up, being upset, and thinking to yourself “I lost my friend, they probably don’t want to hang out anymore, their new friend is probably better,” I first recommend talking to your friend!
A few questions that you can use to start a conversation like this are:
Hey to be honest I’ve been feeling a bit left out lately. Can we talk about it?
[A certain situation] has been making me feel sad (or any emotion you feel), is it ok if we talk about it?
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but ever since you started hanging out with [the other friend] I feel like we haven’t really seen each other. Can we hang out again soon?
You may be wondering, “seriously, only two tips?” but you would be surprised to see how useful the skills of communication are when it comes to friendships. Part of being a good friend is knowing how to ask good questions when you think your friend may be down but also knowing how to communicate when you are not okay with something. This may not solve all of your problems but it will surely prevent many of them from growing bigger. It’s always best to address your concerns as soon as possible.
It is also important to keep in mind that some friendships aren’t meant to last forever and that’s ok! Each friendship offers a chance for you to grow and learn from them. For example, if one of your friends gets upset with you about something you said, don’t be too hard on yourself, sincerely apologize and learn from the experience so it’s less likely to happen again. Friends are so important. They are like plants, you can’t just leave them hanging. Be there to help them grow too.