How to Build Strong Friendships, One Step at a Time
Loneliness is just as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even more of a threat than obesity. Which is why understanding how to form strong friendships — and maintain them — is key to a long and healthy life. Yet a recent study revealed that by age 25, most of us hit our peak in terms of social connections. As we grow into adulthood, establish careers, pair off, and have children, our friendships get put on the back burner. We’re making a big mistake; learning how to build friendships will pay dividends throughout life.So, if you want your friends to be reliable, follow through when you make plans. If you want your friends to share about their lives, you have to share about yours too. It’s a give and take. “Self-disclosure is crucial to healthy friendships because it’s that kind of vulnerability that helps us to build trust,” Kirmayer said. “It’s also one of the most important ways we create a sense of closeness and comfort in our friendships.”Self-disclosure doesn’t have to mean sharing your deepest, darkest secrets the first time you meet. It can mean sharing your likes, dislikes, experiences and perspectives, she added, which is essential for maintaining a sense of intimacy long-term. “I speak with people in my work and a lot of what I hear is that people are so invested in showing the person they’re interested in them that they forget to show up and own their place in the conversation,” she explained. “It’s all about striking a balance. Don’t come on too strong. But it’s equally detrimental to hold back and not share anything personal either.” Finding common interests is also critical. Taking a yoga class together or even going for a walk helps to build bonds and is what differentiates a friendship from a colleague or an acquaintance. The difference is that friendships take place in more than one context and conversations focus on different areas of your life. If you meet someone at work and you think it could turn into a real friendship, it’s important to get together with that person outside of the office to test the waters. Can you talk about something other than work with them? Do they enjoy the same hobbies and interests as you?