We live in the most connected era of history. With the click of a button, you can send love and “likes” to people all over the world. You can find out what your childhood best friend is doing without seeing her in person for decades. When busy schedules filled with kids and jobs consume our lives, we rely on social media to stay in touch with our social circles. This isn’t a bad thing; being able to send a quick message to a friend shows that you care without impeding on your time. However, dependence on social media for interaction has caused friendships to become more surface-level.
How many friends do you have on Facebook? Followers on Instagram? Connections on LinkedIn? Now, how many of those people know about your miscarriage, cancer diagnosis, or heartbreak? How many of them congratulated you on being ten days sober, or for resisting the temptation to eat out this week? We save our innermost details for those who are close to us. The problem is, social media doesn’t enable people to get close to us. Friendships don’t progress to a deeper level through “likes” and follows.
As humans, it’s crucial we have real social interaction. We need it to feel accepted, loved, and supported. Friendships encourage us to grow, share, and love. The deeper we connect with friends, the more we understand about ourselves and the world. Of course, your relationship with your spouse can provide these things. However, there is no marital contract or financial liability in a friendship; it’s a completely voluntary agreement.
In Dawn Kingston’s piece in Psychology Today, she explains why we need a “friendship revolution.” She points to the value of friendship when we go through a trying time, like pregnancy. Simply having someone say they can relate to what you’re going through relieves some of the stress. These critical moments of relating to each other form the base for a deeper friendship, especially when they happen in person.
So, how can we deepen our friendships? Is it possible to take our surface-level digital friends to a deeper level? Keep reading for five ways to build deep, authentic connections with your friends.
1. Share Your Vulnerability
You’re not alone when it comes to being afraid of vulnerability.When a friend chooses to confide in you with a secret or insecurity or something close to their heart, you feel important. It makes you feel trusted and, frankly, like a VIP. When you’re the one sharing, however, it can feel scary and dangerous. To get deeper with your friend, you need to embrace this fear and open up. Vulnerability breeds deeper friendships. Sharing your insecurities and fears gives your friend permission to share theirs. It creates a safe space of no judgment. All you have to do is get the ball rolling and go first.
2. Become a Generous Listener
Raise your hand if you’re already thinking of your response as your friend finishes speaking. If there’s one habit to break in 2019, this is it. People can sense when you’re not fully listening to what they’re saying. It makes them feel insignificant and unimportant. Instead, become an active listener. Learn to ask a question before sharing your own opinion. You can take your conversations deeper with a simple, “tell me more about that” or “how did that make you feel?” Showing you’re interested in what they have to say makes your friend feel appreciated. They’re more likely to return the favor and ultimately, create a friendship with deeper conversations.
3. Schedule In-person Time Together
We all have busy lives; kids and jobs take up a lot of our time. Having a spontaneous hangout with your friend isn’t always possible. So, work with the schedules you have. Plan a date in advance and put it in your calendar. Treat it like an appointment for self-care, because that’s what friendships provide. To make it even easier, book the same day each month to get together. Rotate whose turn it is to choose the outing location. The important thing is for this meeting to be face to face. We feel more deeply connected when we can make eye contact and read the body language of our friends.
4. Do Something Crazy Together
One of the best parts of friendship is reminiscing about the fun things you’ve done together. If you have a newer friendship that’s still on the surface, do something that promotes bonding. Go see a concert; go skydiving. Take a cooking class together; volunteer together. It doesn’t have to be crazy because it sparks adrenaline, crazy just means something out of your comfort zones together. These types of experiences promote bonding and connection. When you look back on this memory, your friend will be in the image. And, you will be in theirs.
5. Give Meaningful Gifts
When the holidays roll around, what do you give your friends? On their birthday, do you go out of your way to do something special? These events are a chance for you to show your friend that they’re understood and appreciated. No more generic gift cards and bubble bath sets. Consider choosing a unique and meaningful gift for your friend. For example, if their parent passed away from cancer, donate on their behalf to a cancer research foundation. Or, if your friend suffers from low self-esteem, write a list of 100 awesome things about them. You don’t have to spend a fortune to show you care. It’s the deeper, more customized gifts that are most meaningful.
It’s important not to allow your friendships to float to the surface. Deeper connections are what make us feel trusted, loved, and supported. When your friend understands who you are and your struggles, you feel less alone. Unfortunately, it’s hard to build connections like this over the internet. Reap the fruits of your friendship by investing time and energy, in person. Motivational speaking events are a great way to bond with friends and get inspired together.
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