Maintaining and Deepening Friendships

By: Fahad Alden, Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Well-being Leader

In our busy lives, friendships frequently take the back burner to our many other commitments and priorities.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best indicator for long-term happiness is not money or marriage, it is deep friendships. Having healthy friendships increases your sense of belonging, allows you to navigate challenges, and encourages healthy lifestyles. We all have friends we may say hello to when we run into them or grab lunch here and there, but how do we deepen those friendships? The recipe for deepening a friendship is built on three foundations, positivity, consistency, and vulnerability. 

The first foundation is positivity, or being a cheerleader for your friends. Everyday encouragement, such as complementing them on winning their recent tennis game or getting an A on a physics exam. Cheering them on and helping uplift them, for part of the beauty of reaching a milestone is the beauty of sharing it with others.  As well, sometimes people have amazing qualities in that they’re nurturing or have great fashion or are kind, but they need that other person to echo that to them. At times, this can be tricky as we may naturally feel envious, but it is important to show how much you care for your friend. 

The second foundation is vulnerability, which can be a complicated one to dissect since people often shy away from being too vulnerable [removed or not enough]. However, unless you know someone well, you must be wary with whom you share information; take the time to fully know and understand someone before making a choice to open up. I suggest that once you have been friends with someone for a while and they are shown to be mature, loyal, and kind, it is best to open up to them. You also do not want to sway to another extreme by holding everything in- many of us can be guilty of doing this, including me. 

People often assume that I have it together because I am in leadership positions or because I tend to have an upbeat personality. While this skill is great at work or school, it can be hard to have in terms of friendship. When I held back on sharing my insecurities or if I was going through a rough patch, it made people feel like they could not confide in me.  People began to share more with me and supported me until I started sharing. Vulnerability is the most significant sign that a person is strong, despite the assumption otherwise. 

The third foundation is consistency in seeing or being in touch with friends. This can be hard for students who are juggling sports, school, and jobs, but it is helpful to see that spending time with friends is a form of investing in yourself. When we neglect time spent with our friends, we may see ourselves being irritable, venting our stress to anyone [removed with fear], or burning out at school or work. But, I think about this summer and my great friendship with James. We were both very busy with work, volunteering, sports, and other things, and usually didn’t get home until 7:00, or even later.  We had to get creative to find time to hang out; we would go to the gym together, garden, or take nighttime walks. Even on days when we were exhausted and stressed, hanging out with each other even for 30 minutes could turn it around. It’s important to remember that no matter how busy you are, you can always make time for friendships. If you have time to watch Netflix, scroll through Instagram, or go for a run, you have time to call that friend for 10 minutes or grab lunch with them. It’s always worth it.