Building Lasting Friendships in 5 Steps or Less

building lasting friendships

A follow up from Part I: 5 Ways to Make Friends Fast (Just Don’t Expect It To Last).

Whether the honeymoon period from Freshman Orientation is growing stale or you are new to the neighborhood, building real friendships is important for your well-being and emotional life. It may be easy to bond with someone over a shared yoga class or a frozen yogurt, but it can be trickier to establish real, intimate friendships where you feel comfortable sharing your deep thoughts, venting personal frustrations, or just being together in comfortable silence. Remember: It’s takes time to meet people and build lasting friendships. Here are 5 steps to help you along the way.

1. Avoid making it all about you. It can be a nervous habit (or just an egotistical one) to make the conversation all about you when you meet a new acquaintance. Try not to overwhelm a new friend by telling her a story or personal anecdote about every subject that comes up; instead, ask your friend about her thoughts on a subject first, really listen, and then offer your thoughts in response. A real friendship should be an exchange of narratives.

2. Be genuine. Make sure you are choosing friends that sincerely interest you. You can’t fake real interest – the real thing will show in your body language, smile, and eye contact. If you are trying to force a relationship, your boredom and insincerity will shine through: a big turn-off to the person you’re talking to. You’re not doing anyone a favor by pretending to listen to them, dominating a conversation, or hoping to turn a person into someone they’re not just for the sake of making friends. Just be who you are; you can’t force friendships.

3. Listen (and retain) names and information about people. It’s so easy to ask a person’s name and not really listen when they respond. Sometimes, people are so embarrassed to miss a name that they’d rather avoid the person than to ask one more time. Total friendship-killer! If you forget, just ask for their name again. To soften the blow, say something like “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name last time we [spoke about X], but I really enjoyed speaking with you! What is your name again?” You can even bring up details about your conversation to demonstrate your sincerity and recollection. People like to be remembered, and little things go a long way, such as remembering a person’s preferences or what’s going on in their life.

4. Get out into your “peer” community. While you can make friends with people of all ages, it’s safe to say you’ll have more in common with someone from your age group, so seek out activities where your peers are sure to be. Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new people and bond over the rush you get from helping others, or you can join an athletic team or book club (or start your own – you can do anything with a little shout out on social media!) In fact, it’s a great idea to take your friendships beyond social media when possible. Actually invite a Facebook or Twitter friend to meet up in person and go out for coffee or see a movie together.

5. Determine whether your “moves” are appreciated – and reciprocated. At a certain point, it’s important to tap into your emotional intelligence and evaluate social cues to determine whether your attempts at connecting with someone are being returned. It’s difficult to feel rejected, but try not to take it too hard if you aren’t getting the response you hoped for; not everyone is in the same emotional place at the same time. A person may sincerely like you, but she may be currently overwhelmed with responsibilities, may already have a packed social calendar, or may be dealing with something personal that you don’t know about.

Reflect on the following cues:

  • Does the person ask you questions about yourself?
  • Does the conversation ever move beyond casual chit-chat?
  • Does the person ever text you first to hang out, or respond to your invitations?
  • Does the person seem interested making specific plans to get together?

If you find yourself answering “no” to most of these questions, it may be best to take a step back from the friendship and let the other person seek you out if – and when – she is ready to reach out.

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