I believe that quality friendships are a very important factor for our life satisfaction. People with good, reliable friends are consistently happier and healthier than those without.
Unfortunately, the topic of friendship is often disregarded in the personal development literature, although many people struggle with making friends and having fulfilling friendships. There is a lot of advice out there on dating and romantic relationships, on networking and business relationships, but not nearly as much on building and maintaining fulfilling friendships.
Well, I wanna do something about that. Today, drawing from my personal experience creating and nurturing a social circle, as well as my years of coaching experience helping others to enrich their social life, I’d like to share with you 3 simple rules for better friendships.
1. Choose Friends Based On Shared Values, Not Just Shared Context
We are very inclined to turn into friends the people we happen to be around a lot of the time. For example: coworkers, or school colleagues, or neighbors we pass by daily. The context brings us physically close to them regularly, and so we try to turn that physical closeness into emotional closeness.
The problem is that just because you happen to be colleagues with someone or live next to them, it doesn’t mean you have that much in common in terms of values. And shared values are the one truly major factor that makes friendships deep, lasting and rewarding.
Sure, going to the same class with another person probably reflects a common interest in a certain discipline. But that’s only one, somewhat trivial commonality, so it’s insufficient to make a solid foundation for a highly-rewarding friendship.
This is why one of the best things you can do is to have a rich social life, to actively seek to meet lots of people (besides those that context naturally brings near you) and to pursue friendships above all with people who share similar values with you. It takes more work than just picking what’s around by virtue of context, but it leads to much more rewarding friendships.
2. Don’t Ditch Your Friends When You Find Romance
I see this happen all the time: somebody has a group of good friends they hang out with regularly and have fun, then one day they find themselves a girlfriend/boyfriend, and soon enough they end up completely ignoring their friends and losing touch with them.
Many claim this happens because they don’t have time for their friends anymore. But one can always make time for relationships that matter. The real issue is actually two-folded.
Firstly, folks often believe their romantic partner can take on the role of their friends as well. Usually though, they couldn’t be more wrong. There is a certain type of connection between friends (especially same-gender friends) that you can never replicate in the relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend. Something vital gets lost in the translation. The truth is that both friendships and romantic relationships have something irreplaceable, so it’s a bad idea to try and absorb one type of relationship into the other.
Secondly, people often assume that the emotional high they get initially from a romantic relationship is gonna last forever. And their friends don’t seem that important when romance makes them feel so good. Again, they are mistaken. That initial high will wear off soon enough, and then they will find a big void in their life. But by then their old friends may no longer be there to fill it.
3. Turn Friendships into Mastermind Groups
Traditionally, friends are seen as people you hang out with, chit-chat with, and have some laughs with. But there is so much more potential to friendships, especially those based on shared values.
People with values similar to you understand you, they likely have know-how or experiences relevant to you, and they wanna see you succeed. So it’s a good idea to leverage your relations with them for growth and achievement. And they can do the same, of course. It’s reciprocal.
You can use your time together not just for light fun and conversation, but also as a way to share your goals and struggles, discuss them, give each other feedback and guidance, encourage and motivate each other, and try to help each other reach your goals. You’ll all benefit a lot from this.
In this form, a friendship has been augmented with the role of a mastermind group. A group of people focused on helping each other be all they can be in life. Thus, the friendship becomes more valuable and, over time, much stronger as well.
If you struggle with making or keeping friends, especially because of a lack of social confidence or social skills, make sure you check out this instructional video where I present my step-by-step formula for building social confidence. Also, join my free social success newsletter, where I’ll share regular and practical social advice with you.
There is a subtle art and science to having quality friendships. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll very likely see the people you call your friends and the time you spend together as some of the most precious pieces of your life. Good friends and good relationships matter that much.