Each year of life provides us with new opportunities to learn lessons about ourselves, our environments, and our relationships. Even from a very young age, we are assimilating messages and tools that will help inform how we engage in the world. I have come to believe, through my research for my book Friending: Creating Meaningful, Lasting Adult Friendships
, that we can glean lessons about healthy friendships throughout our developmental processes that can provide us with an invaluable foundation for healthy friendships, in whatever stage of life we currently find ourselves. So, I invite you to consider my own developmental process, and the friendship tips I’ve gleaned throughout my 40 years of friending.
1. Choose to trust people.
2. Learn to share.
3. Don’t forget the importance of playing with friends as often as possible.
4. Learn to use your voice to ask for what you need and want.
5. Look for people who seem to be without friends, and issue an invitation.
6. Find friends who will protect and support you. Offer the same in return.
7. Apologize if you hurt someone. Try not to hurt them again.
8. Commit to really listening.
9. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help when you need it.
10. Invite your friends to your special celebrations. Share the cake.
11. Be generous in small ways and big ways. Learn to see the needs around you and contribute how you can.
12. Make plenty of room for silliness in your friendships.
13. Take time to let your friends know how special they are to you.
14. Don’t compare yourself to your friends.
15. Say “thank you” to your friends on a regular basis for their positive contributions to your life.
16. Cheerlead for your friends. As enthusiastically as possible.
17. Learn to love yourself, so you’re not constantly chasing validation from others, and putting unnecessary strain on your friendships.
18. Relinquish the idea of finding perfect friends. It is not an attainable goal, and it will only serve to undermine your friending efforts.
19. Share your authentic struggles with your friends, and in doing so, give them permission to share theirs as well.
20. Decide to forgive your friends.
21. Give yourself permission to say “no” to friends when necessary.
22. If you know that you have hurts from your past that are creating barriers to healthy friendships in the here and now, invest some time and money in a therapy process to find the healing and closure you need.
23. Find friends who are able to love you completely and unconditionally. When you do, don’t take them for granted.
24. Allow your friends space to chart their own courses, as you chart yours.
25. Tell the truth to your friends. Even if it’s uncomfortable.
26. Be kind to strangers. You never know where a friendship seed might be planted.
27. Create meaningful, shared memories with your friends.
28. Send your friends an occasional card in the mail. Or a surprise treat. Especially when it might be needed most.
29. Refrain from judging friends too harshly. Remember that you can offer compassion without agreement.
30. If your life circumstances change, and you find yourself in a season of making new friends, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to initiate new connections.
31. Be careful to adhere to healthy boundaries in your friendships.
32. Invest in a variety of different friends from different backgrounds. Let those relationships challenge and change you for the better.
33. Don’t be afraid to relinquish friendships if they become toxic.
34. Continue to make time for your friends, even when all of your adulting responsibilities might try to derail these efforts.
35. If you have issues with a friend, talk directly to them, not to other friends about them.
36. Encourage your friends in their pursuits.
37. Avoid pretending in your friendships. We all deserve to be who we really are in our most important relationships.
38. Be gracious with your friends when they are traversing the rocky terrain of life, while also giving yourself permission to maintain healthy boundaries.
39. Don’t allow your friendships to subsist purely on occasional online engagement. While social media can enhance our connections, it is not a great replacement.
40. Have fun with your friends! Share adventures and shenanigans and LOTS of laughter!
Life is so much sweeter with good friends by your side!
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Gina Handley Schmitt
, MA, LMHC has been a psychotherapist near Seattle, WA, for 17 years, specializing in achieving their clients' intrapersonal and interpersonal goals. She teaches Psychology at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College and has been a speaker at the Unite Women's Conference and the Northwest Ministry Conference. Handley Schmitt lives with her husband off the shores of Lake Washington, where they enjoy planning their next Disney adventure. Friending: Creating Meaningful, Lasting Adult Friendships
is her first book.