Real friendships have a hugely positive impact and effect on our lives. As the adorable but very relevant NED video above shares, there are many ingredients involved in friendships. However, as we develop and change personally, how do we make sure we nurture and maintain the bonds that we share with our friends? The following excerpt from Psychology Today outlines the four behaviours required by both parties to ensure your special friends stay friends: self-disclosure, supportiveness (which combined bring intimacy), interaction; and being positive.
From young adulthood onward, our notion of what makes a good friendship changes very little, but our capacity to maintain one does. It’s a poignant reality; we know what it means to be and have friends, but after we graduate from college and go our separate ways—launching our careers, getting married, having children, getting divorced, caring for ageing parents—we’re often unable to muster the time and energy to maintain friendships we profess to value. Like anything else in life, if we want to remain friends with someone, it requires a little work. Simply put, we must show up.
According to Marquette University psychologist Debra Oswald, who has studied the nature and complexity of high school “best” friendships, there are four basic behaviours necessary to maintain the bond. And they hold true whether we’re 17 or 70.
Communication facilitates the first two essential behaviours: self-disclosure and supportiveness, both necessary for intimacy. We must be willing to extend ourselves, to share our lives with our friends, to keep them abreast of what’s going on with us. Likewise, we need to listen to them and offer support.
Fortunately, studies show that physical proximity has little effect on the ability to keep a friendship in working order. Moving to another state is not the friendship death knell it once was, thanks to the Web. Between e-mail and cell phones with free long distance, we’re able to stay close. Maintaining a lively e-mail correspondence may often be as good as being there.
Interaction is the third essential in tending to a friendship. You’ve got to write, you’ve got to call, you’ve got to visit. Find the nearest Starbucks and take time to catch up. “The specific activity doesn’t matter,” says Oswald. “The important thing is to interact.”
The last and most elusive behaviour necessary for keeping friends is being positive. Social psychologists tout the necessity of self-disclosure, but that doesn’t mean an unrestricted license to vent. At the end of the day, the intimacy that makes a friendship thrive must be an enjoyable one, for the more rewarding a friendship, the more we feel good about it, the more we’re willing to expend the energy it takes to keep it alive.
Even if your best friend is not around the corner to see for a weekly coffee catch-up or is but you’re both too busy, there are so many options with today’s rapidly evolving tools for communication. For free calls there are Skype and Viber, and with social media platforms such as Instagram, Vine and Tumblr, its pretty quick and easy to see what your bestie is up to. Plus everyone is on Facebook and WhatsApp. Look up what your good friends have been up to, then reach out to have a catch up online about that great trip they just went on or the new puppy. Make their special moments part of your journey together, even if you can’t be physically present to have that coffee in person.