Building friendships that last

By Sakuni Weerasinghe

We all know by now that humans are social beings. We thrive and survive due to the social connections we have. Our families, relatives, neighbours, and colleagues play a major role in our social lives.

Perhaps one of the most significant relationships we will have in our lives is with our friends, both new and old. As we grow older, it becomes difficult to sustain friendships. When you are juggling studies, work, and hobbies, along with trying to get adequate sleep and enough nutrition, your social life may take the backseat without you even realising it. This is not to say that as young adults you cannot enjoy the company of your friends at all; it just means that friendships require time and effort in order to guarantee longevity.

Just as you pay attention to your physical and psychological health, it is also vital that you pay attention to your social health, especially when it comes to friendship. So let’s find out how to build friendships that last.

Be an empathetic listener

Our friendships are based on shared understandings and being present when our friends need help. You can attest to how at times you only need someone to listen as you share details of your heartbreak and stress. As a good friend, you ought to practise being an empathetic listener. An empathetic listener is someone who seeks to understand the thoughts and feelings of the other person, knows where the person is coming from, and is capable of listening to what is being shared without judging the other for their thoughts, feelings, and actions. An empathetic listener is someone who understands what it means to be human. Rest assured, this skill alone can build a solid foundation for a lasting friendship. 

Bridge the distance

As we grow older, most of us drift and focus on ventures of our own. But this does not mean we have to abandon our friendships entirely. Even if your friend has moved to a different city or country, make sure you keep the connection alive. You can text, call, and meet as often as possible. Besides, thanks to technology, there are many ways to bridge the distance. Using online social networking platforms and messaging services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Viber, to name a few, can help you stay connected with each other no matter where you are. This is also particularly useful when we have to maintain physical distancing given the current pandemic situation.

Be the first to apologise

In friendships, irrespective of how likeminded you are, you will get into conflict at some point. It is part and parcel of being human. When the differences are stark and you find yourself in the midst of a heated debate, take some time to reflect on what your friend is trying to say. Taking a moment to consider their perspective will allow you to see where they are coming from and what factors they are taking into consideration. Then, you can honestly communicate your understanding of their perspective to them, share your side of the story, compromise, and discuss an amicable way of managing the conflict. Sometimes a simple “I’m sorry” is all it takes to resolve a misunderstanding. An apology does not mean that you are lesser or inferior, rather it is a sign of maturity.

Remain grateful for their presence in your life

It is so easy to take our friends for granted. Often enough, the things that our friends do for us like checking in on us throughout the day, making sure we’re doing well, listening to us complain over anything from the weather to the boring class we had that day, and bringing us comfort food when we’re not feeling our best go unnoticed. Sometimes we forget to appreciate them for just being who they are. You can start expressing your gratitude by saying a simple “thank you”, getting them a present, sending them flowers, writing them a letter, or even paying them a visit with their favourite food. It’s the little things that count!

Be the biggest cheerleader

It helps to be genuinely curious about what your friends are passionate about. Make an effort to get to know them more, even when you think you know them like the back of your hand. Ask them about their studies, career, aspirations, and dreams. Ask them about the places they want to visit, movies they want to watch, and items in their bucket list. When they do share their goals with you, make sure you encourage them to pursue these wholeheartedly. Be their biggest cheerleader. At the same time, ensure you will be there for them if they were ever to stumble. It’s important that you take active steps in being that reliable friend they can count on in good times and bad.