t is great to have a large circle of friends! With a strong community based on relationships, we can help and support one another.
But deep down, we long to have a few deep, meaningful friendships rather than a long list of Facebook followers we barely know.
According to Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, humans can only maintain 150 stable human connections and 5 close friendships.
This is not a bad thing. You can still have a few close friends while having a large group of casual friends, so it is alright to prioritise and invest our time and effort in those we care about the most.
How do I find a genuine, meaningful friendship?
Finding a genuine, meaningful connection with a friend is more difficult than you think. According to Science Alert, only about half of your friends will see your friendship with them as mutual.
But here is a little secret:
A friendship cannot bloom without both parties putting in the effort to make it work. While we can’t control how our friends react, we can change how we treat the friendship.
By understanding and practising the principles of a genuine, meaningful friendship, you can turn current friendships into life-long companionships based on mutual, genuine connections.
1 – Communicate and listen to your friends openly.
Communication is a fundamental aspect of all human relationships.
When it comes to close friends, we want to confide in them and feel comfortable with them. To develop a genuine, meaningful friendship, we need to create a safe space where both of you speak openly and freely without judgement.
Here are a few of the many ways we can make friendships a safe space for communication.
- Communication is a fundamental aspect of all human relationships.It may sound unnatural to say at first. However, when we talk about our wants, needs, feelings and expectations, we can avoid incorrect assumptions and misunderstandings in the future. It helps your friend understand you more as a person and makes you a person who is easy to talk to.
- Actively Listen to your friends and respond to them. In return, you should also actively listen and respond to what your friend is saying. This can be as simple as a nod or asking more questions. This makes your friend feel like their opinions are valued without judgement.
- Be Honest and Vulnerable with Your Friend. It is hard to be honest, but a genuine friendship can’t be built on things that are not true. Once you are honest and vulnerable in front of your friend, your friend will feel comfortable and relaxed enough to share their own vulnerabilities. Being open bridging the distance in friendships.
2 – Notice your friend’s behaviour and actively respond to them.
Humans don’t communicate in words alone. We also communicate through our intonations, body language and approach.
Take the time to understand your friend’s social cues by observing how your friend behaves and reacts in different situations. This may take some time to grasp. But once you understand how your friend reacts, you will know how to respond to them
Understanding your friend’s love language is another fantastic way to learn how your friend reacts.
There are 5 ways people can show love: words of affirmation, gifts, touch, quality time and acts of service.
People use all five love languages to express appreciation. However, they may lean towards one or two dominant love languages.
By noticing and responding to your friend’s behaviour, they will feel loved because you understand them well. In return, your friend will be more in-tuned to how you express yourself and show their appreciation in your love language.
3 – Be Flexible and Open to Change
As time goes by, things will inevitably change. You and your friend will get a new set of priorities, you may not meet up as often, and your personalities may change as well. Naturally, your friendship dynamic will change as well.
If your friend is too busy to meet up for tea once a week, you can always try calling each other once a month to keep in touch. If your friend has to dedicate more time to taking care of their children, hit two birds with one stone by organising a playdate for both of your families.
Your friendship will not be the same as it first started. However, with patience, commitment and trust in your friend, your friendship will remain strong no matter what happens.
4 – Call Out Friends and Help Then Grow
It sounds counterproductive to point out your friend’s flaws: you don’t want them to think poorly of you or be an unsupportive friend.
However, calling out your friend’s mistakes and flaws actually has the opposite effect! Your friend will respect you for your honesty. It takes courage to point out someone’s flaws; not many people will be as upfront and direct as a close friend.
While it may be difficult, being honest about your friend’s mistakes will help them and your friendship in the long run.
You want your friend to grow from their mistakes, not punish them. So when you call out your friend, remain supportive as you express your concern in a constructive manner.
We also need to be patient with our friends’ mistakes, especially if they do something wrong that threatens your friendship with them.
Friends will inevitably hurt you, even if it is unintentional. However, we should recognise that we can also make mistakes and hurt our friends. If there is a problem between you and your friend, talk it out. If your friend was in the wrong, forgive them for their mistake and move on. If you made a mistake, apologise to your friend.
Recognising where each person fails and making up for the mistake develops mutual respect and healthy communication in a friendship.
We all want to have a deep personal relationship with our friends. While both people in the friendship need to put in the effort to make it work, we should take the first step to be a caring, supportive and loyal friend to them.