8 Little Ways You Can Cultivate Deeper Friendships
The digital age is ah-mazing, especially in pandemic times.
Just imagine for a quick sec being shut-in your house alone or with your family WITHOUT the internet to connect virtually with your besties, join online mixers, or get second by second updates on the latest and greatest banana bread recipes of all-time.
But as awesome as that all is, the digital age has had some detrimental effects on how friendships develop and the growth of our social skills.
These days it’s difficult to get a sentence in during a conversation, let alone have an entire meaningful conversation, without someone taking their phone out. We have so much information being thrown at us at any given second we’ve trained our brains to never be fully present.
We’re facetiming with our best friend as they confide in us about their most recent break-up while we’re emailing back a client and painting our nails simultaneously.
Zooming with your sister and reading a post on Medium at the same time? Check!
With all these different things bidding for our attention, it can make forming deep friendships incredibly hard because our focus is split on this, that, and that other thing way over there. Yet many of us yearn for those deep connections and just don’t know how to actually make them happen or realize that we’re actually behaving in ways that prevent them from forming.
If this is you then put your arm through mine and I’ll show you how to develop deeper, long-lasting friendships with existing or new friends!
Put away the phone
I’m pretty sure you saw this one coming from a mile away (if you didn’t you might want to call your optometrist for an appointment).
If you’re trying to share something deep and personal, the last thing you want the person you’re confiding in to do is whip out their cell mid-chat. Nothing makes it more glaringly obvious that they don’t think what you’re saying is worth their undivided attention.
So don’t do this to others.
Just having your cell visibly out can split your focus even if you’re not actually using it! Do both of you a favor and ask if you two can just keep your phones in your purses while you share the tea and sip the coffee.
It might feel like an appendage is missing at first, but I promise you’ll see the benefits the first few times you do this.
At your funeral, no one is going to commend you on your quick text response skills. They’re going to remember you as someone who was present and a great listener!
Spread genuine compliments
If you see a fabulous woman wearing a pair of glam shoes you adore, tell her!
Did a coworker step in to help you with a project that went astray? Let him know how much his assistance really touched you.
The keyword here is genuine. Don’t just dish out compliments for compliment’s sake. Really mean them.
People can just tell if you’re being inauthentic. They may not be able to put their finger on exactly why something is rubbing them the wrong way, but they’re subconscious can usually pick up that something isn’t quite right.
Plus, giving a dishonest compliment won’t feel nearly as good to you.
That smile and glimmer in their eye is a gift for you. YOU did that!
I know when someone gives me a compliment out of the blue it lights up my day.
Ask them questions
You can cultivate deeper friendships just by asking better questions.
Ask open-ended questions that give them the opportunity to continue sharing.
You’re showing them that you truly want to hear what they have to say and that you’re here for them.
Make sure you’re actually listening to their answers and asking follow-up questions.
This tip seems like such an easy one, I know! But you’d be surprised how many people don’t actively ask their loved ones engaging questions.
I enjoy bluntness and I think life is way too short to spend it trying to be subtle about your intentions. If I want to be better friends with someone I’m more than likely just going to tell them that I’d like to cultivate a closer friendship and see if they’re up for it.
If that’s not your thing don’t worry about it! You can still be intentional.
Evaluate your existing friendships and ask yourself if any of them truly feel like you’re kindred spirits or cut from the same cloth.
There’s nothing wrong with having more surface-level friendships. People can be just plain fun to hang out with without you wanting to take the friendship to another level. It’s good to evaluate your friendships so you can be aware of this and not waste your time trying to dive deep into a friendship only to realize it’s not really what you wanted with this specific person.
If no one in your current friend circle lights your fire, so to speak, start trying to be more open to new friendships.
Sometimes this just means keeping your eyes open for opportunities to befriend new people and sometimes it means actively going to events, fitness classes, and being more social. It just depends on how often you interact with new groups.
Find your common interests
Shared interests usually translates into spending more time with someone and the more time you spend with someone the more chances there are to really get to know each other on a deeper level.
This is why so many solid friendships begin to develop at the gym, through a book club, or through continued education classes. You share a passion for a common interest and you’re getting a lot of face time with one another. This leaves you ample opportunities to connect.
If you’re looking to create a deeper friendship with someone who’s already in your friend group, see if they’re up for taking a class where you can both learn more about a mutual hobby or start going to weekly fitness classes together.
Don’t be afraid to dig deep and share your personal struggles and triumphs. Surface level friendships stay surface level because people are too afraid of being judged or rejected. They never share anything that truly matters to them because then if they’re rejected they can just say “well she didn’t know the REAL me so she isn’t really rejecting me.”
The problem with this is the more risks you take, the greater the reward. If you aren’t willing to risk letting someone into your personal life you’ll miss out on the connection two people can have when they’re truly there for one another.
Having friends who know your good and bad and still love you to bits is one of the most affirming gifts you can receive in life.
Humans are pack animals. We aren’t meant to traverse this world alone.
It’ll feel downright scary at times to let someone see your soft underbelly, and you WILL get hurt when someone doesn’t like your particular brand of weird, but y’know what? That’s why you should do it.
If someone doesn’t accept you when you show them your authentic self in all its glory then they’re helping you by letting you know that they aren’t the right fit for you. It’s super easy for people to get along when you have a more shallow friendship because nothing really important is being discussed.
Deeper friendships mean deeper shares.
And don’t wait until they do it first. Take the lead! By taking the step to share something personal you’re letting them know it’s okay to share their inner lives too.
One thing to keep in mind on this one is you can’t jump over steps. As much as you might want to go straight from stranger to deep abiding friendship with that cool chick from yoga, it’s not a good idea. Friendship is like a house and you have to set the foundation before you can start building the rest.
Ditch the competition
Growing up doing theatre, I got to see firsthand how competitive women are with one another and it took me a decade to train myself out of this mindset so I could actually enjoy female friendships.
How are you supposed to open yourself up to someone when you have thoughts like “she’s so much prettier than me” or “how the heck did she get that job” ricocheting around in your head?
Drop the scarcity mindset. There’s enough for everyone, especially when we aren’t competing with each other!
Start supporting your female friends and the other women around you. We are stronger together. Fist pump!
Don’t sweep problems under the rug
If you have expectations that aren’t being met please make sure you’ve actually stated them out loud to your friend. I’m pretty sure she can’t read minds. If she CAN is she available to hire?
Anyway, if you’re upset about something your friend did or didn’t do then tell them! Don’t let it bubble up until it becomes something way more than it ever was or act standoffish until your friend gets that you’re giving them the cold shoulder.
These behaviors are damaging to any kind of relationship and are extremely counterproductive if you want deeper friendships.
If you want fuller friendships you need to be willing to have the harder talks. In-person, please. Phone and text conversations are not the mediums to be used when something important is being discussed because it leaves way too many avenues for miscommunication. There’s no need to make a hard conversation even harder.
Take your daily dose of vitamin self-love
If you don’t love yourself and enjoy your own friendship you will consciously or unconsciously shortchange yourself in all your friendships. If you don’t think you’re good enough, it makes it that much harder to be vulnerable with others.
For a long time, I hated being alone with my own thoughts.
If I was going to bed, the TV needed to be on. If I was doing chores, I needed music – anything to drown out my own negative thoughts and self-doubt.
Once I learned to love my own company and started talking to myself like I would to my best friend, my energy changed. What I was putting out into the world changed and the friendships I attracted were matching what I was throwing down.
Like attracts like. If you’re feeling less than and your self-worth is in the gutter, spend time doing some inner work. It’s hard, but it is SO worth it.
Building deep friendships is important for our health and wellbeing.
Whether it’s support from a co-worker after messing up on a project or your sister offering a shoulder to cry on when you’re going through a break-up, a strong support network can help us bounce back more quickly.
Even though friendships may look different these days due to how virtual our world has become and the added complexity of COVID, at the root it remains the same.
Friendship is building a bridge between you and someone else made of time, compassion, and shared interests.
Try out some of the tips above for cultivating a deeper friendship and you will see the results start to play out in your life.