Foster the Friendship

You gotta have friends, so says Bette.

There are the types of friends you laugh with and the types you can cry with; ideally your best friends are both.

But as adults, these types of friends are harder to come by. When you’re growing up, especially in school, you spend hours a day with your friends. In college, you might even live together. It’s easy to foster close bonds when you’re in such close proximity and you hold close interests (class, sleeping, and partying, in no particular order).

After college many go their separate ways. Lives begin to revolve around jobs and family and the distance grows. Maintaining friendships and fostering new ones requires a lot more effort.

Enter the digital age. Facebook, Twitter, et all promises to bring us closer together, and in many ways they do. You can stay in touch (or at least stalk) friends from near and far: travel with them on vacation, watch their kids grow, follow their marathon training, wish them a happy birthday.

For all intents and purposes, you’re connected, you’re keeping in touch, you’re friends. But if that’s all you do — sit behind a computer screen and maintain a passive relationship — are you really friends?

This kind of passive digital friendship is dangerous. It’s easy to get jealous when you watch your “friends” hang out with their friends in the form of check-ins and selfies. How come we haven’t developed that close relationship? Why wasn’t I invited to that party?

You’re so close, you can see every little update, but yet you feel so far away.

So how do you change this? How do you build real, meaningful, friendships in an age where most of what you see of your friends can be broken down to digital code on a far away computer server?

It’s time to foster the friendship:

  1. Be confident. Before you can really spend anytime working on creating better friendships, you need to work on creating a better you. Build a foundation for yourself. A friendship can help your well-being, but your well-being shouldn’t be dependent on a friendship.
  2. Be motivated. If you enjoy someone’s company and quietly wish you were closer with them, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Send them a message, an email, a text, or maybe even (gasp!) give them a call. Start a dialog, start a better relationship.
  3. Be proactive. Don’t sit at your computer watching them have a fun time wishing you were a part of it. Ask them to dinner, a movie, a coffee, a hike. Make your own fun times.
  4. Be persistent. Don’t just send a message with a “we should hang out!” Make a REAL effort to get together. Make a plan.
  5. Be honest. If this is someone who might truly be a close friend, you have to be yourself, not put up some act.
  6. Be consistent. You spent some time together and you realized how much you just “get” each other. Say so! Tell them you had a good time. The follow up is how you continue to grow in that friendship.

All these things sound like dating advice and, in reality, there isn’t much difference between getting to know a friend and getting to know a boy or girl-friend. Friendships are relationships too. If you sit at home drinking wine and clicking “like” you’re not going to meet a new friend or a new partner.

In both cases you’re looking for another person to connect with. In both cases you need to put in a little effort to see how deep that connection will go.

Meaningful relationships don’t just happen to you, they happen because of you.

It doesn’t always work out. Maybe the connection just isn’t there for them. That’s fine, everyone is unique, not everyone will gel. You can choose to get upset by this, or you can choose to turn to your other friends, see what other relationships you can foster, meet new people and connect with them.

It’s not a finite process. No relationship, friendship or romantic, is static, nor should it be.

Keep learning, keep meeting, keep fostering, keep making an effort. The possibilities are endless.

Originally published at