How to Lean Into and Deepen Your Friendships
We’ve all been there:
You’re grabbing a coffee with someone you haven’t seen in a while, and, once you work through talking about the weather, work, and mutual people in your lives—the conversation stalls a bit.
You find yourself wanting a bit more from the friendship, but aren’t exactly sure how to start diving into sharing secrets or asking advice.
It’s a scenario that happens to so many of us—but the good news is, there’s a way to strengthen those relationships if you are willing to lean into them all the way.
The key: It’s understanding that different friendships require different things. A willingness to be open, accessible, and invest in your relationships are traits you can build up if you’re itching to dive deeper into the connections you have.
Here are some tips on how to do that:
Lean Into Vulnerability
The most important, integral element to deepening your friendships is vulnerability. Yep, it’s a scary word—but it doesn’t have to be a scary action.
Opening yourself up and being vulnerable can lead to moments of joy, according to leading vulnerability researcher Brené Brown.
Letting your guard down can lead to more authentic connections, and once you add authenticity to the mix, a level of trust starts to build and your relationships can grow in a myriad of ways. By keeping an open mind, you’ll also encourage others to do so around you as well.
“Being able to show a bit of warmth and create a nurturing safe environment with your own energy and the energy of people around you creates space for people to connect a bit deeper,” therapist Naiylah Warren, L.M.F.T., tells Shine.
Try kickstarting a vulnerable conversation by asking for advice around something you may currently be dealing with, or opening up to someone about something they might not know about you.
Practicing vulnerability also helps you gauge which friendships have the capacity to grow, and which ones might be better suited as low-stakes relationships.
Signs of a friendship that can grow: Your friend creates space for your emotions and vulnerability, and you receive authentic and honest support from them.
Friends Have Love Languages, Too
Take a minute to think about your friendships in the context of the five love languages—receiving gifts, spending quality time, receiving words of affirmation, receiving acts of service, and physical touch.
Knowing how you want to be cared for by your friends is just as important as understanding how they want to receive love.
“[It’s important to] figure out what is going to make the people in your life feel seen because I think so often, friction is the result of misunderstanding,” Rachel Wilkerson Miller, author of the upcoming book The Art Of Showing Up: How to Be There For Yourself and Your People, tells Shine.
Sometimes, you’ll find the way a friend wants to receive love and support is different from how you want to receive it—and that’s OK.
It’s OK to ask the people in your life how they want you to show up for them. It wasn’t until a conversation with a friend that I realized I had been showing up for them in ways that they might not have registered as friendly.
One of the ways I like to show love is through gifts, so I was showering a good friend with random knick knacks—only to learn after a conversation about love languages that they appreciated words of affirmations way more than anything material.
“Sometimes you actually have to treat other people how they want to be treated,” Wilkerson Miller says. “Treating them like them and not how you treat yourself is actually really helpful.”
Once you understand what people value, it'll save you energy and time—plus, it’s a fun way to break the ice and learn a bit more about the people in your life.
Invest With TME
“Investing” in relationships can sound scary—especially if you already have a packed schedule. But if you take certain things into consideration, it can become manageable.
Wilkerson Miller breaks relationships down by looking at them through the lens of TME: time, money, and energy.
“Where you put your time, money, and energy is ultimately your life, and it determines how you feel—I think it’s a helpful framework to figure out what your priorities are,” Wilkerson Miller says.
If you want to start a new friendship, time and energy might be one of the key resources, so don’t be shy about dedicating a chunk of your T and E to building a connection.
But life gets busy, so finding small ways to dedicate T and E counts. I tend to take notes in my planner about friends and big moments in their life. When the day comes, I can reach out and offer a quick dose of support in the form of a quick text or a phone call to give them love as they start a new job or finish an application.
The more you put into your friendships, the stronger they’ll grow—just make sure you’re giving yourself time to recharge, too.
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