If 80 percent of success is, as Woody Allen once said, just showing up, then 80 percent of building and maintaining relationships is just staying in touch.
Friendships require upkeep. Unfortunately, you can’t just hang out with someone a couple of times and expect to remain friendly. It just doesn’t work that way. People are busy, and we are all constantly meeting new people, so if you don’t make an effort to stay on someone’s radar, they will start to forget about you.
I have a friend who sits down every Sunday to connect with his friends via e-mail. Sometimes you’ll find that you need to be the person who keeps things moving. You need to make the phone call or organize lunch or call up just to say hello. Think of fun activities and invite your friends. My friends are an infinitely busy bunch, but it’s not hard to stay in touch. We send e-mails back and forth, ask advice, plan activities and vacations, and plot evil schemes!
But besides making time for your friends, there are some key behavior patterns that will be the kiss of death to any fledgling or even a well-established friendship. Be sure to watch out for these 6.
Building A Lasting Friendship
1. Avoid Jealousy and Competition
Why? Because there’s nothing worse than a friend who doesn’t have your best interests at heart, or is suspicious of you, or secretly wishes you weren’t as great as you are.
How to fix it: learn to appreciate how great you are. Practice more radical self-love! Recognize that comparing yourself to anyone is always a losing game, so you have to get comfortable in your own skin. Sometimes, too, it helps to just be honest about it. Sit down with your friend and tell them how you feel! Honesty is always the best policy.
2. Don't Be Constantly Late
Why? Because being late shows that you don’t value your friend’s time.
How to fix it: simply make the decision that you’re not going to be late anymore. When I first got to Manhattan, I would drastically miscalculate traveling times, and I was late more times than I could count. The next year, one of my resolutions was to be early to my appointments. Plan accordingly, and leave earlier! Anyone can do this; you just need to make the decision to do it.
3. Stop Canceling Get-Togethers
Why? Because, again, it shows that you don’t value your friend’s time . . . and it makes them think you didn’t want to see them in the first place!
How to fix it: stop committing to dates that you can’t keep! We all work long days, and sometimes by the time 8pm rolls around, leaving the house again is the last thing we want to do. If going out at night simply does not float your boat, make lunch dates instead. Work out when you’re most likely to want to see your friends, and schedule accordingly!
4. Return Phone Calls, Texts, or E-mails
Why? Because not doing so makes your friend feel unimportant and like you don’t care about them.
How to fix it: this one is easy—just do it! Make a note to call your buddy back if you always forget after you’ve listened to voice mail.
5. Be Honest
Why? Self-explanatory, surely!
How to fix it: start by always telling the truth. Some people tell little white lies all the time, because that’s how they were raised, but that doesn’t make it okay. Just be honest. If you find that difficult, you might want to look at what’s causing you to lie. Are you afraid to tell the truth, or is there something else going on? Some self-reflection will serve you well here. If what you discover disturbs or worries you, you might want to talk to a therapist about it—they are experts, after all!
6. Stop Complaining and Being Negative
Why? Because it pulls down the energy of everyone around you and cements you as a psychic vampire!
How to fix it: if you’ve noticed people tell you that you complain a lot, take it as an opportunity for growth and positive change. A lot of us whine and moan without even realizing it. To top it all off, a lot of us learn, subconsciously, that complaining helps us bond with other people. Start listening to yourself when you talk. Take notice of what you’re really saying. Speaking more positively is just like changing any kind of habit: once you become aware of it, come up with ways to alter the behavior. Ask a friend to keep you in check, or journal your progress. This is really something worth working on, I promise!
Fighting with your friends is awful. There’s nothing like that sinking feeling in your stomach when you realize that things have turned sour and there’s no easy way to salvage them. It’s not a sensation I would wish on anyone.
We all have different ways of dealing with conflict. Some people like to avoid it, and others rush straight in to try to clear things up. It all depends on how you’re wired. The way that you deal with conflict will dictate how your friendship evolves.
SEVERING A FRIENDSHIP
Sometimes, after a bit of reflection, we come to the terrible realization that we don’t really like our friends anymore. Don’t beat yourself up if this describes your current situation. It’s very easy to end up with a lot of negative friends, or friends who simply bore us, especially in your teens or early twenties. We’re all so insecure and unsure at that time that we often accept anyone who wants in. The kicker is that misery loves company, and negative or sad people want nothing more than to pull you down to their level. If you have ambitions and actually want to make something of your life, having the sad patrol around you is only going to make it more difficult. You don’t need that!
I feel that I can speak to this subject with some authority because I used to be part of the misery brigade. My friends and I hated our lives, and everything we experienced was proof that the world was shit. We were engaged in a vicious feedback loop. At the time, I thought that being sad, not eating, and having constant drama in my life made me more “interesting.” I thought that happy people were stupid and annoying (really, this was just misguided jealousy!). My friends and I didn’t want to be “normal”; we wanted to be different, goddamnit, and we were willing to suffer to be that way.
Thankfully, once I stepped away from that group of people, I learned the error of my ways. Being happy doesn’t make you normal at all—in fact, happy people are in the minority. It is easy to throw your hands up in frustration and be tragic and defeatist. It is also incredibly boring. Truth time: people don’t enjoy being around negative whiners. It’s mind-numbingly dull, which is the ultimate crime!
Friends for a season, friends for a reason, and friends for life
There are three types of friends in our lives: friends for a season, friends for a reason, and friends for life. Friends for a season are people who are great company for a short time, when circumstances are right, but as our lives change, the friendship drifts apart. Friends for a reason are those who have something to teach us, something to learn from us, or are just friends of convenience, like when you work or live together. Friends for life are the most rare group, and of course, these friendships are the most important to maintain. They are the people who really are with us through thick and thin, no matter how great or terrible our lives are. They always have time for us, they have our back, and they love us beyond measure.
When you find a friend who has those qualities, you have stumbled upon a rare gem. Maintain that friendship as best you can. Friendships like this aren’t just ways to pass the time or people to talk to at parties; they are support systems: an integral part of life and a major source of happiness. Having someone you can rely on no matter what is the most incredible, blissful feeling and absolutely worth pursuing.