How to build a friendship

Two friends

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Friends are precious to everyone–men, women, kids. But it seems to me women in particular have a lot to gain from each other’s friendship. And of course single women give and get a tremendous amount of love, companionship, understanding, and sharing with their good friends.

How do you make someone a good friend? Sometimes people click instantaneously. There’s just that magical connection that simply can’t be forced or produced on demand; it’s either there or it’s not.  But there are things you can do to foster a friendship if you feel the raw material is there—you have enough things in common, you share some of the same values, etc.

1. Be patient. Some people want to be best pals right away. Some are much slower to warm up to others. Try just being interested in the other person. Pushing to be friends before the other person is ready is a sure-fire way to sabotage a friendship before it has time to develop.

2. Be kind. Even if you have a great deal in common with someone, they’ll probably have quirks or characteristics you don’t like. First, decide if you can live with these things if you should start spending more time together. Do you go crazy if someone slurps their coffee? If you think you can’t, just let the other person lead the way in connecting by phone and email and in setting times to get together, etc. If you think you can be comfortable enough with the quirks, or you can arrange to avoid them most of the time, think about how you will deal with them when you can’t avoid them.

3. Be creative. Don’t always leave it to the other person to come up with things to do. Figure out things you both like to do, look up places, performances, etc. and suggest times/dates when you could do them together.

4. Be generous. From the beginning and later always be generous with positive feedback for things you appreciate about this person. As you get to know each other better, if you have the money, treat your friend occasionally. A drink, a dinner, a bouquet. If money’s an issue, volunteer to help her with an errand, a chore, a shopping trip, a pet walk, a home-cooked meal, or whatever. Giving and sharing are powerful agents for making people feel close.

TUCSON, AZ - JANUARY 09:  Anna Robinson is ove...

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Be generous with your time and your kind words/praise for your friend, especially when she’s down about something. Help her focus on the positives in her life.

5. Be alert. No matter what stage your friendship is at—from beginning to long-term—pay attention to how the other person is acting and reacting. Sometimes something you’re not aware of will get under a person’s skin. It may or may not be something you’re doing. Or it might be something that’s happening to you that’s causing an emotional reaction in your friend.  Or it might be something that’s going on for her that she doesn’t feel comfortable telling you—or can’t really even articulate to herself.

First, ask if she’s okay. Probe delicately to see if you can get her to say what’s bothering her. If she seems reluctant or closed off, let her know you care and would like to talk when she feels like it. If she denies there’s anything going on but still acts distant, that’s a little tougher. You can try backing off a little. Sometimes a little break can allow a person time to process whatever’s going on for her. Then later she may be able to talk with you about what’s been happening.

6. Be philosophical. If a friend whose company you valued decides to break off the relationship, you have two choices. First, you can be angry and bitter—for sure, it’s a major blow to lose a treasured friendship—and blame the other person. But that takes a lot of energy and keeps negative vibes resonating in your life.

Alternatively, you can try to understand what went wrong. Examine your own conscience for what you could have done differently. If you find something, resolve to work on that in yourself. Then accept that this friendship was a gift for the time and place you shared it. You may be able to continue being friends on some level or not. But know that you can now be open to receiving and building friendship with one or more new people.

This August celebrate Single Working Women’s Week by doing something nice for a single friend—help her with a chore, run an errand for her, walk her dog, make her a meal or whatever. [Comment from fellow-SWWAN Perri: Don’t just barge in and do something for your single friend. “Many SWWANs are juggling so many balls that to have one plucked out of rhythm by a well-intentioned friend can be more disruptive than helpful. ASK before doing! I’m not the only freak out there that wants things just the way I want them.”]

And if you’d like to have more friends, get out to someplace you can meet new people. Don’t worry about being a great conversationalist; just be interested. We never know when the precious gift of friendship is out there waiting for us.

P.S. If you can’t immediately think of places to meet new, hopefully similarly like-minded people, try Meetup.com. There are Meetup groups in all major cities for almost every imaginable interest. You’re bound to find a group that resonates with yours.

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