A Guide to Healthier Friendships
For the March/April issue of Spirituality & Health magazine, I wrote a visual essay on creating healthier friendships. Below are some of the guidelines I follow when considering and taking stock of my friendships (which I do regularly) and deciding how to best nurture, heal, or help them along.
1. Nourish and nurture your existing friendships to ensure they remain healthy and grow strong. Friendships require: Attention and effort. It's not always easy to pick up the phone or take a drive to see a friend, but friendships thrive when both sides feel seen, cared for, and loved.
Mutual trust, respect, and honest communication. When a friend is talking to you, practice listening without judgment, asking them what they need in the moment, and forgiving when necessary. Ask for what you need.
Meaning and intimacy. A friendships grows deeper when both people show up and share themselves. For many of us, this is a practice. Work on building trust and honesty in your friendship so you both feel safe being vulnerable.
2. Plant seeds for the relationships you want to have. If there are people in your life you'd like to have more meaningful friendships with, take time to identify them. If there aren't, put yourself in an environment where you can meet them (a book club, community potluck, or yoga class are some examples). When you spend time together, actively get to know the other person: Ask questions about their lives, allow them to open up, and be vulnerable and honest in return.
3. Cull unhealthy or toxic friendships.
Not every friendship will work out or be a healthy one. All friendships go through ups and downs, but some might just never feel right. Learn to identify emotionally-draining friendships and cull them, leaving room for mutually respectful, healthy friendships to bloom.
Ask yourself: How do I feel after I spend time with this person? Does this person see me for who I am? Do I feel safe opening up to them? Do I feel connected to them? Do I trust that they want the best for me?