The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

Five Simple Ways to Improve Your Friendships in 2012

Don't presume that everyone else already has friends.

Maybe it's a personal thing, but New Year's resolutions don't sit well with me. Picture a colorful bouquet of carefully selected balloons whose air fizzles out all too quickly. When I've made resolutions in years past, they were generally made with an initial burst of enthusiasm that fell flat well before the month of January was over. Sound familiar?

So instead, I've made a very short, actionable list of suggestions to look back upon even if you forget or dismiss them immediately after you've read this. As I've read thousands of posts and emails you've posted on The Friendship Blog or sent to me this year and in the past, here is some general advice that comes to mind early on New Year's day (even before my first cup of coffee) to improve your friendships over the coming year:

1) Carve Out the Time

Whether you feel down in the dumps, or are already overextended because you're juggling too many responsibilities, promise yourself some time with people. These can either be people you know or people you would like to know. Friendships enhance our health and well-being because they allow us to feel supported and understood - they're well worth the investment of time. Put it towards the top of your to-do list.

2) Put Yourself Out There

You're not alone. There are other people yearning for close friendships. Summon up your energy (and courage) to do something different: Make eye contact, smile, and say hello (even if you are innately shy). Take the initiative to invite someone for coffee or a walk. Don't presume that everyone else already has friends and that you're arriving too late for the game.

3) Take Off Your Blinders

Friends don't always appear in obvious places or look like you imagined they would. Don't diminish the size of your "talent pool" of prospects by eliminating people who are older, younger, richer, poorer, taller, shorter, or just look different than you think they should. Potential friends are all around, especially if you are working, in school, live in a multi-family dwelling, or belong to various groups and organizations. If you're unaffiliated, become a joiner. Sign up for a course, join a gym, book club, volunteer. You'll find others who are as interested in making friends as you are.

4) Nurture the Seedlings

Every relationship with a potential friend isn't love at first sight (in fact, you may have to worry if it is.) Give relationships time to blossom slowly and eventually deepen. Give potential friends a chance to show you their stuff and vice versa. We only get to know another person over time. Old friendships require nurturance, too!

5) Be the Friend You Would Like to Have

Be sincere, compassionate, and honest. Listen as well as share. Don't gossip or betray. Reach out when someone needs you even if she isn't able to ask or tell you what she needs. Be reasonable in what you expect from others but don't allow yourself to always be on the giving end of a relationship. Be forgiving  — to a point — but give up when a friendship clearly isn't working. Friendships need to be mutually satisfying and you deserve no less.

All my warmest wishes for healthy and satisfying friendships in the coming year~

Best, Irene

 

What suggestions do you have to add to this list?

 

 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

more...

Subscribe to The Friendship Doctor

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?