Why Deep Friendships Are Important & How to Foster Them

Why Deep Friendships Are Important & How to Foster Them

Building Close Friendships

Building close friendships with other people can make a world of difference in your own happiness. Although making connections with people might seem like an impossible task at times, remember that potential friends are everywhere and with 15 seconds of bravery you could strike up a conversation that could lead to having a new best friend. Once a connection is established, nurturing relationships past the superficial level does require time, effort, and intention. The Skin Deep team has witnessed the development of that deeper friendship connection firsthand through hundreds of hours witnessing real friends ask thoughtful and dynamic questions. As a result of that work, we have put together this article to show you the easiest ways to simplify that path, make the process fun, and ultimately develop friendships that go beyond the surface level.

7 Moments of True Friendship | {THE AND} Relationship Project

Why Friends Are Important

While it may seem obvious why friends are important to us as individuals, research shows that having friends is actually critical to our physical health. The doctors and research scientists at the Mayo Clinic said this about how having consistent friendships can affect us biologically: “Adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI).”

On the emotional and psychological level, friends can: 

  • Make you feel hopeful again and as though you have a sense of purpose
  • Help you pursue a balance between work and social commitments
  • Encourage activities such as exercise for a happier, healthier lifestyle
  • Improve your self-love, confidence, and appreciation for the gifts you bring to the world 

Friendships do a lot for our mental health, so it's important that we figure out how to maintain these connections and keep them going strong.

The Importance of a Best Friend Can Not be Underestimated

Even more than just having friends at all, it’s really critical in a healthy life to have a best friend. It’s quite common to have friends for different parts of our lives, such as: a friend that we can go shopping with, a great Netflix partner and gym buddies that push you physically. And while it’s great to have friends for every occasion, it's something really special to have a best friend. 

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem, a registered marriage and family therapist, says a best friend is someone who doesn't need any explanations to understand where you are coming from. The context and history is already there for them…they know everything about you and likewise you know just about everything about them. "It's like picking up a book and knowing exactly where you left off," Belleghem says.

A best friend is also a critical person to have when you’re feeling down or going through struggles. Knowing they are just a call or text away can give you ease, comfort, and assuredness that things will work out. "It gives you a sense of being connected and not just free-floating in space," Belleghem says. By communicating and sharing your emotions with somebody else, you'll find that both of you and your bestie will feel better. Best friends will always stick with us at the worst of times and it's crucial to have someone in our lives with whom we feel comfortable and supported. Let’s not underestimate the value of finding a person who can be there through all our ups and downs.


How to Get Close Friends and Be a Close Friend

It’s pretty obvious that friendships are important; what may be more complex is practicing ways to get closer to others and be a friend. Knowing how to get closer to people is a critical skill for creating lifelong fulfillment. We have a few ideas that should help you grow friendships with new people you meet or those you already know and would like to become closer.

  1. Take Some Risks and Put Yourself Out There: We all have things we do to protect ourselves from anything that could expose or make us feel vulnerable. These are called "safety behaviors" and they can be helpful but they also hinder our ability to connect with people. A lot of people feel pressure to avoid making eye contact, do favors, initiate conversations or compliment others because they're afraid of being rejected. Practice letting go of these guards. Open yourself up, do your best to be present, and see what happens. As you practice, the discomfort of not knowing what to do or say will ease, your anxiety speaking to others will decrease and people will like you more as they get a more authentic version of you. It is absolutely okay to screw up or look silly at times–practice will make it easier and lower the stakes. Ultimately we have seen time and time again through our {THE AND} project, how being vulnerable with the other person creates an opportunity for deeper connection. 
  2. Share your hobbies and learn about theirs. People like other people exponentially more when they share the same hobbies, interests and beliefs. When you have conversations with potential friends and want to explore your connection, ask them about their interests and hobbies. When they tell you something new, tell them all the amazing things that happened to you in that area, or make some connection to your own experience. You'll both feel closer right away! You can usually make some educated guesses about what someone might like to talk about within a few minutes of meeting them. If any of these potential topics overlap with your interests, see if you can get them talking about that passion and share your own experiences.
  3. Turn off your “work brain” intentionally. Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman has found that there are two groups of networks within the brain that tend to take turns. When one neurological network is working hard, the other slows down. From a personality perspective, some people are more naturally social, others are more analytical by nature…but in general we all use both networks depending on the needs of our environment. Try the practice of verbally reminding yourself to focus on people a bit more and “powering down” the part of your brain that focuses more on analytical thought, especially after a long work day, or if organizational thought takes up a good amount of your time. Remind yourself that connecting with people and making friends isn't a problem that needs solving; it should be fun, free-flowing, and joyful.
  4. Be kind and easy going. Easy going people are more likely to experience 'friendship chemistry'— a feeling of "clicking" with a potential new friend. This is especially true for introverts who typically have a more difficult opening up and getting vulnerable. Because of their natural guards as people, introverts often strongly value being surrounded by friendly and kind individuals. Kind people are defined as those who tend to criticize others infrequently or with an air of love and empathy. They offer constructive advice rather than being exploitative and they're not driven by ambition or ego. Kind people ask good questions when getting to know someone else's feelings or thoughts, have curiosity about where their opinions come from rather than bestowing judgment and they do their best to be optimistic and helpful. In short, drop judgments and expectations. This is something that we at The Skin Deep call Deep Listening, and it's basically when you are present to someone without thinking of what your response will be. It’s simply being present to the moment, placing yourself in their shoes, take in what they’re sharing and respond to it naturally. No expectation. No judgment. Just going along for the ride. 
  5. Don't be afraid to make a joke…even if it’s cheesy. Research proves that even in brief, new relationships, sharing a humorous event can make people feel closer. Don’t feel you need to be a professional comedian in order to make a new friend. You just need to show that you are like-minded and can understand humor yourself, as well as enjoy it when you see/hear it. A witty comment or one-liner can be a great ice-breaker, so it’s really not a bad idea to have a few cheeky “dad jokes” in your back pocket. Be careful not to rely too heavily on them however as they can often come across as clumsy or overly rehearsed.
  6. Ask your new friend for advice or a favor. When you ask someone for advice, they can feel like they are able to share something personal and it increases the likelihood they will trust us as they share some of those personal details and see how we respect and honor those insights. It also endears us to them as people who care about what they think. Asking someone for small favors does the same thing as it exhibits we are humble people, willing to ask for help, and wanting their input or support in our lives.

Growing close friendships does take time and energy, but as you practice investing in others and allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable for them to invest in you, the reward will be oh-so-worth-it. Truly close and deep friendships are typically based on trust, mutual interests, and the time that was taken to get to know the other person. It can take weeks, months or years for one of these relationships to form, but they can become some of the most important relationships in life. 

{The And} Relationship Card Games by The Skin Deep open up conversations to help players people get to know themselves and their close connections better. Check out our Friends Edition, Family, Healing or Self Editions to reconnect with friends and family and make the most of your relationships.

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