Who are the most important people in your life—your family, friends, colleagues, maybe those in your spiritual community? It’s a simple question, and one I revisit from time to time, especially when life is throwing me a few curves. On those days, I’m quick to reach out to my sisters and girlfriends in particular. It’s important to have someone who knows you intimately—your person—to be that sounding board when your mind and emotions are swirling.
But are you cultivating these bonds on the other days—just to check in, say hello, catch up over coffee or share a laugh? Nurturing your important relationships can be compared to tending a flower bed. It takes time up front to turn the soil, prepare the bed, plant the flowers and make sure they’re watered. Once those daisies and zinnias bloom? Beautiful! But you will still need to tend the garden for next year’s blossoms.
Not only do these relationships bring you joy. It’s well documented that having friends is good for your health and well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, friends can increase your sense of belonging, boost your happiness, reduce stress, encourage you to change unhealthy habits, and help you cope in times of need.
As you think about the special people in your life and how you interact with them, consider these five ways to acknowledge and nurture these important relationships:
- Engage in mindful communication. When you talk to or meet up with your friend, make the conversational engaging and mindful. For instance, instead of offering the perfunctory, “How are you doing?” try going a little deeper by asking, “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” As you’re talking, tune in to what they’re saying and be truly present. And while it’s fine to be empathic when they vent, a good rule of thumb is to refrain from offering advice, unless asked.
- Agree to disagree. It’s hard not to talk about the state of the world these days. If it becomes clear that you and your friend don’t share the same view on certain matters, be kind. Agreeing to disagree means that neither of you have to give up your opinion. It’s a civil way to recognize your differences, while maintaining a peaceful relationship.
- Spend time together on a regular basis. I have a friend that I get together with once a month, and another that I see more on a whim, when the mood strikes us both. Each relationship is equally important to me, just maintained in different ways. The point is to carve out quality time together on a regular basis, whether it’s a weekly walk, a monthly catch-up call, or lingering over a long lunch “just because.”
- Cheer them on, and encourage them in reaching their goals. As a life’s journey coach, I’m all about goal-setting and helping others reach their personal milestones, one step at a time. You can take this same approach with your friends as well. If they have a goal in mind, encourage them to talk about it, discuss how they plan to reach it, check on their progress, and be there for any setbacks—and success!
- Establish trust. Being a reliable trusted friend is the key to building and maintaining enduring relationships. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Be on time. Keep confidences. Have their back. Do the right thing.
Provide emotional support when life gets tough. You’ve probably heard the term “fair weather friend”? They are always around when times are sunny, but scatter to the wind when life gets dark. In times of sorrow, your inclination may be to retreat, thinking your friend needs time to heal. However, this is when they need you most. Call, text, sit by their side, ask what they need and be there. Supporting a friend during tough times is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
These are my thoughts on the subject. I’d love to know how you go about nurturing your own important relationships. Drop a line to me by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post, and I’ll share it in a follow-up post down the road.