Sometimes friendship involves a little intentionality. Here are some ways to build warm, connected relationships with the people who matter to you.

1. Build in Social Time

Think of your friendships like houseplants. They’re beautiful, they’re life-giving, and they die without regular care. Water your friendships by building opportunities for connection into your regular schedule. Seeing friends often - even for short amounts of time - builds a feeling of continuity and closeness. Meeting for yoga class, shopping in the same stores, frequenting the same restaurants and worshipping in the same places are great ways to stay current with your friends.

Parents have a special advantage here. Look for ways to get your kids in the same activities as your friends’ kids. Sitting together during dance class or Tae Kwon Do practice, sharing rides, and planning play times together is a good way to “do life” with friends.

2. Ask Questions

Here’s another friendship metaphor for your consideration. A tennis match is like a good conversation. Questions are the tennis ball, bouncing back and forth between the people. If one player just dribbles the ball endlessly, it gets very boring. Good conversationalists don’t monologue. They share their thoughts, sure, but they also ask lots of questions to engage others and encourage them to open up. To hopelessly mix the metaphors, a good tennis game waters the friendship plant.

3. Celebrate Your Friends’ Successes

Genuinely support and congratulate your friends when they excel at something. It’s not unusual to feel competitive when people around you succeed, but remember that competition is a fast way to kill closeness in a friendship. Celebrate generously when good things happen to your friend. A bouquet of flowers (which are essentially a bunch of friendship plants, you know) or a bottle of champagne will show your friend that you’re in her corner.   

4. Cultivate Vulnerability

Being vulnerable with a trusted friend is a great gift. At first, it may feel risky to share deep truths about your inner life, but when both friends create space for each other’s vulnerabilities, it opens up real depth. Remember that sharing deeply is a two-way street. In healthy friendship, both friends need an opportunity to talk and an opportunity to listen. If one friend does all the talking, mutual vulnerability becomes harder to reach. Remember the tennis match.  

5. Remember Important Events

Another way to show care and build closeness with a friend is to remember the significant dates in her life. Some of those events call for celebration, like birthdays, holidays and family milestones. Other events, like the anniversary of a death or other loss, are opportunities to extend kindness and support. When the calendar brings around difficult dates and memories, an attentive friend can lift the burden a bit by getting in touch with a phone call or gift.

It’s absolutely worth the effort to cultivate healthy relationships. We hope these ideas will encourage you to dust off your watering can and pour on the attention your friendships deserve.