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By Nathan Bailey, MA, LPC

It’s possible at any point during your life to feel the absence of deeper friendships. This can happen for many reasons, some that are clear to us (i.e. having moved away) and others that aren’t (i.e. a stage of life that creates distance). Additionally, as you look to live a healthier lifestyle, you may recognize the value of building deep friendships but as an adult you’re not sure how to get started. When you’re a kid, it seems like whoever lives next door or sits near you in class is instantly a friend. It gets more complicated as an adult, but there are things we can do to create deeper relationships. 

1. Do something that creates opportunity to talk or connect

It’s easy to default to connecting via social media and while that can be a valuable tool, it’s likely that doing something live and in person can start some good conversations. For people who feel more reserved or shy, doing something with someone that focuses the attention on the activity, takes some of the pressure off. Conversations can seem more natural and give us opportunities to connect. Try volunteering for a cause that’s important to you (ex. Habitat for Humanity), take an adult education class or join an exercise group. 

2. Take the initiative to share your thoughts & feelings

While we want deeper relationships, often one of the challenges is that we haven’t opened up. It’s probably not a good idea to tell everyone in your social circle everything, but when we recognize someone who has potential to be a closer friend, we can take the initiative to reveal something deeper. This probably seems pretty obvious but the problem is when we wait for the other person to make the first move. While hungry for a deeper connection, we don’t take that first step out of fear that we’ll be ignored or misunderstood. Keep in mind that most people are thinking similar thoughts and the result is a missed opportunity to build a deeper friendship. 

3. Ask for help (or do something to help)

One of the best ways to deepen a relationship is to ask for help or offer to help someone in need. This is how we demonstrate our desire to come alongside someone and make a connection. There are often many opportunities to help someone from the functional (helping someone move, bring them a meal when they are sick etc.) to the more general (being available to listen or offer encouragement). I’ve noticed that we seem much more ready to help someone else and a lot more reluctant to ask for help ourselves. We might think that asking for help makes us seem “needy” or “weak.” When I’m discussing this with someone I often ask “what would you think if someone asked you for help?” The vast majority of the time, the answer is “I’d be excited to be able to help.” 

4. Deal with conflict

Let’s face it, we’re not so good at this. We’ve come to believe that the presence of conflict means a friendship is over. The reality is that this might be the start of a much deeper friendship. When we have conflict but we work it through it creates a strong, resilient relationship. We’ve come to know and be known at an increased level because that’s what you have to do to work through conflict. Sadly, we’ve probably drifted away from friendships that had potential to deepen because we didn’t do the work of reconciliation. Sure it’s uncomfortable, unpleasant and in some ways not our instinct, but to have deeper relationships, we will need to challenge our core belief that conflict means “it’s over.”

5. Embrace differences

When we’re kids, our friends often are the people most like ourselves. We like the same things, we do many of the same things. As we get older, we come to realize that our friends can actually have many differences and instead of being barriers, we come to embrace them. This can range from the small (I like coffee, they don’t) to the big (they voted one way, I voted another). There’s a lot of value in learning about and connecting with people who are different, think different or like different things. The lesson here is that when we become aware that there is a difference, we should challenge the instinct that it’s a deal breaker. 

Get support!

Lime Tree Counseling offers a variety of services to help you live the life you were meant to live. It’s possible you’ve had some past experiences making connecting to others a big challenge. Our team wants to support you through trauma counseling, addictions therapy or anxiety counseling. Our office is in Ambler, Pennsylvania and we offer online counseling in Pennsylvania, online counseling in Colorado and online counseling in North Carolina. Reach out and schedule your first appointment today!