1. Focus on quality over quantity. An extrovert by nature, I used to have a countless stream of friends. Some shared my goofy sense of humor, or ambition, or could be fun to be around in small doses. But as life got busy and I realized the energy drain of spreading myself too thin, I got pickier. The turning point came in 2008, when I had a housewarming party. Decided to invite everyone I liked and over 100 people showed up. I was miserable. Couldn’t speak to anyone for more than a moment, knocked myself out to make sure people were taken care of and just wanted to hide in my bedroom under the covers. That’s when I started focusing more on the people who truly mattered. Like Samantha, who is loyalty personified. We met the first day of our freshman year at Emory University back when Reagan was president, shoulder pads were sky-high, and Madonna first became a Material Girl icon. Our friendship has only grown deeper over time, as we have been there for each other through losses and happy times. These days we chat via phone or text about every week or two and usually get together every other month. The point is, focusing my energy on the people who matter the most gives me a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
2. Plan ahead. When you spend time with a friend, that’s a gift for yourself. Think about how freeing it is to truly relax and say anything in that safe, supportive zone. Planning ahead is essential in making those moments happen. Cross referencing my work and personal calendars, I try to book a one-on-one dinner or brunch with friends about twice a month. My husband has become close friends with the significant others of several buddies, so I’ll schedule double dates periodically which turn into quality side conversations with those friends too. Even if your childcare, work demands, relationship time and other factors eliminate one-on-one meals, consider inviting a friend to join you for a walk, exercise class, trip to the nail salon or any other kind of event you already planned for yourself.
3. Celebrate milestones. One of the main reasons I’m on Instagram and Facebook is to stay connected with friends. I love seeing cute toddler or dog photos, witnessing how a relationship turns serious, cheering on a healthy living journey or hearing about career milestones. Writing congrats and seeing a burst of confetti makes me smile while supporting their joy. Social media alerts me about moments I might have missed, which I can then directly follow-up with a more personal congrats.
4. Know when to let go.Some friendships are there for a season, and it’s okay to have a shelf life. However sometimes, you actively have to let go of people who sap your energy and well-being. For example, I made a friend during college who became a close confidant in the years after graduation. We had similar career trajectories and she was even one of my bridesmaids during a previous marriage. But as I started to work on myself, choosing positivity and healthy habits, things shifted. Saw she didn’t share my ethics and values in the workplace. She relished being a martyr and would actively bicker with her husband in public. It dwindled into a friendship of habit, but we had little in common. Finally, I completely let go nearly a decade ago. Wish her the best but am much better off without that relationship.
5. Share the love.Most of the time, I end calls with my closest friends by saying “love you.” Because I do and want these individuals to know how much they matter to me. Last week, I had dinner with a long-time buddy who is going through a divorce. He is a great person and loving father now filled with introspection about how to best move forward. Expressing the love we have for him, I made sure he knew how grateful my hubby and I are to be part of his chosen family. While my friend appreciated the support, it was just as good for my well-being to nurture that authentic connection even further by saying it.