People are sometimes meant to come and go from our lives, staying around for only a short period of time. But other friends do have the potential to be long-term, and grow with you as your life changes. One way to keep friendships of any level strong is to actively nurture them.
Some friendships come easily and nurturing them is not hard to do. Others, however, require more thought and action. That's okay. Putting effort into a friendship doesn't mean the friend is not right for you, it simply means that your friendship is different and you need to work to keep it strong.
Send Handwritten Notes
With all the electronic communication going on these days (Facebook, email, Twitter, texting), a handwritten note can really make an impression. First, you just don't see them as much these days so it will really stand out in your friend's mailbox. Second, just knowing you took the time to find a note card, write something by hand, and then mail it shows how much thought went into it.
You don't need to send cards all the time for this to be an effective way to nurture. Look for opportunities like these:
- Thank you cards. They show your friend how much you appreciate their gift.
- A card sympathizing with something your pal is dealing with. This could be anything: a rough time at work, trouble with a teenager, struggles in marriage, and the like.
- A note of encouragement. Is your friend trying to lose weight? Get a new job? Enter the dating world? Whatever the occasion, a handwritten note will show your friend that you're with them in spirit.
- A "just because" card. Think of how touched your friend will be to get a card that simply says, "Hey, I haven't told you in a while but I really appreciate our friendship."
Be Proactive in Contacting Friends
When people are busy, they can get in the habit of calling up friends only when they need something. The problem with this is it makes it look as if you don't really care about your friend, and instead just want to be with them when it suits you.
There is nothing wrong with asking a friend for a favor, but make sure you are actively nurturing your friendship first. Call up people to see how they are doing, send an email, or just write on their Facebook wall. Regularly check in with your friends so they know you are sincere.
Call Up Friends
Electronic communication is great, but there is nothing like hearing your friend's voice to give you a lift. Make a point to call up friends to check in with them or to respond to an email or text. The phone calls don't have to be long. Just a few minutes every month can make a difference in your friendship.
Give Meaningful Gifts
Put some thought into the gifts you give a friend. Presents don't have to be large or expensive to nurture your friendship. In fact, often the smallest but most thoughtful ones are the biggest hit. Pay attention to the details of their life to find something they will really appreciate. Some ideas include:
- Items that spark a memory for the two of you, such as tickets to an event, a funny book, or gift certificates to a favorite restaurant.
- Anything that lifts their life burden can be a great gift. Things like offers to babysit, a book of easy recipes, or an offer to lend a hand in the garden. (Here's more things you can do that don't cost a thing.)
- Homemade gifts are great if you are giving something your friend really wants. If you're handy, knit or crochet a handmade scarf, make a memory journal or scrapbook, or sew some pillows for their apartment.
Talk Things Out
People who argue from time to time actually have healthier friendships than those who never discuss their points of conflict. Learn how to argue in a healthy way and work through the issues in your friendship. Doing this means that you and your pal value your relationship.
By contrast, if you remain silent and let things build, resentment will begin to take over your relationship. Why let a good friendship die just because of a little conflict? Discuss your issues with the goal of making your relationship that much better.