Everyone has people they come in contact with throughout the day, and most of those people are merely acquaintances. Even if you interact with a person repeatedly for months or even years, they still may remain only an acquaintance. And then one day, seemingly overnight, that acquaintance may become a friend. Friendship does not develop overnight; it occurs gradually, usually through talking, listening, caring, sharing, accepting, and encouraging. Friendship - true friendship - is not easy, and takes time and effort to build and nurture. But making friends and keeping them is one of the most magnificent treasures life has to offer.
Building a friendship works the same way for people of all ages. The first step is to open yourself to the idea of being able to share your thoughts and feelings with another person. Self-disclosure and openness are key to establishing a relationship with someone that may turn into a friendship. It may be intimidating to consider opening yourself up to another person, but why let the risk of potential rejection keep you from the possibility of enriching your life? If you share something of yourself with another person and they are not receptive or do not share in return, you need not consider that a rejection. They may have their own reasons for not reciprocating, or they may just need more time to warm up to the idea of being friends.
One of the most important keys to building a solid friendship with another person is to listen to them - really listen - and acknowledge what they are saying. When someone tells you something that happened to them, or is upset or complains about a situation, they are often just seeking acknowledgment from someone that they hear them. They are usually not looking for agreement; they just want to be heard. So when someone needs to talk, and you want to strengthen your friendship, you need to listen. Repeat what they say, if appropriate, but don't try to change their mind or solve their problem, and above all, let them know that you hear them and acknowledge their point of view.
Paying attention to your friends is vital to maintaining and keeping your relationships healthy and strong. Attending to someone means that you are totally focused on a person - your eyes, your ears, your body language, and your feelings are all intensely focused on that person. You are not only there physically; you are there emotionally as well. Looking at a person while they are interacting with you reassures them that you are there for them, and what they have to say is important. Attending and listening to your friends keeps your friendships strong.
One of the most important components of being a friend is being able to talk and reveal your thoughts and feelings. When a friend opens a conversation with you, they are usually expecting you to share information in return. If a conversation is one-sided, the person doing all the talking may feel as though the other person is not interested in what they have to say. If you find yourself always playing the role of the listener in conversations, then you may actually be acting as a counselor or confidante, rather than a true friend. In unhealthy friendships, the person doing all the talking may come across as lecturing, being bossy, or being demanding. The person doing all the listening may appear to be a counselor or worse, a doormat. When talking with your friends, be sure that the conversation is a two-way street. Good, equal communication is an important foundation of friendship.
The fastest way to end a friendship is simply to neglect it. Friends are rare jewels of life, and you must keep them intact by keeping in touch, spending time together, being loyal, being a good listener, never betraying trust, and respecting other points of view. Support and encourage your friends, and praise them for accomplishments and rewards. Offer a shoulder when they need it; cry with them when they are sad, and laugh with them when they are happy. Remember that old adage, "To have a friend, you need only be a friend?" It may sound trite, but it's true. Just think about what qualities and attributes you would like to find in a friend, and then focus on nurturing those qualities in yourself. You'll be glad you did.