Cultivating Meaningful Relationships


Think about it: How many friends do you have? Now, consider the quality of those friendships. How many close friends do you have? How many of your friendships are invaluable to you?

It's not always easy to make meaningful friendships. For teens especially, it's tricky to cultivate quality relationships when everyone's changing and figuring out who they are. As people change, friendships evolve too. There's a difference between hanging out with a group of people while feeling lonely, and hanging out with a few friends while feeling genuinely happy. Everyone wants to spend time with people who we enjoy being around. But how do we foster those kinds of relationships?

Here are some tips to help you develop valuable and worthwhile friendships:

1. Determine which people appeal to you –
We talk to so many people every day, whether online or in person. We won’t always click with everyone we meet. Sometimes personalities clash, while other times, they mesh really well. The best way to determine which people you might want to be better friends with is to brainstorm. Start by making a list of all the people you talk to; then narrow it down to the handful who really appeal to you. Think about who you would want to be closer with and focus your time on those people.

2. Put more energy into getting to know others –
Using your refined list, spend time getting to know the people who you want to develop friendships with. Friendships don't happen unless you put the effort in! Reach out to those people and find opportunities to talk. When possible, spend time with those individuals in person. People connect better when speaking face-to-face, and others will appreciate you giving your attention to them instead of texting and doing something else at the same time. If someone starts talking about something that seem significant, ask more about it. Let the person open up about what matters to him or her and they'll be more likely to do the same for you.It's important to be thoughtful and show others that you genuinely want to get to know them better.

3. Be Empathetic –
Empathy is a key aspect to any relationship. Empathy is centered on putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Essentially, you’re actively thinking about how he or she feels and responding appropriately. There are many ways to show empathy. For example, when talking to someone else, be an active listener. Make eye contact, nod to show you understand, and offer comments every so often. When you focus on the other person’s story and imagine what he or she was going through, you can respond more empathetically. Perhaps the person is looking for advice; now, you're better able to see things from his or her point of view and offer the support that he or she needs. Another option is to check in with someone on a regular basis. Ask about how he or she is doing, or follow up on a topic that he or she mentioned when you last talked. It’s a simple and meaningful way to show someone that you’re thinking of him or her.

4. Reflect on your efforts –
Some relationships will work out, while others won't. It’s completely normal for some relationships to not be as successful as others. After you've put a good amount of effort in and you feel like you know these people better, think about which friendships are working out for the both of you. Which people do you feel most happy around? Which people do you trust? Who could you see yourself being friends with for years to come? You'll find that with time, you will develop friendships that you really enjoy.

In a society where we're "friends" online with so many people, it's critical to cultivate close, meaningful relationships. Find a couple of people who you enjoy spending time with. Then take the time to learn more about them and demonstrate that you want to get to know them better. When you’re together, be empathetic—a little bit of care and thoughtfulness goes a long way. Great friendships don’t form overnight, but if you put in the effort, they are so worthwhile.