Friendship is 100% voluntary – that’s what makes it so wonderful! – and also the thing that pushes it lower on the priority list, when life gets busy. It seems like friendship should be easy at this point – but that’s not always the case. Listen in to today as I share 3 essential qualities you can cultivate to maintain and deepen your adult friendships.
Thanks for being here today! Welcome to the Style With Intention podcast.
Today, we’re going to dive into adult friendships. This is a topic that I’ve thought and read a lot about – and struggled with too. “Friendship” is one of those things that we assume should be easy at this point in our lives, but it doesn’t always feel that way.
Adult friendships can feel vulnerable and tricky to navigate – but there’s scientific evidence that friendship is really important to your physical and mental well-being – so it’s worth it!.
In this episode, I’m sharing 3 important qualities you can cultivate to to maintain and deepen your adult friendships.
I recorded this episode a couple of weeks ago – but, this week, I had some real life lessons in the value of adult friendships.
This last week was a doozy for me. Some unexpected changes in my relationship with the beau really threw me for a loop – and when I reached out to friends, they were there for me. I’ve had to rely on friends more than usual during this time and I can’t imagine going through this without them.
It’s never too late to make new friends and develop close friendships!
Listen in today as I share how the 3 qualities of friendship play out in adult friendships. I’ve seen how it works in my own life and an excited to share my insights with you.
As always, my goal is to make it quicker and easier for you to access more ease, joy, and intention in your life…because happy looks really, really good!
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If you’d rather read, than listen, here’s the
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE #17
Welcome to the Style With Intention podcast, where we talk about how to use your personal style choices as a tool to create a life you love.
We believe choice is empowering, complacency is boring, and happy looks really, really good!
I’m your host, Annie Kip, and I’m so glad you’re here today!
Today we’re talking about adult friendships.
Did you know there is a single question which can predict whether you will be alive and happy at age 80?
Ask yourself, “Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at 4 in the morning to tell your troubles to?”
If you answered “yes” you’ve got a really good shot at being not just alive, but also happy, into your 80’s. If you’re answer is”no” your chances are much, much lower for being happy and alive into your 80’s. But it’s never too late to change that.
This info is from the Grant study that started in 1938 and followed the physical and emotional health of 200 men, who are now well into their 90’s. When the man who led the study for many years, George Vaillant, was asked what he’d learned from the study, his response was simply “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
That’s pretty powerful. We all enjoy having friends, but I doubt we are all aware of how having friends is actually vital to our health and well-being.
Some of you may know that I’ve moved 8 times in my adult life. Each place I’ve moved, I had to establish new friendships. I didn’t really anticipate that I would be moving so many times, so I really invested myself into the friends that I made in each new place. Every single time, it was really, really hard to leave the people I had became close to and every single time, it was hard to make new friends again – but looking back, I feel like the luckiest person on earth to have ended up with really wonderful friends all over the country.
I’m one of those people who always feels super lucky just to be included. I don’t take it for granted that people want to be friends with me and I always feel like I’m not quite as good a friend to other people as they are to me. My friends tell me this isn’t true, but still, there’s a little insecure part of me that feels like I’m the lucky one to have such great friends!
I’m a bit of an introvert – I’m fine at parties and I do love socializing — but I’m not totally comfortable reaching out. I can get lost in my work, head down, stuck in my office, day in and day out – and before I know it, weeks have gone by and I haven’t reached out to anyone. Luckily, I have old friends who know to just drop by my house – and they know I’m always happy to make coffee and chat anytime.
But to make new adult friends, I’ve really had to go outside my comfort zone.
A few years ago, I saw a woman at the gym who I knew of from around town , but her kids were older than mine, so we never matched up in school and we didn’t have the same circle of friends. I don’t know what possessed me one day, but I walked up to her and introduced myself – and told her I’d always admired her, was interested in her work as a coach, and wondered if she wanted to have coffee someday.
To make a long story short – we made plans and I accidentally stood her up, which was a terrible way to start a friendship. Luckily, she gave me another chance and we finally met up for coffee. We had coffee again, then walked together, talked about our work, then eventually our families and relationships, and she’s now one of my very close friends. I didn’t even realize how much we had in common and how much we would enjoy being friends. I just took a chance, put aside my worry that I would seem like a weirdo, and followed a hunch. I’m so glad I reached out to her – because otherwise, I wouldn’t have this sweet friend in my life.
Making friends is something that seems like it should come naturally – and it does sometimes – but more often it feels vulnerable and awkward and scary. I’m not totally comfortable doing it, but I think it’s worth it.
In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the 3 characteristics that are critical for adult friendships to flourish – consistency, vulnerability, and positivity.
We’ll talk about how you can develop these characteristics and take a look at how they look in real life adult friendships. These characteristics will help you, not only maintain your old friendships, but also attract new adult friends as well.
This episode is perfect for you if you’re feeling as if you’d like to deepen the friendships that you already have or be the kind of person who attracts new friends.
The first characteristic is consistency.
Old and new friendships need some amount of consistent interaction beyond “likes’ on Facebook to maintain their closeness and grow. Either get-togethers in person or phone calls or even emails. Some degree of regular, personal interaction is critical to keeping friendships alive.
It seems to me that middle-age is the hardest time to maintain and grow friendships. Having consistency in a friendship was a lot easier when we were younger.
My social life used to sort of revolve around the sports and the activities that my kids did – I made friends with the women who were also waiting for swimming lessons and I got to know people while we watched our kids play endless games of little league. There were regularly scheduled reasons for interacting because of carpooling and school events and volunteering.
There was a built-in consistency – we were in closer, day-to-day touch with each other because our kids were friends with people that lived in our neighborhood – we could grab a quick coffee while the kids played – it didn’t have to be a big, planned event to get together and catch up a little. We had more involvement with each other in a sort of accidental way.
The same was true in college – you almost couldn’t help making friends in college because your peers were always right there. We had time to make friendships, get to know each other, and build trust.
If you’re about my age, you’re busy with kids and your own career and time for friendship might feel like a luxury – and it might be sort of lower on your priority list just because you have so many other obligations and there’s only so much time in the day.
But this is the magic of friendship – it’s based on choice. It’s a completely voluntary relationship. The fact that it isn’t obligatory is what makes it so special.
The friends who we choose to make time for on a consistent basis are the ones we become closest to. When you have a new friend, you have to follow up and make plans again to keep the friendship growing. Consistency is the key to friendships because, especially when you’re a busy adult, it has to be a mutual choice to be available for each other, to make space in our lives for each other, and to rely on each other.
Which leads me nicely into the 2nd characteristic of deep adult friendships – which is vulnerability.
I’ve talked a lot about vulnerability on this podcast – particularly in episode #9 – and vulnerability is a critical element of adult friendships.
Again, when our kids were little, there was some built-in vulnerability, because we shared a lot of the same issues and concerns. Our marriages, money worries, how the kids were getting along in school, whether or not they made the team, and who was feeling left out. With little kids, we most often has little problems. And the stakes were lower, most of the time.
In middle-age, we’re a little older, we’ve got bigger kids, and we’ve often got bigger problems. Sometimes embarrassing problems we don’t want to tell people about. Kids get into trouble, do stupid things, they sometimes treat us – their parents – very badly. We sometime have serious relationship issues or health issues. It’s a lot more vulnerable to share our concerns and issues when they scare us or hurt us. And the issues can feel like a reflection on us too – we wonder if we messed up somewhere along the way.
When the stakes are much higher, we might be more inclined to just keep our problems to ourselves and put on a brave face. It’s just easier.
Especially if we don’t have the consistent day to day contact, no one wants to dump a bunch of bad news on their friends.
Ironically, friendships can help us get through the tough, painful times – if we’re willing to be vulnerable – but being vulnerable feels risky because it could lead to rejection and more pain – so people avoid it.
This is how we start to drift apart – we stop sharing. We don’t rely on each other. To keep that from happening – we have to make intentional effort to keep being connected. We have to allow a balance of give and take and both parties in a friendship have to be willing to take a chance, to share the tough stuff, to be real.
If only one party is willing to be vulnerable – things get out of balance. It can be very painful and make us feel like we’re the only ones floundering, if we share and the other person doesn’t.
The key is that you have to let the other person “give” to you as well. You have to “take” sometimes – and that’s super vulnerable. If you’re always the one doing the giving, you might feel good about yourself, but you won’t build a great friendship.
Both parties have to be willing to be vulnerable – because you can’t have a deep friendship without that balance.
This is a time in our lives where we get to pick who we are friends with. When our time becomes scarce, and the problems and issues become bigger and more painful – we really need to be picky about who we are friends with.
The third important element of deep adult friendships is positivity.
On top of consistency and vulnerability, the thing we need most from our friends is positivity.
We want to know that, even when we do share our biggest vulnerabilities, that our friends will lift us up. A consistent and reliable friend is someone you know you can count on, when you’re not at the top of your game. As we said at the beginning of the podcast, this is the friend you can call at 4 in the morning to share your troubles.
The close friends we have had for a long time hold our history, they know our families, and they’ve been there through the disappointments, the losses and the heartaches – as well as the celebrations and milestones.
These good friends are able to help us see past our own low moments. They help us remember that we really do love our partners, even when they annoy us or let us down. They know we love our children, even when they do stupid things and we swear we’re going to disown them. They help us regain our confidence when we have a setback or lose our jobs or get dumped. They see the best in us when no one else can.
We feel good about ourselves after spending time with a positive friend. And that doesn’t mean they just flatter us or tell us what we want to hear. Our closest friends are the one who can actually tell us what we don’t want to hear. They can help us see our blind-spots – because looking at yourself and seeing things you don’t like is extremely vulnerable. Having a friend who believes in you, even in your ugly moments is a real friend.
In the book, “The Myth Of Happiness” (which I will also link to in the show-notes), the author says that the most intimate, trusting friendships are distinguished not by how the friends respond to each other’s disappointments and losses, but by how they react to each other’s good news.”
Being positive and happy for each other is a huge contributor to connection in a friendship. Your true friends are the ones you call when things go right! Because, oddly, being happy for yourself is quite vulnerable.
I’ve thought about this a lot – and I’ve found that this is really true – we only share the very happy and the very sad feelings with our truest, closest friends – the ones who are consistently there for us, the ones who are willing to be vulnerable as well, and the ones who give is a really positive feeling.
So there you have it – the 3 characteristics that create deep adult friendships are consistency, vulnerability, and positivity. In real life, this is what it looks like.
#1 Consistency – which means finding ways to have regular, in-person contact. You can do this by setting a regular coffee date, or phone call, or forming a group that meets on a regular basis. Doing this episode has made me look at where I do and don’t have consistency in my friendships. It’s reminded me that I used really enjoy being in a book club and a ladies dinner group that I was a part of when I lived in Portland, Oregon and that I’d like to get something like that going where I live now. Especially if you’re an introvert like me, it helps to build more consistency into my friendships and socializing.
#2 – Vulnerability – which means really sharing the truth of who you are and balancing that with allowing other people to help you. Not always putting on a brave face. Admitting when things are a little hard for you. Letting friends come over for coffee, even if your kitchen is a mess and you haven’t showered. Asking a friend to help you with something or just listen.
In looking at my friendships, I see that the ones I feel closest to are the ones who have let me be there for them. And the ones who have been there for me. It’s a really important balance.
Especially in a new friendship, being vulnerable a little at a time is ideal. This gives you a chance to build up consistency and establish that “give and take” that will create the balance that is needed for true friendship.
#3 – Positivity – those people who add to our lives in really positive ways. They are there for us consistently, they hold our vulnerabilities – but they also help lift us out of ourselves, they remind us of what’s good about us and about our lives. They’re interested in us and want to know and understand us. They listen. They see the best. The celebrate whatever makes us happy. These are the friends who we want to spend more time with because we just feel so dang good after hanging out with them.
I hope you feel good after listening today!
To wrap this up – I want to share one more thought. There’s a nurse, named Bronnie Ware, who worked with dying patients for many years. She wrote a book about the regrets she heard people talk about on their deathbeds – and one of the top 5 regrets people had was not keeping in touch with friends.
Many years ago, I called my good friend Erica, at 3 a.m., because my dog had died and I didn’t know who else to call. She was there for me, without missing a beat. I want to be that kind of friend. I hope you have a friend like that in your life. And if you don’t, it’s not too late to start being that person and building a friendship that will be that for you.
I get how hard it is to stay in touch – especially during this really busy season of our lives – but I’ve realized, after doing this episode, that it’s pretty simple. Be consistent, be vulnerable, and be positive.
I’ve gotten a lot of ideas for ways that I can create better friendships in my own life and I hope you have too! I’d love to hear from you, anytime – I share a lot of insights over on Instagram @AnnieKipStyle – just send me a DM or make a comment on my posts.
Thanks for listening today! Until next week – bye, bye for now!
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Header image by: Jose Gonzalez