Friendship Friendship: The Gist The Benefits of Friendship Friendship Myths Types of Friends Connection Reflection Looking Inward Nurture Exiting Friendships New Friendships Social Skills Understanding Community Building Community Friendship Practice and Exercises Friendship Resources

The goal of this page is to connect with who you are and how you show up as a friend so you can be better prepared to continue your exploration of the social world.

In order to be most present in our friendships, we need to have a clear understanding of how we show up for ourselves and our friends.

Many of us focus on how or who our friends are, without giving equal (or more) consideration to who we are, and who we want to be to those around us. There are hundreds of books and articles on friendship and how to go out and find it. Most of these books will advise: a vital step to take before leaving home (to ask strangers to be your friends) is to examine yourself.

“When we feel a lack of intimacy, the first thing to explore is ourselves.”
Shasta Nelson, Frientimacy1

“We are so quick to look outside of ourselves that we often forget to go IN and look under the hood.”
Radha Agrawal, Belong2

Kyler Shumway, explains in his book The Friendship Formula:3

“The Friendship Formula is simple: the art of friendship = looking inward + looking outward + looking in between. Looking inward is all about learning to take care of yourself and maximize your capacity for friendship. Looking outward is all about using your insights, learning the dos and don’ts of relationships, and reaching out. Looking in between provides a framework for understanding relationships and how to keep a connection happy and healthy.”

How often do you think about your impact on your friendships?

Are the beliefs you hold about friendship serving you?

Are there ways in which you are hindering the potential of the friendships in your life?

There are many other pages on this site (see links at the bottom of this page) dedicated to self-exploration and understanding, and many of those will also apply in the lens of friendship. On this page, explore how knowing yourself can have an impact on your friendships and how you show up as a friend. We will meet this goal by learning about the following ideas: self-discovery, stories (beliefs), hindrances — Fear, expectations, time, and social media, and enablers — self-love, play, and vulnerability.

Self Discovery

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” – Socrates

“How to Be Alone” by Pádraig Ó Tuama | A Poetry Film by Leo G Franchi

A Poetry Film by Leo G Franchi, illustrating the poem “How to be Alone” by Pádraig Ó Tuama. A beautiful depiction and call to action.

There are many ways to define yourself, and each definition is personal. Taking a moment to lay out your values and interests, assess how you reciprocate, and remember your story and past experiences will help guide your path of friendship. On this page, before you can discover what obstacles may be inhibiting friendship or what you can do to enable yourself for deeper connections, take a minute for some gentle self-awareness.

Consider the activities, links, and prompts below as a guide to helping you connect with how you see yourself, how you would like to be seen, and how you think others may see you.

Lay Out Your Values and Interests

The first important aspect of understanding yourself is to analyze your values and interests because one strategy of finding friends is to seek out those with similar values and interests to you. If we do not take the time to figure out what our own values and interests are, Radha Agrawal— community-building expert and author of Belong— says “We may end up in relationships that deplete us and in misaligned communities that don’t serve us.”2

While values may be more concrete, interests change all the time. By finding friends who share our current interests, we may find a deeper or easier connection than those who shared our interests earlier as those may no longer line up with where you are.

What are Your Values and Interests?

Draw out the below graph (or press the button for a printout version). Fill out the columns to organize your interests and values. In the third column, list any interests or values that you do not align with:

My Values

Examples: family, safety, loyalty, honesty, efficiency, reliability, optimism, positivity, trust, innovation, wellness, play, faith

My Interests

Examples: bowling, bird watching, gym, music, games, animals, making, gardening, movies

I Do Not Align with…

Think: “I am not interested in ______.”

You can learn about these and many other aspects of self-discovery through the Assessment Center. Go check it out!


How would your values be different if you had done this 5-10 years ago?
How would your interests be different if you had done this 5-10 years ago?
Why are the things in the “not align” column there?

Head over to the Discovery and Exploration section to explore your values and interests to help guide you in searching for friends who share similar interests:

Assess How You Reciprocate Friendship

Adam Grant’s bestselling book Give and Take explores how the way we interact with others impacts success and other aspects of our life. Grant explains: when it comes to relationships, people are Givers, Takers, or Matchers.4 There are benefits and drawbacks to being each type; some in terms of business/networking success, and others in terms of the way we build relationships.


Givers think about others first, and ask themselves “How can I contribute to this person’s life?” Givers have the potential to build strong relationships with others and usually find satisfaction with their friendships

A woman in her fifties considers herself a Giver. She gives relentlessly to her children and family, she consistently reaches out to people at work to check if they need help with anything, and she always finds time to lend an ear to a friend. She thrives when she is giving and when her family, friends, and coworkers express gratitude for all she does, it fuels her to continue doing what she does.


Takers think about themselves first and foremost. They look for the maximum payoff with the lowest cost to themselves. They ask “How can this person help me?” In the long run, Takers rarely come out as more successful or with stronger relationships in their lives.

A man in his thirties considers himself a Taker. He has worked very hard to get to where he is today and he knows it was all his own hard work that got him there. He sees friendship as a networking opportunity and he is a great schmoozer to get what he wants. People tend to envy him because of his success but he doesn’t really have anyone in his corner cheering on his successes besides his mom.


For Matchers, reciprocity is crucial. They ensure balance in the way we interact. This can have both positive and negative results. Matchers see giving as an opportunity to give back, and taking as a reason to take back.

A woman in her late twenties considers herself a Matcher. Though she doesn’t explicitly keep count, she has a general idea of the favors she has done for friends and the ones they have done for her. She always makes sure to repay favors. She has a few close friends who are also Matchers, which she appreciates because she knows her friends will reciprocate her efforts and she feels comfortable and safe in the relationships.

Are You a Giver or a Taker? | Adam Grant

Adam Grant gives a Ted Talk where he asks the audience to think about if they are Givers or Takers. He says not all Takers are narcissists, sometimes they are Givers that were burned one too many times. Most people fall right in the middle between giving and taking: matching.

Are you a Giver, Taker, or Matcher? Take Grant’s quiz to find out!

Explore other (non-friendship) aspects of Give and Take in the Service Section:

There are Benefits and Drawbacks to Being a Giver, Taker, and Matcher

So, we should all strive to be Givers, and then we will be more likely to find success and better friendships right?
Not quite…
Each type has benefits and drawbacks depending on situational factors:

Givers —

  • Benefit:
    By seeing the world from a perspective focused on how you can improve the lives of others, you very quickly endear yourselves to others and allow trust to build in new relationships as well as existing ones.
  • Drawback:
    It turns out that of the different styles, Givers are the most content and successful, and they are also the least content and successful. The Achilles heel of being a Giver is the potential to be taken advantage of and be burnt out by selflessness.
    In the professional world, Givers can make others better off, at the cost of their own success. A study found that Givers going out of their way to help others prevented them from getting their own work done, more errors are made, and more deadlines are missed.4

Matchers —

  • Benefit:
    Reciprocity often leads to a well-balanced friendship: friends do not feel taken advantage of or like you don’t care.
  • Drawback:
    When we get caught up in the transactional nature of a relationship and get stuck on who-owes-me-what, it is easy to forget the whole purpose is connection. (See Communal vs. Exchange Orientation).

Takers —

  • Benefit:
    Takers look out for themselves, so they can prioritize their own needs and wants.
  • Drawback:
    It is often hard to make quality connections as a Taker because the other person may feel that the relationship is one-sided.

Having Awareness Can Help You Decide How to Show Up

It’s understandable to feel like being a Giver is the “goal”, and if you are a Taker or Matcher, you’re ‘bad.’ Takers and Matchers still find success, friendship, love, and happiness. There is nothing wrong with being a Taker or Matcher, and having an idea of which type you typically gravitate towards could help you find a new way of connecting.

The three types rarely exist in a pure form, and the majority of people are a combination of all three reciprocity types. Friends with deep relationships have awareness of all three types and use elements of Matching, Giving, and Taking to find and maintain balance.

Let’s Be Enemies

Let’s Be Enemies is a short children’s story by Janice May Udry. In the story, John is mad at his friend, James, because “James always wants to be the boss.” James is a Taker and John is not going to tolerate the imbalance in the friendship anymore.

Take Action:

Conversation, trust, and boundaries are useful tools when you would like a relationship to look differently. However, this page is about YOU. How can YOU take responsibility for how you show up and set an intention regarding the type of friend you want to be?

  • I’m a Giver, and I feel taken advantage of:

Asking the friend for help with something can avoid blame being placed on the friend for never helping. If you have never asked for help before, the friend may be lost on where to start.

  • I’m a Matcher, and my connections do not feel genuine all the time:

When you keep track of exchanges, you are not being as authentic as you could be. The mindset of “I’m doing this to pay them back for the thing they did” can mean that your heart isn’t really in the giving. Shift your mindset to a more communal orientation and take time to consider, what do they need right now and how can I help?

  • I’m a Taker and I want to build a deeper connection:

As a Taker, autonomy is likely very important to you. Giving your time to someone can be a valuable strategy in building the connection. Invite someone to choose what you will do and go along with their plans. Listen and empathize.

Our past experiences heavily shape if we show up as a Giver, Taker, or Matcher. As Adam Grant mentioned in his Ted Talk, “sometimes, Takers are Matchers who got burned one too many times.”5 In the next section, reflect on your past experiences and how your story shapes the type of friend you are.

Remember Your History

Behavioral science indicates that our past experiences influence who we are today and how we behave/what we believe. This is especially impactful when it comes to understanding how we relate to others.

Everything we have done, lived, seen, and spoken has contributed to how we interact with the world in both positive and negative ways. By understanding and acknowledging our own beliefs, wants, needs, and ways of being, we can explore ways to create change in our relationships by starting with ourselves.

So, who are you?

What is your story?

[Via: Penguin Books]

Take a minute to write out your story. Use the Who am I worksheet for fodder.
In knowing yourself, you can reflect on your past friendships and embrace being your best self and the best friend you could be.

Inspiration from George Ella Lyons6

Explore the Discovery Section as a whole for more insight into discovering yourself.


  • If you were introducing yourself as if you were your friend, what would you say?
  • As a kid, how were your friendships?
  • How have your friendships changed since you were a kid?
  • Have you ever been hurt/burned by a friend in the past? How did that change how you approach friendship?

Your Storied Life also covers elements of your story and how your experiences shape your beliefs.


What is a story?

Your Storied Life is a framework of understanding how the stories we believe shape our reality. In friendship, our past experiences and beliefs form stories that affect how we relate to those around us.

I’m too busy to hang out with my friends right now.
I should know how to make friends as an adult.
My friends will always be there for me.

Life = What Happened + Your Story.

The challenge with stories comes when they become so ingrained and rigid that we start to believe them as facts rather than interpretations.

Below are some examples of stories we may hold onto regarding our friendships. Notice some stories encourage connection (My friends had a nice experience and I’m happy for them) and other stories cut off connection (I’m too busy to hang out with friends).

What Happened

Example Stories

Your friend group hung out without you.

  • My friends only like to party, but I’m not into that so we never hang out.
  • If they were my true friends they would reach out to me.
  • They like their other friends more than me.
  • I’m too busy to hang out with friends.
  • I’m glad my friends understand when I can’t make it to a gathering.
  • My friends had a nice experience and I’m happy for them.

A (big or small) life event happened and you are looking for support.

  • My best friend always has my back.
  • I have friends who have struggled with this before that I can reach out to.
  • I’m too much of a burden on my friends if I call them every time I need help.
  • I don’t need anyone to help me, I should be able to solve my problems myself.
  • If I am vulnerable and honest my friends won’t like me anymore.
  • My friends will never really get the real me.

You texted your friend to hang out and they didn’t respond.

  • My friends are too busy for me.
  • My friends always let me down.
  • I have other friends I can reach out to.
  • I understand when things come up, we’ll catch up another time.

You moved to a new city and haven’t connected with anyone.

  • I’m not cool/funny/likeable/interesting/extroverted enough.
  • Everyone already has their friend group, I just can’t break in.
  • No one wants to be my friend.
  • This city sucks.
  • There are so many people to connect with here, I just haven’t found the right one yet.
  • It’s almost impossible to meet new, quality people.

You have several friends and see each other often.

  • I already have enough deep friends so that’s not something I need to work on.
  • I cherish every gathering I have with my friends.
  • I’m constantly surrounded by people, so I shouldn’t be lonely.
  • All we do is gossip when we get together.
  • It is my friend’s fault that we don’t have a deeper connection.

We tend to notice stories more when they are not serving us or are cutting off connections. Sometimes, stories can form a dome around us, isolating us from connecting with others.

The above graphic may make it look like the people outside the bubble are story-free, so they are able to experience the joy, intimacy, and connection that comes with being social. Not true! Everyone has stories.

When we step outside the story bubble, we risk our stories coming true and that is SCARY. So, the nice warm bubble feels safer. However, it is completely possible that when we step outside the bubble, our stories are proven to be false.

Overcomer Animated Short | Hannah Grace
In this animated short, a woman realizes how her stories are holding her back and affecting her inner child.

Reflect: What stories and beliefs do you have about friendship?

  1. Make a list of ten beliefs you have about friendship in general, your group of friends/network, and the nature of your relationships. These can be a mixture of beliefs that encourage connection and those that cut off connection.
  2. Reflect on why you think you have that belief or where that belief comes from. Stories may be based on past experiences, values, background, etc.
  3. Finally, list any ways you behave or approach friendship differently because of each belief.


I’m just way too busy right now to hang out with friends.
Prioritizing work over friendships because of pressure to be successful
Turn down plans, lacking flexibility in schedule, working late and on weekends.

In reflecting on how beliefs shape how we behave, we can see how stories may impact friendships and make small steps towards finding more connection.

Below are some links you may find helpful in exploring certain aspects of stories more deeply:


Some stories serve as obstacles to friendship — they cut off connection or hold us back from making deep and fulfilling friendships.

See if any of these obstacles come up when you think about your friendship stories: fear, shyness,  judgments, expectations, time, busyness, and social comparison.


Fear is one of the most common underlying hindrances people find when trying to build friendships.

We are hardwired for survival, and sometimes the fear can be so strong that we aren’t able to let our guard down enough to let someone into our lives.

Funny Phobias
In this comical skit, a group of people meets for the first time and each has an outlandish phobia that seems to set all the other people’s phobias off.

Scary thoughts about making new friends:

  • What if I ask them to hang out and they think I’m flirting with them or a stalker?
  • What if I put effort into doing something with them and I don’t end up liking them?
  • What if I can’t think of anything to say?
  • What if they don’t like me and then I have to do all the work all over again with someone else?
  • What if they ghost me?
  • What if they are not who they say they are?
  • What if they are just taking pity on me?


Fear of rejection is an overarching story many people hold: 

I have a hard time getting close to people because of my fear of rejection.

In reality, fear of rejection can be a mask for fear that the story I hold related to relationships is actually true. Rejection hurts because when we are vulnerable and put ourselves out there and the friendship doesn’t work out, any stories we are holding about not being enough, not being likable, etc… seem to be true. When we mask our true fears with the fear of rejection, it seems like we can take control of our fears because we are not allowing anyone close enough to hurt us.

Naming your fear and unpacking it (as done above with the fear of rejection) can help dig deeper into why that fear exists, which can be helpful in overcoming that fear.

Finding Nemo | Full Whale Scene

In the movie Finding Nemo, Marlin tells Dory he promised Nemo that he would never let anything happen to him. “Huh…” Dory replies, “That’s a funny thing to promise. You can’t never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him! Not much fun…”

In friendships, if you hold yourself back, never letting anyone close, then no one will ever be close to you. Not much connection, joy, or intimacy can be found.

Coldplay & Big Sean | Miracles (Someone Special)

Inspiration from Coldplay and Big Sean — “Now you can run and say they’re right, no I’ll never be no one in my whole life. Or you could turn and say no wait they’re wrong, and get to keep on dancing all life long.”

Explore More:


Shyness is a feeling of discomfort around people, especially in new situations or when meeting new people. Shyness varies in strength from person to person and is a neurological response to fear.

There have been several studies on the subject of shyness:

  • A 2016 British study found a correlation between social roles and level of shyness, for example, males who were employed showed the lowest level of shyness while females who were unemployed showed a higher level of shyness.7
  •  This study analyzes the effects of biology and experiences on childhood shyness and determines shyness is largely experienced-based though some children may be more susceptible to shyness than others.8
  • Another study found shyness can influence loneliness and after a semester of university students who were shy reported higher levels of loneliness than students who were unshy.9
  • Shyness has been linked to internet addiction in youth: this study found a significant correlation to “loneliness avoidance” with internet usage in shy adolescents.10

Shy people favor easier connection techniques such as connecting online. Because shyness tends to stem from our past experiences and upbringing (no one is born shy), we have the power to control our reactions to social situations.

Building up social skills can help ease some of the fear felt with social interactions and help with shyness. Having an idea of quality questions to ask, how to keep a conversation going, or understanding people are not paying as much attention to you as you may think can all help with shyness.


When we think of friendships, we all have an idea of what makes a good friend. Maybe your list includes the following:

  • Makes me laugh
  • Respects me
  • Understands me

We also have ideas about how many friends we should have, the variety in our friendships, how attachments should look, and what our preference for ideal friends is.

Keeping an open mind when making and keeping friends can be really challenging, especially when our brain is analyzing everything the other person is doing and making snap judgments.  One thing that can cut off the connection in potential friendships is an inflated idea of what a friend should be.

Explore more about the friends you are looking for and create your wishlist of ideal characteristics on the Types of Friends page:



Anita decided to go to a trivia event at a local brewery hoping to meet a new friend who was single and interested in going to events with her so she didn’t have to go alone anymore. She ended up having a great conversation with Heather, who wasn’t into beer or trivia and was only there because her partner ran the trivia game.

There are two ways Anita’s story could end:

  • Anita was closed off to only meeting a friend who was single because she didn’t want to end up at the third wheel all the time. So, when Heather said “we should get together sometime!” Anita politely said “Yes! We definitely should!” with no intention of ever getting together with Heather. Anita still goes to trivia events alone, and sometimes smiles at Heather from across the brewery.


  • Anita recognized the space in her life and she knew she could welcome a type of friend who was different from what she was really looking for. When Heather said: “We should get together sometime!” Anita said “I agree, how does next Thursday work for you?” Anita and Heather have been meeting up regularly since and Anita is even in Heather’s wedding that is coming up.


Marcus and Trevor are pretty close friends and have each other’s backs. When Marcus broke up with his girlfriend, he called Trevor to get some support. Instead of offering the support Marcus was looking for (listening, empathy) Trevor blew it off like it was no big deal and told Marcus to just get over it.

There are two ways Marcus’ story could end:

  • Marcus resents Trevor for not being better support and stops calling him for advice.


  • Marcus recognizes Trevor is attempting to help but may not know the same tools as Marcus or may not know what type of support Marcus prefers to receive. Marcus thanks Trevor for the advice and chooses to move on in the dating world.

If you focus on times when your friends aren’t the way you want them to be, then you may miss positive aspects of those friendships, or diminish their value. Practicing gratitude can change the way you see those around you. The ways in which your friends are there for you may simply be different from how you are there for them, and that disconnect can compound if neither party sees the other’s ways of contributing to the relationship.

Try making a point of expressing gratitude for something your friend does every time you spend time with them. Over time you can shift your perspective and expectations of your friendships. You can also have a conversation with your friend about how you like to give and receive support/love. It is possible for both parties to realize how to best support the other.


“I’m too busy”  is one of the top excuses people have for not connecting with friends more. We live in a very distracted world, and we have a seemingly endless list of things we need to get done, and not enough hours in the day. We want to be more social, but with relationships, kids, jobs, adulting, and self-care, we sometimes prioritize those things over our friends.

Possible belief feeding the story that you are too busy for friends:

What if I put all my effort into a new friend and then it doesn’t work out and I have to start all over with another person? I already do that with dating and it’s exhausting!

Unknown factors can make jumping into a friendship challenging if we do not know our investment of time will turn out results. Each friendship is different and requires different time commitments to keep it thriving. Time is a valuable resource and it can be hard to decide where to invest.

Where does the time go?

Check out the Time Audit on the Purpose page for an exercise in breaking down your time each week to get a better picture on what to prioritize or cut back on and see what you currently value.

Kat Vellos, author of We Should Get Together writes:

“We all wake up every day with the same number of hours on the clock. Some people fill every spare second with activities, meetings, and errands to run to, yet some people have time to read a book, take a nap, or practice guitar. Too often we prioritize activities that allow us to report that we’re keeping busy and we jettison and play-down the ones that make us sound idle.”11 

Where can we get more time??

Common Time wasters Opportunities for Connection
Social Media / Phone usage
Binge watching TV
Youtube/internet videos
Online Quizzes
Sleeping in
Playing Games
Excessive personal hygiene (i.e. spending 2 hrs on hair and makeup)
Call a friend
Chat with a Stranger
Write a Letter or postcard
Host a board game night
Carpool to work
Make a meal and share with a friend
Meet your neighbors
Learn something new about a co-worker
Learn an instrument and join a band

Try This: 5 ways to invest more time into friendships

  • Set aside a special time each week: your own personal time set aside to reach out to friends, connect, and make plans. Could be 20 minutes before bed or during your lunch break. Work it into your schedule so it feels easy.
  • Take charge of making plans: If you are waiting for random invitations, you are missing connection opportunities you could have been initiating yourself.
  • Set up recurring plans: instead of thinking of something new to do each meeting, set up recurring plans: could be a standing “date” with friends like a Wednesday wine night or yoga class you all attend and get dinner afterward.
  • Double Dip: things that take time away from connection and make us “busy” can double as time spent connecting if used with intention. Make friends at work, invite a friend to work out with you, call a friend while you make dinner, invite a friend to shop with you, etc. Use things you have to do to build consistency in your friendships.
  • Take the time to swap calendars with a friend and find a time that works, even if it’s a month or two out. Hold yourself accountable for making sure your plans stay planned!

See more tips for investing time into friendships on the Nurture Existing Friends page.

According to We Are Social, the average person (worldwide) spends 2 hours 24 minutes on social media every day.12

The above chart shows how each country measures up to the international average. You may be thinking: I only scroll social media in small increments while waiting for the bus, eating lunch, or laying in bed, it is never really 2.4 hours of solid free time that I could be spending with friends, or could it be?

TRY THIS: Stop scrolling.

  • What if instead of eating at your desk scrolling through photos of people you barely know, you invited a few coworkers to eat in the break room with you?
  • What if instead of waiting at the bus stop with your eyes glued to your phone, you started a conversation with the lady who was also waiting with you?
  • What if instead of staring at a screen before bed, you called an old friend to reconnect or wrote a letter to a friend to brighten their day?

For many, social media can be a valuable tool in maintaining existing friendships and creating new ones.

Technology can offer ways to meet new people we wouldn’t normally cross paths with, take the pressure off of awkward first meetings, and allow for common interests to be shared. Most apps have proximity settings, so you can meet people who actually live near you. There are even online clubs and virtual meetups so you can get to know people from the comfort of your home.

See the New Friendships Page for more on technology as a tool and a list of apps to use to make friends.

Social Media & Comparison

In a world driven in so many ways by technology, it’s no wonder it has crept into our social lives in a big way. With the rise of social media, we have also seen the rise of social comparison and the damage it can cause. Feeling deflated when judging your life against what you see on social media may not be a fair or useful comparison to make. Social comparison can feed stories and may cut off your ability to make quality connections.

You’re scrolling through Facebook and see…

  • Photos your friend posted of themselves and their partner looking glamorous and playing in the waves at a nice resort
  • Your friend graduating law school
  • Your friend announces they’re having a child
  • Your friend is posting about their weight loss journey/business venture or whatever…

And you think…

  • I will never be able to afford a vacation like that.
  • I should have finished school
  • I hope I have a family someday
  • They look so good, I should lose some weight

Through social media, we get to see the edited and best parts of our friends, celebrities, and strangers’ lives. When all you get to see is the highlight reel, it can be easy to think that you are less because you have challenges, struggles, imperfections that you don’t see on your friends’ profiles.

You’re biologically predisposed to compare yourself. It gets out of hand in the modern world. Remember that it’s normal, and it’s valuable to keep it in check.

Social media gives us the illusion of connection. 

We have thousands of “friends” or followers or likes and that makes us feel good because we know people are seeing us. In reality, the opposite is true. As Kat Vellos explains in We Should Get Together, a side effect of social media is that it actually makes our friends less curious about our lives, since they think they see the full picture on our profiles. “The human brain is adept at creating simple stories and filling in the gaps…Social media platforms want you to share what you’ve been up to, but only on a surface level.”11

When our friends think they know what is going on, they are less likely to call to check-in, and conversations that could fuel connection are cut short by “Oh yeah, I saw that on your profile.”

Comparison can be highly useful when harnessed in a healthy way. When we view others’ successes as a source of inspiration, it has the potential to motivate us to improve ourselves. Be mindful of who you are comparing yourself to and why.

And, when you see a friend post something cool, call them up, make plans, and chat about it in person.


On the other end of the spectrum of stories we hold that cut off connection are the stories we have that encourage connection:

  • My best friend always has my back.
  • There are so many people to connect with here, I just haven’t found the right one yet.
  • I cherish every gathering I have with my friends

Enabling stories allow us to keep an open, positive mind when it comes to friendships and help us create and maintain quality connections.

Three ways to help get in the mindset to create enabling stories are to practice self-love, play, and vulnerability.

Self Love

RuPaul Charles Teaches Self Love

RuPaul, famous drag queen, and creator of RuPaul’s Drag Race wraps up each episode with: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love someone else? Can I get an amen?!” Words to live by.

In Kyler Shumway’s book, The Friendship Formula, he describes looking inward as learning to take care of yourself and maximize your capacity for friendship.3 When we have an understanding of ourselves, we are much more able to approach new friendships with patience and intention. Our first step in learning how to become a better friend involves a deep dive into our thoughts and feelings.

“It is a fault to wish to be understood before we have made ourselves clear to ourselves.” — Simone Weil

If I am the longest relationship of my life
Isn’t it time to nurture intimacy
And love
With the person
I lie in bed with each night

Rupi Kaur

Self-Compassion: When we are kind and caring to ourselves, as if to a close friend, especially during times of suffering, failure, or perceived inadequacy.

Self Friendship: ​​It can appear easier to be friends with oneself when things are going as you had hoped: You get the job you applied for, you give birth to a healthy child, or you have a supportive community in your life.

It can be harder to be friends with oneself when things aren’t going as you’d hoped. Instead of blaming or abandoning yourself, you have the choice to turn toward yourself with kindness.

Finding compassion for yourself can help strengthen your friendships by:

  • Laying your stress and baggage on the table.

Naming stressors for yourself can help with your ability to be vulnerable with friends. When you have already worked through things in your head and found acceptance for yourself, it can feel less scary to say things out loud to friends.

  • Practicing compassion

Self empathy is often harder than empathizing with others because we are hard on ourselves. If you can find compassion for yourself, having compassion for friends will be a breeze.

  • Building confidence

To love oneself takes a great deal of confidence. Confidence carries authenticity, which is a huge factor in friendships. We want friends who are genuine and take ownership of being themselves.

Practice: Placing Self-Friendship

Take a moment to consider an area in your life where you could practice more unconditional friendship with yourself.

Meaning, no matter your level of performance, you can practice loving yourself through it.

This act is not about checking out from tracking your growth or making yourself accountable. This practice is about holding yourself like you hold your best friend when things aren’t feeling as joyful as they’d like them to feel.

Looking for more on self-love?

Explore the Self Love section for more.

Would You Be Friends With Yourself?

“All friendly feelings toward others come from the friendly feelings a person has for himself.” — Aristotle

We can easily list traits we wish our friends did or did not have (in fact the wishlist of friends asks you to do exactly that). When our needs are not met in a relationship, the easiest thing to do is to look at the other person and point out what they are doing wrong. The harder (and more necessary if we wish to have lasting relationships) thing to do is to look at ourselves.

The wishlist activity also asks you to list the traits you strive to embody as a friend:

Ways I strive to be a good friend…

Be honest and think about how you want to show up.
These may be qualities you don’t embody yet but wish to work towards.


  • Good Listener
  • Open minded
  • Patient
  • Confident

Do you embody the qualities you look for in a friend?

Which qualities would you like to work towards embodying?

We can’t expect friends to embody certain qualities if we ourselves cannot embody those qualities as well. Learning to take responsibility for how we show up as a friend can help empower us to create deeper connections.

Be the type of friend you would want to be friends with.


For children, play is a fundamental aspect of building relationships. Play encourages laughter, shares common interests and values, and creates joyful moments and memories.

Play has several researched benefits for adults like community bonding, improving cognitive function, and an increase in serotonin.13

As adults, sometimes we forget about play and take ourselves too seriously. Play is similar to meditation in that it allows your mind to take time to reset and focus on something other than stress.  Re-finding the play in life can help us loosen up and be more mentally available for finding and strengthening friendships.

When we choose to prioritize play, stories like “I’m too busy” stop being our reality.

The Importance of Being Silly. | Taz Thornton | TEDxPeterborough

Taz Thornton encourages us to embrace our awesome and shares the importance of being silly.

What if being silly could not only be good for us but lengthen our lifespan?

Cats vs Zombies

Inspiration for silliness: Kitten heroes fend off a horde of zombies.

7 ways to be silly and playful today:

  • Make a game out of chores.
  • Wear a silly costume or hat
  • Try Laughter Yoga
  • Try a new activity
  • Memorize a bunch of jokes you like and try them out with strangers you meet throughout the day.
  • Move your body — Dance!

Do a (harmless) prank on your partner/neighbor/friend


Vulnerability lets people in to see our true authentic selves. While this may be scary, it is important in making genuine, deep connections with other people.

“It is a fault to wish to be understood before we have made ourselves clear to ourselves.” – Kahlil Gibran

When looking inward, one thing to closely examine that will help enable friendship is how much you are willing and ready to be vulnerable.

Top 5 Tips for Embracing Vulnerability

In the book Frientimacy, author Shasta Nelson lays out 5 practices for embracing vulnerability:14

    1. Know yourself to share yourself— Use the Self-Discovery section above to remember your history and find the words to share your story.
    2. Initiate new activities — Take a risk and try something new — and be the one to suggest it! For ideas, explore the random activity generator and the megalist of things to do and where to meet people.
    3. Expand your conversations — Levels 3, 4, and 5 of the Five Levels of Conversation are where vulnerability and connection really start to grow. For more tips on conversation, see the Social Skills page or the conversation starters linked in the section above.
    4. Shine— Don’t be afraid to share your successes with friends.
    5. Share shame and insecurity —Share the good news and the bad and have empathy for yourself and the other person when they share something too.

For more tips and practices on embracing vulnerability, see the larger Vulnerability section of this site.


  • Everything we have done, lived, seen, and spoken has contributed to how we interact with the world and those around us.
  • In knowing yourself, you can reflect on your past friendships and embrace being your best self and the best friend you could be.
  • In assessing your reciprocity style, you can find new ways to connect.
  • Stories are our interpretation of what happened and how we respond based on our experiences.

Top Obstacles (and Strategies)

Fear Naming your fear and unpacking it (as done above with the fear of rejection) can help dig deeper into why that fear exists, which can be helpful in overcoming that fear.
Expectations Try making a point of expressing gratitude for something your friend does every time you spend time with them. Over time this can shift your perspective and expectations of your friendships. You can also have a conversation with your friend about how you like to give and receive support/love.
Time Analyze where you prioritize your time and find tidbits you can lend towards friendship like calling a friend, writing a letter or text, or making plans ahead of time.
Comparison You’re biologically predisposed to compare yourself. It gets out of hand
in the modern world. Remember that it’s normal, and it’s valuable to keep it in check.

Top Enablers

Explore More


Self Love Further exploration into self love can better equip you to love yourself first.
Self – Acceptance Self acceptance takes self love a bit further with accepting yourself for the way you are and finding peace within your stories.
Your Storied Life The framework of YSL shows up all over the site, so explore the YSL section to get a better handle on the framework and your foundational stories.
Love Languages Love languages can tell us about how we like to give and receive love, which can give us insight into how we behave in relationships, including friendships.
Socialization Discovery through socialization can show us why we behave in certain ways with friends. What do you dislike in others and how do these attributes appear in you? What do you admire about others and how do you demonstrate those qualities?
Explore Page The Explore page serves as a jumping-off point to exploration of the world around you. An essential component of discovery is the point-blank action of exploring the world outside of introspective discoveries.
Play Play is more essential to a well-lived life than we think. This section explores the necessity, and opens the gateway to better, intentional play.
Vulnerability An inseparable component to quality friendships, Vulnerability is worth a full read in conjunction with the Friendship section.

Friendship Friendship: The Gist The Benefits of Friendship Friendship Myths Types of Friends Connection Reflection Looking Inward Nurture Exiting Friendships New Friendships Social Skills Understanding Community Building Community Friendship Practice and Exercises Friendship Resources


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  2. Agrawal, R. (2019). Belong: Find your people, create community, and live a more connected life. New York, NY: Workman Publishing.
  3. Shumway, K. (2018). The friendship formula: How to say goodbye to loneliness and discover deeper connection. Lexington, KY: Self
  4. Grant, A. M. (2014). Give and take: Why helping others drives our success. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
  5. Grant, A. (2017, January). Are You a Giver or a Taker? [Video]. TED Conferences.
  6. Lyons, G.E. (1993). Where I’m From. Retrieved from
  7. Van Zalk, N., Lamb, M. E., & Jason Rentfrow, P. (2017). Does shyness vary according to attained social roles? trends across age groups in a large British sample. Journal of Personality, 85(6), 830–840.
  8. Schmidt, L. A., Polak, C. P., & Spooner, A. L. (2005). Biological and Environmental Contributions to Childhood Shyness: A Diathesis-Stress Model. In W. R. Crozier & L. E. Alden (Eds.), The essential handbook of social anxiety for clinicians (pp. 33–55). John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
  9. Cheek, J. M., & Busch, C. M. (1981). The Influence of Shyness on Loneliness in a New Situation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 7(4), 572–577.
  10. Chin-Siang Ang, Nee-Nee Chan & Cheng-Syin Lee (2018) Shyness, Loneliness Avoidance, and Internet Addiction: What are the Relationships?, The Journal of Psychology, 152:1, 25-35,
  11. Vellos, K. (2020). We should get together: The secret to cultivating better friendships. Berkeley, CA: Self.
  12. Currey, H., Nazir, M., Batistich, M., & Dubras, R. (2020, February 04). Digital 2020: 3.8 billion people use social media. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from
  13. Yenigun, S. (2014, August 6). Play doesn’t end with childhood: Why adults need recess too. NPR. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from
  14. Nelson, S. (2016). Frientimacy: How to deepen friendships for lifelong health and happiness. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press. Print.