Care for and encourage the growth or development of.
The process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something.1
“Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant. “ – Socrates
We nurture friendships with positivity, time, and vulnerability, which leads to us feeling seen, safe, and satisfied within the relationship.
According to Bronnie Ware, author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, not maintaining friendships is among people’s biggest regrets at the end of their life.2
The magic of friendship (as well as the researched benefits) comes from the time and nourishment put into them. Looking at existing friendships with new intentions can help strengthen and deepen the ties around you.
We Asked People To Call Their Long Lost Friends
Jubilee surprises four participants by asking them to call their best friend that they have fallen out of contact with. While the reasons for falling out differ, the participants show sadness for the connections that they have lost.
Friendships Need Maintenance to Develop and Grow
“Friendship is a plant of slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.” – George Washington
When you look around your friendship greenhouse, are you nurturing your plants?
Two Approaches to Friendship:
The Harp Seal Method
Harp seal mothers work hard and leave before the work is finished. After giving birth, the seals nurture their pups tirelessly for twelve days, not even taking the time to eat. Then, after 12 days, the mothers abandon the pups to live on their own. The pups are not able to swim (and therefore not able to hunt for food) for another 6 weeks. While there are several animal species who abandon their young after maturity, harp seals abandon their young before they are fully grown. 30% of harp seal pups die in the first year of life.3
Letting a friendship survive on its own leaves things up to chance and could lead to that friendship not surviving.
The Houseplant Method
Houseplants can live for a long time if given the proper amount of nutrients, water, and sunlight. While these plants may be able to live outside without human interaction, stuck in a pot inside a home, they need help to survive. If neglected, they will die. While there is no guarantee they will survive, they have a much better chance of surviving if given nourishment and room to grow.
Friendships that are taken care of and maintained leave less up to chance. Check-ins, visits, and positive experiences all contribute to the health of the friendship as time passes. Nurtured friendships have a better chance of survival.
Think of friendships like plants. You can read books about them and you can think about them and hope they thrive, but if you don’t actually do anything to it, the plant will die. Friendships need to be nurtured and maintained to have deep and meaningful connections. If you gave every plant the same amount of light and water and the same sized pot, not all of them would survive. Friendships are similar. Social networks are made up of several different types of friends, each needing a different level of maintenance or nurturing.
Use the ideas on this page to show someone they are loved and valued and remember to water your friendships.
Taking time to first reflect on your connections to get to know each of your friends and what the relationship might need will be helpful going forward and discovering how to nurture deeper connections.
The goal is not to achieve some description of a perfect friendship and then stop because you got it, the goal is to continue growing, learning, and finding fulfillment through connection and intimacy.
Aristotle believed relationships based on profit or pleasure tend to be short-lived and surface level, while relationships where the partners appreciate each other’s values to be the perfect friendships.4
“Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” – Aristotle
Aristotle theorized a perfect friendship needed 3 things to develop:
- Affection based on the other’s goodness, usefulness, or pleasantness.
- Expression of affection through good wishes or favors and reciprocation from the other person.
- Recognition of a continued exchange of affection, reciprocity, and actions.4
Positivity, vulnerability, and consistency continue to be the aspects needed to develop deep and meaningful friendships.
Whether you want to strengthen an already wonderful friendship or repair a fractured one, there is always something more we can do to nurture and improve our relationships.
Even the best of friends may need to think of something new to do or reassess how they show up for each other. The most powerful thing you can do for a friend is commit to putting in the work to nurture your friendship. Exploring ways to expand on positivity, consistency, and vulnerability will help any friendship grow and develop.
“Love and friendship does change us, and can elevate us toward our highest potential.” – Kahlil Gibran
One of the most important steps before trying to improve or strengthen any relationship is to examine yourself and find acceptance for who you are.
If I am the longest relationship of my life
Isn’t it time to nurture intimacy
With the person
I lie in bed with each night
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.
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 holding 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.
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.
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?” – RuPaul
Looking for more on self-love?
Explore the Looking Inward page of Friendship and the Self Love section for more.
The base of every relationship. Gratitude, empathy, laughter, play, validation, and affirmation. We want our friendships to feel good and be satisfying.
Building positivity encourages a step away from complaining, gossip, and bland-ness and encourages laughter, compassion, and fun.
“Mutual caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other’s achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain.”
– Fred Rogers (Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood)
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 supports creative and experiential intimacy in relationships.
Whether doing a hobby you both enjoy or trying out a new board game, playing with friends builds positivity within the relationship AND has several researched benefits for adults like community bonding, improving cognitive function, and an increase in serotonin.5
Read more about play in the larger section: PLAY
Four Ways to Find Play with Friends This Week:
- Play a new board game
Exploding Kittens, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Coup, Cards Against Humanity, Catan, Ticket to Ride, Codenames, Loaded Questions
See more games on the Friendship Resources page.
- Play an active/outdoors game
Disc Golf, Cornhole, Spikeball, Race go-karts, mini golf
- Go someplace fun and pretend you’re kids
Trampoline park, water park, amusement park, pumpkin patch/corn maze, zoo
TUG O’ WAR
“I will not play at tug o’ war.
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins”
Friends cheer us on, encourage us, celebrate successes, support us, and believe in us. Showing affection through celebrations gives our friends affirmation we care about them and their successes.
International Friendship Day (usually on July 30th or the first Sunday in August depending on the country) encourages friends to connect and celebrate each other.
Four Ways to Celebrate a Friend This Week:
- Congratulate a friend on a milestone (big or small): getting a promotion, finishing a project, making a sale, going on a date, submitting their taxes, etc.
- Cheer on a friend while they do something: Meet them at the end of the race, go to their award ceremony, encourage them at the gym, be their “hype man” when you go out.
- Send your friend a thoughtful gift: something that reminds them of you, a handwritten note, a funny meme inside joke, etc.
- Compliment them, express gratitude, and affirm their effort/work.
Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation) — a Fictional Representation of a Celebratory Friend:
Leslie is always there for her BFF Ann (and all her friends) in the tough times, and she celebrates every small moment with an overzealous amount of enthusiasm.
“Your circle should want to see you win. Your circle should clap loudly when you have good news. If not, get a new circle.”
– Wesley Snipes
Choose Curiosity, Empathy, and Compassion
Part of maintaining positivity in a relationship is consciously choosing how we react in certain situations. Empathy is the ability to understand and share feelings of another person. Compassion is “the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering6.”
There is no such thing as an infallible human, we all get things wrong some of the time, and so do our friends! We all have the choice to get angry or frustrated, and by holding curiosity, we get to choose empathy and compassion too.
|Situation||Reaction without curiosity, empathy, and compassion||Reaction with curiosity, empathy, and compassion|
|Friend canceled plans at the last minute.||Ugh! They always flake! I should really find some better friends who actually prioritize my time.||I’m disappointed our plans didn’t work out, and I wonder if everything is ok with them?|
|Friend shares a secret you told them.||What a backstabbing hypocrite! I’m going to share secrets I know to get even!||Wow. I am mortified and feeling a bit lost on where our friendship stands. I wonder if they knew how important that was to me?|
|Friends make plans with others and don’t invite you.||I always knew they liked those other friends more than me, and this proves it! I guess they aren’t very good friends after all.||I’m feeling jealous they are having a good time tonight. I would like to get to know their other friends a bit more so they feel comfortable with us all hanging out.|
**Choosing empathy and compassion doesn’t mean we become content when things do not go as expected. Instead, use self-empathy to identify your own feelings and needs (I’m disappointed our plans didn’t work out). Having empathy for yourself also helps create a space for understanding and compassion as you will be able to express yourself as well.
Patience and resilience can be invaluable tools in the world of friendship. We are all living very different lives, and sometimes our expectations of others can lead to disappointment. By practicing patience with yourselves and others, you are able to see: you and your friends are human, and you all express love, affection, friendship, frustration and so much more in different ways. Try to consider others’ perspectives and how they are trying to be the best version of themselves.
When things don’t go exactly as planned or desired in a relationship, humility and resilience can give you a path to learn and grow, instead of relying on anger or resentment. When we look at an interaction as a lesson in which we learn more about ourselves and others, the results can only aid us in our personal and relational journey. Allow your friendships to have an impact on you, and even change parts of you that you are willing to.
If you are unhappy about something to do with the friendship, keeping it to yourself is much less likely to result in change than if you are willing to share and explore how to improve things together. Honesty and feedback in a friendship let you address things without the buildup and bottling of emotions— which can often come out in ways we live to regret.
When we choose to react with curiosity, empathy, and compassion, we turn a potentially negative or angry interaction into one of love. Constructive communication and reactions contribute to the overall health and positive feelings of a relationship.
Check out our sections on these topics to learn more in detail:
Spending time together, consistent communication, and having a long-lasting relationship means we develop patterns and rituals and have a certain predictability. Patterns allow trust to develop. Building up trust and reliability also builds up feelings of safety in the relationship.
Invest Your Time.
The most valuable thing you have to offer in the world is your time, and time is one of the most important building blocks of any relationship. Building consistency requires us to invest more time into relationships.
Busyness is consistently listed as a top reason when people are asked why friendships are hard to maintain. People often choose not to prioritize friendships over family, jobs, and dating.
The Time You Have (In JellyBeans)
A pile of jelly beans is used to visually represent a human life. Every jelly bean is equivalent to a single day.
How many jellybeans would you devote to friends if given the choice?
Five 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!
A huge factor in building consistency is actually following through with plans.
Instead of “We should totally hang out sometime” try: “When are you next free? Let’s set up a time now so we actually make it happen!”
Looking for More?
What is the difference between two people who have been friends for 40 years and two people who have been friends for 1 year? Time. And, it is quite possible to have a “lifelong friend” feeling in a one-year friendship if the quality of time spent together has been deep and fulfilling.
Consistency is not just about hours clocked in, but quality time invested into intentionally deepening and strengthening the bond.
Oprah and Gayle Reflect on How They’ve Remained Best Friends for 45 Years—and Counting
- “One of the main reasons we’ve remained friends…Surround yourself with somebody who is as happy for your happiness as you are for your happiness.”
- “I think it’s lasted all these years because we are very similar…similar in life philosophies”
- “In order to have really great friends, you’ve gotta have really great trust”
- “First and foremost you’ve gotta be happy with yourself — you need friends who are happy in their own lives so they can be authentically happy for you”
- “Friends who tell you the truth.”
Friendships can be Long Term and Long-Distance:
Jill and Cathy have been friends for over 70 years, and live 10,000 miles apart. The friendship started when they became penpals at age 12. Jill is from Australia and Cathy is from Scotland, the two have been sharing letters their whole lives and feel like they are family, even though they have only met in person 3 times. Read the full article here.
Opportunities will arise in every relationship where you get to be there for someone else, whether in a supportive role, a celebration, or simply talking about your week over coffee. Know that your presence and being there for someone else can mean the world to them.
Carlsberg puts Friends to the Test
A commercial for Carlsberg, a Danish beer, asks people to call their friends because they are in trouble, then rewards the friends with beer when they show up.
“Showing up” for friends builds trust, which at its core is what the consistency aspect boils down to.
Showing up can take on several different forms, depending on your level of friendship and the type of friend you are. After exploring more about types of friends and the type of friend you are, choose some ways you would be able to show up for friends in the near future:
|Be present — put your phone away while they are talking, engage in conversations, and enjoy moments together||Say YES to plans and adventures||Let them know they can call you in an emergency.|
|Celebrate things with them (see celebrate section above)||Make things special — go all-in on a costume for their themed party, make signs||Answer and show up if they call you in an emergency|
|Help them: moving, painting, baby/house sitting, etc.||Go with them to things they are nervous about like a doctor’s appointment||Dress up — costume, fancy clothes, sports gear, etc.. go all in.|
|Let them talk while you listen||Make a silly sign for an “event”||Be their designated driver home from a special night.|
|Practice things with them||Buy into their ideas||Offer them a place to stay if they need|
Practice Date – Parks and Recreation
In this episode of Parks and Recreation, Ann shows up for her friend Leslie and lends her a dress for a date and then practices the date to help Leslie feel more comfortable.
Thai Ads: A Story of Friendship and Hope
In a heartwarming Thai advertisement, friends show up to see a friend in the hospital after an accident.
Whether you live next door to your friend, or on the other side of the world, regular communication makes all the difference in your friendships. Research says to build strong friendships, we need to check in every 2 weeks at least, and reciprocate the friend’s efforts to communicate.8
Meaningful conversation doesn’t have to be dire: catching up and joking around are especially effective at bringing us closer together.9
There really is no substitute for hanging out with friends in person, but for some of us that’s not possible. The technological strides made in the last century mean we can stay in constant communication with the people we care about. In between the memes and texts, make time for phone and video calls and connect with someone on a more personal level. Also, try to find new ways to have meaningful communication and interactions with friends—
- Handwritten Letters/Notes
- Handmade/Meaningful gifts
- Create (or recreate) traditions & rituals
- Travel together
- Regular meetings (virtual or in-person)
- Express gratitude
- Enrich your conversations and talk about the tough stuff — see vulnerability below
10 Letter Writing Prompts for Friends:
- Describe your first or favorite memory with them.
- Express gratitude or describe why you are proud of them.
- Write a fictional short story with them as the main character.
- Write them a poem — a funny limerick, and acrostic, or a haiku with an inside joke.
- Draw a portrait or picture of them (or color something that reminds you of them).
- Create your own word search or crossword puzzle using words to describe them or your friendship.
- Re-write song lyrics to be about them.
- Create a bucket list for the two of you to do together.
- Draw a commit strip of a funny story/experience you had together
Send a postcard — there are even apps to help you create a postcard and then they will mail it for you!
For tons of tips on conversations and starter questions, explore the following links—
How Our Friendship Survives Our Opposing Politics
Caitlin Quattromani and Lauran Arledge present their differing views in their TedTalk. The key? Genuine dialogue. “When we engage in dialogue, we flip the script. We replace our ego and our desire to win with curiosity, empathy, and a desire to learn. Instead of coming from a place of judgment, we are genuinely interested in the other person’s experiences, their values, and their concerns.”
The TED talk above outlines what open dialogue can mean to a friendship. The presenters advise us to “choose dialogue over debate.”
Part of communicating with friends also means sometimes having tough conversations. With curiosity, honesty, and open dialogue, ‘conflicts’ do not have to turn into fights, and instead can be avenues to vulnerability and more connection.
For More on Tough Conversations, Explore:
Sharing dreams, successes, failures, and expressing feelings and needs, and then reciprocating empathy to our friends helps us feel seen and closer to friends.
Find TONS more in the larger Vulnerability section
“Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation.” – Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Vulnerability in Friendship
The School of Life Youtube channel explains the importance of sharing vulnerability in friendship.
- There are moments when the revelation of weakness is the only possible route to connection and respect.
- These revelations may serve to endear us to companions, humanizing us in their eyes and letting them feel their own vulnerabilities have echoes in the lives of others.
- Vulnerability can be a bedrock of friendship.
- Good vulnerability doesn’t expect another person to solve all our difficulties.
- It is upon the sharing of vulnerability that true friendship and love can arise.
“The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence. But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self; the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”
Without vulnerability, a friendship will hit a glass ceiling and be unable to move into a deeper and higher quality connection. Some friendships remain surface level, which is fine! We need a mixture of types of friends in our lives to fill out our social circle. With friends in our inner circle, vulnerability is key to maintaining a quality connection.
According to Bronnie Ware, author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, not maintaining friendships is among people’s biggest regrets at the end of their life2. When your time is up, will you regret a small amount of uncomfortability that comes with sharing your opinion and feelings, or will you regret stunting the growth of a friendship from lack of intimacy and vulnerability and not having the deep connections you crave?
Not quite ready for the “share all your secrets” level with a friend? Ease into it with:
The Five Levels of Conversation.
The five levels of conversation can act as a guide to know how much to share. Sometimes in friendships, people can be scared to share because they don’t want to scare the other person away or be a burden or undesirable in some way. Jumping from “How’s the weather” to “I struggle to feel like I’m ever good enough” seems like a huge risk if we don’t know how the other person will react.
Generally, when asked a level 1 question, people expect a level 1 response. To give a level 4 response may be overwhelming to the other person. Inversely, if asked a level 4 question deeper into the relationship, the other person would expect a level 4 response. Reciprocating the level of depth the other is putting out will allow a deeper connection.
As you build consistency within the friendship, trust is building, and the conversations will naturally go through the levels listed below. Some friendships won’t reach level 4 or 5, which is normal.
Level 1: Surface Level Clichés
Level 1 is the shallow level of conversation you can have with anyone. The “small talk.” Nothing personal is shared and pleasantries are exchanged.
|Level 1 Questions
“How are you?”
“What do you have planned for today?”
“Beautiful weather today, isn’t it?”
Level 1 Responses
Level 2: Factual
Level 2 shares information — what the camera sees. Information you wouldn’t necessarily share with the grocery store clerk but in a longer conversation would be the first few things to share. Facts are necessary for communication but do not necessarily build deep connections.
|Level 2 Questions
“What do you do for a living?”
|Level 2 Responses
“I work at the bank.”
Level 3: Sharing Ideas and Opinions
Ideas and opinions share a bit more about us, how we experience the world, and what we are thinking. There starts to be slightly more risk with level 3 because the person you are talking to may or may not agree with your opinions. Level 3 gets deeper into who are you? Going beyond occupation and hometown.
|Level 3 Questions
“Would you like to grab drinks sometime?”
“What do you think about the city?”
“ Why don’t we hang out at the beach today?”
|Level 3 Responses
“I would rather go out for coffee than to a bar”
“I enjoy living here — the city has too many people for me”
“I don’t really like the beach, can we go for a hike instead?”
Level 4: Sharing Feelings and Needs
Sharing feelings and needs can be vulnerable and out of the comfort zone.
|Level 4 Questions
“You seem upset, what’s coming up?”
“What are you needing right now?”
|Level 4 Responses
“I am feeling lonely.”
“I need play and to have some fun”
“I love you”
Level 5: Vulnerability and Truthfulness
Vulnerability and truthfulness are essentially sharing feelings and needs, but on a deeper level than Level 4. Level 5 builds intimacy. When we share things about us few people know, it can be scary, and it can build deep connections as well.
|Level 5 Statements
“I am feeling sad and need reassurance that I am doing well”
“I am struggling to keep my head above water and could really use some support”
“What you are going through must be really hard. I can’t imagine. Know that I am there for you if you need anything.”
Top 5 Tips for Embracing Vulnerability
In the book Frientimacy, author Shasta Nelson lays out 5 practices for embracing vulnerability:10
- Expand your conversations — Levels 3, 4, and 5 of the five levels of conversation is 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.
- Shine in front of each other — Celebrate each other and create a space where sharing successes is natural and encouraged
- Share shame and insecurity —Share the good news and the bad and show empathy for the other person when they share something too.
** Bonus tip: LISTEN
Listening is as important as sharing when embracing vulnerability! Sharing to a brick wall doesn’t build trust or connection, it cuts it off.
Explore the science of listening and tons of tips and strategies: Listening
Friendship & Vulnerability
School of Life Youtube channel explains there is something at the heart of friendships that seems important to identify and in a way get good at: vulnerability.
Shasta Nelson TEDx — Frientimacy: The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Friendships
Our world is getting better at connecting us, and yet we report feeling more disconnected than ever. The issue is loneliness. The solution is understanding the three requirements of a relationship that lead to belonging and intimacy. Shasta Nelson is passionate about all things friendship. As founder and CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com, a female-friendship learning community, she speaks and writes regularly on friendship. More videos from Shasta Nelson: Shasta Nelson | Videos
Brené Brown: The Biggest Myth About Vulnerability | Inc. Magazine
Brene Brown, vulnerability expert, shares her thoughts. The biggest myth about vulnerability is it’s weakness. Actually, what Brown’s research discovered is that vulnerability is our greatest measure of courage.
Hunger Games Teaches Friendship
This clip from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire shows Peeta, the compassionate male lead, explaining vulnerability in a friendship to Katniss, the tough heroine. “See, Katniss, the way the whole friend thing works is you have to tell each other the ‘deep’ stuff.”
Ideas and Inspiration
The following sections provide examples of activities and day-to-day habits which can foster closer relationships, along with some inspiration sources for what friendships can mean for someone. They won’t work for all folks but can be a starting off point.
Build Positivity, Consistency, and Vulnerability
- Play a new board game: Exploding Kittens, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Coup, Cards Against Humanity, Catan, Ticket to Ride, Codenames, Loaded Questions
- Play an active/outdoors game (more ideas below): Disc Golf, Cornhole, Spikeball, Race go-karts, mini-golf
- Go someplace fun and pretend you’re kids: Trampoline park, water park, amusement park, pumpkin patch/corn maze, zoo
- Try a new hobby or activity (See below for ideas)
- Congratulate a friend on a milestone (big or small)
- Cheer on a friend while they do something
- Send your friend a thoughtful gift
- Compliment them
- Set aside special time each week
- Take charge of making plans
- Set up recurring plans
- Double Dip
- Send Handwritten Letters/Notes
– Describe your first or favorite memory with them.
-Express gratitude or describe why you are proud of them.
-Write a fictional short story with them as the main character.
-Write them a poem — a funny limerick, and acrostic, or a haiku with an inside joke.
-Draw a portrait or picture of them (or color something that reminds you of them).
-Create your own word search or crossword puzzle using words that describe them or your friendship.
-Re-write song lyrics to be about them.
-Create a bucket list for the two of you to do together.
-Draw a commit strip of a funny story/experience you had together
-Send a postcard — there are even apps that help you create a postcard and then will mail it for you!
- Create (or recreate) traditions & rituals
- Travel together
- Express gratitude
- Enrich your conversations and talk about the tough stuff
- Be honest about any fear you have:
“I’m feeling nervous about sharing this because I haven’t really spoken about it to anyone.”
- Invite vulnerability from friends:
“I’m here if you ever want to talk about it.”
- Conversation starters
|Intimacy Type||3 Ways to Build Intimacy (or at Least Start the Conversation) in the Next Week:|
|Physical||Talk about love languages! You will be able to express your need/desire for touch and are better able to understand the ways they give and receive love.||Make up a secret handshake. Playful and satisfying!||Initiate/ask for touch (and ask for consent).
“Can I give you a hug?”
|Emotional||Have a conversation with your friend about emotional intimacy and what intimacy means to each of you:
“I read this article today about emotional intimacy in friendships and it got me thinking…”
“I’d love to get to know you on a deeper level. Emotional intimacy is really important to me in a friendship.”
|Be honest about any fear you have:
“I’m feeling nervous about sharing this because I haven’t really spoken about it to anyone.”
“Sometimes I hide my true feelings because I am afraid of losing friends.”
|Invite vulnerability from friends:
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I’m here if you ever want to talk about it.”
“Would you like to get coffee with me and talk?”
“Come over to my place, I’ll make you some tea and we can chat”
|Intellectual||Share articles, books, podcasts, etc. That you think your friend may find interesting — and let them know why it made you think of them.
“I remembered you were interested in _____, have you listened to _____ podcast?”
|Watch thought provoking movies and shows together and talk about them afterward:
V for Vendetta
There are tons more!
|Learn a new skill together:
|Spiritual||Invite a friend over to spend a special holiday with you or your family.||“What do you think is the meaning of life?”
Set the stage for a deeper conversation — they may not be ready to go deep, and they may not be the person that fills this need if they never get there.
|Share mindfulness practices
“What are some ways you slow down and practice mindfulness?”
|Experiential||Learn something new together.||Go somewhere neither of you has been.||Plan an adventure around a shared interest.|
|Creative||Invite a friend over to cook a meal with you.||Play a board game or do a puzzle together.||Try a new craft together.|
More Ideas for Things to do with Friends
See even more on The Megalist of Activities
- Send each other handwritten letters/notes
- Make each other handmade/meaningful gifts
- Express gratitude
- Enrich your conversations and talk about the tough stuff
- Attend a lecture by an unfamiliar speaker on an unusual topic at an unfamiliar place
- Go to an exhibit for an unfamiliar artist
- Play a new Board Game together
- Go See a new play or musician together
- Make your own Pub Trivia Team and play
- Do a scavenger Hunt together (find an online scavenger hunt for your city)
- Try a new off the wall hobby together like Bird Watching
- Take a dance class that none of you have tried before, e.g. Afrobeat, Bhangra, Pole, Zydeco
- Volunteer together to help an organization that none of you are familiar with
- Go to an amusement park you’ve never been to (Like Holiday World)
- Go for a morning Hike to see the Sunrise
- Do a high intensity activity like skydiving, zip lining, or paintballing
- Do a themed 5k or Fun Run race.
- Go to a Trampoline Park and act like kids
- Search “Things to do in ____” and do one of the tourist-y things you haven’t done.
Unconventional / Wacky
- Take the strangest cooking class you can find
- Go to an art class or workshop that’s new for all of you, like pinhole camera making, ceramics, puppet-making, screen-printing, or glass blowing
- Be a spectator at a game that none of you is familiar with
- Go to a meetup for something you’ve never heard of
- Get off the train somewhere you’ve never been and take a neighborhood discovery walk
- Go to a concert for a band none of you has ever seen live before
- Visit a music shop and play around on unusual instruments
- Go to a protest or demonstration
- Go to an Ax Throwing or Archery Range
- Go to this website: Atlas Obscura and find a unique place to explore in your city
Ben Rector – Old Friends
Vitamin C-Friends Forever
Saved By The Bell – Friends Forever
Brent Ogden – Best Friends Forever
LSD – No New Friends
Kenny Rogers – You Can’t Make Old Friends (Duet with Dolly Parton)
Coldplay – Old Friends
Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Ray Price – Old Friends
Orla Gartland – New Friends
- Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Nurture. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nurture.
- Ware, B. (2012). The top five regrets of dying: A life transformed by the dearly departing. Australia: Hay House.
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- Schollmeier, P. (1995, March 31). An Aristotelian Definition of Friendship. The Open Repository at Binghamton. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from orb.binghamton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1249&context=sagp.
- Yenigun, S. (2014, August 6). Play doesn’t end with childhood: Why adults need recess too. NPR. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336360521/play-doesnt-end-with-childhood-why-adults-need-recess-too.
- University of California, Berkeley. (2019). Compassion definition: What is compassion. Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/compassion/definition.
- Benson, K. (2019, September 11). The Magic Relationship Ratio, According to Science. Retrieved November 08, 2020, from https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science/
- Nizza, M. (2008). A Simple B.F.F. Strategy, Confirmed by Scientists. The New York Times. Retrieved 2020, from https://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/22/a-simple-bff-strategy-confirmed-by-scientists/?mtrref=undefined®ister=google
- Latson, J. (2021, February). The New Social Orbits. Psychology Today, January/February 2021, 52–60.
- Nelson, S. (2016). Frientimacy: How to deepen friendships for lifelong health and happiness. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press. Print.