Friendship was so much easier when we wore pigtails, built forts and our best friend lived across the street. Even in high school and then college, we were surrounded by our peers in the same stage of life pursuing similar passions and dreams, making new friendships easier to form. Eventually, the real world caught up with us – the messy stuff of job stress, mounting student loans and balancing more serious relationships. It’s not as easy to make a few quick calls and take off for a ski weekend or a girls’ night out. Putting in the time to develop new friends, much less maintain the old besties, becomes far more challenging.

When Lara mentioned to a few friends that she wanted to throw an impromptu get-together over the weekend, she didn’t imagine the mess that would unfold. One of her closest friends who lived just a few doors down from her, Valerie, had recently gone through a rough breakup, but Lara had been too busy to notice and forgot to include Valerie in the invitation. Lara had no idea how much the invitation to her little get-together would have lifted her friend’s spirits. So when Valerie pulled up to her house and saw the party in full force over at Lara’s, it was another blow to her self-esteem. She thought her friend had either purposely left her out or not cared enough to include her. Lara saw Valerie’s face as she parked her car and hurried into house. Immediately, she knew she had made a big mistake; she needed to repair the damage or risk losing one of her best friends.

1. Be Present

Most of us have the best of intentions when it comes to our close friends, but our follow-through isn’t as consistent as we’d like it to be. We get busy and make excuses for not calling or being available. Unfortunately, misunderstandings are more common if we aren’t paying attention to the people we care about. Lara knew something was going on with her friend, but she was slammed at work and dating a new guy. She justified keeping a distance because leaning in might involve a sacrifice of her time and energy.

What Lara remembered the moment she saw the crushed look on her friend’s face was that a true friend wasn’t a disposable commodity. Once she left her own party and chased her friend down for a heart-to-heart, she realized how much she had missed out on by not paying attention to her friend’s emotions. She had no idea the pain her friend was experiencing because she wasn’t listening when they were together; instead, she was texting or thinking about the next thing on her agenda. Lara’s brush-off to her friend’s sadness was pulling them apart.

2. Be Quick To Act

Once Lara understood her friend’s emotional state, she was better able to step up and offer her support. Lara apologized sincerely and owned her apathetic behavior. She then coaxed her friend back over to her party and made her the guest of honor. Over the next few weeks, Lara remembered to care for and cherish her friend through the tough time. It did take time and energy away from other things, but it was an investment in an important relationship Lara knew she needed to make. When Lara’s own dad died suddenly a few months later, Valerie was the one friend by her side holding the tissues and Lara’s hand, and Lara was reminded once again how crucial relationships and community are in the ups and downs of life.

3. Be A Fan

After her painful experience with Valerie, Lara knew she needed to go over and above with the people in her life that were important to her. She decided to become Valerie’s biggest fan, not unlike her favorite sports team. She cheered for her friend, showed up win or lose and invested in the relationship over the long haul. When Valerie wasn’t around, Lara talked her up and proudly declared her loyalty. Lara decided to care less about herself and more about the team – namely, the relationship between her and her friend. Switching her mindset and approach to friendship allowed her to not only keep a great friend but also establish new ones later down the road. Lara had become the type of friend other people wanted to have.

True friendships don’t just find us; they take work. Lara learned that to have great friends, she needed to be intentional and make room in her life for the important people who lasted more than a brief season.

You may also be interested in 5 Ways To Make New Friends & Strengthen Old Friendships

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