Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.


7 Steps to Radically Change Your Friendships

Sep 13, 2016

Did you know who you’re with changes how you experience life?

Scientific research has proven laughter is contagious and it grows in groups. (This explains why we laugh louder when we watch funny movies with friends versus when we watch them alone). We cheer louder and more intensely feel the action in sporting events when we’re with other people instead of watching games alone. The events of life (or the game) are the same, but the experience of them is much different based on where you are and who you are with.

Cardinals game practical friendships tips

Watching In Person vs At Home

My wife attended her first NFL game this century this past weekend. She grew up outside Buffalo, New York and the last time she saw a game, it was the middle of winter and the Bills hadn’t lost four straight Super Bowls yet. She was grateful to be watching this game indoors!

As we were watching the Cardinals play the Patriots, I started thinking how different it is to watch a game with 70,000 other screaming fans than it is to watch it with my family or a couple friends on my couch at home. The action is consistent but the perspective changes. While it is fun to see angles of plays on TV which I would never see at the stadium, the electricity and volume of the stadium cannot be matched by any clarity or colors on my TV. Next Sunday will be much different watching at home again, instead of a few rows from the field.

Cardinals Game University of Phoenix Stadium practical friendships tips

My Most Popular Post Ever Isn’t Complete

I wrote an article last year which has become my most popular post on this site since it released. The post explores five kinds of people who we need in our lives as friends. It’s a great post and has been shared by a ton of people. If you haven’t read it, I hope you will soon.

I didn’t realize that the post is actually only half finished. As I said at the beginning, there are seasons in life where we don’t have the kinds of friends we would like. We feel like our community is incomplete. We’ve all been dissatisfied relationally at some point. But, when we recognize something is missing, no list of friend types is going to help. The list is great, but if we’re going to experience change, we’ll need to adjust our actions, not just our awareness.

friends at beach sunset practical friendships tips

So, how do you change your approach to relationships so you can change your experience of community? What happens when your friendships need radical change? Here’s a few ideas.

7 Steps to Radically Change Your Friendships

1. Be the kind of friend you need to have.

One of my favorite rules for dating is be the kind of person you want to marry. If our focus in dating moves to our “list” of desired qualities in the ideal partner, we lose our focus on becoming the right person for someone else. Similarly, if we focus on being the kind of friend we need to have, then we’ll likely become the kind of friend someone else wants to have. This shift doesn’t guarantee friends will be universally accessible, but it will help us approach people much differently.

2. Be more patient

Friendships take time to form and even more time for forge. Most of the people I’m closest to have been in my life for years. If I need a certain kind of friend in my life, I’m not going to develop that kind of relationship overnight. We need to be patient when we cultivate friendships. Our world does us no favors when it comes to cultivating patience. We live at a frenetic pace. We spend more money than we have. We’re always on our digital devices. Our balance of work and life looks more like a failed sobriety test than an skilled tight rope walker.

Remember that the speed of our world is not always the speed of lasting friendship. While it’s counter to our culture, patience is a virtue.

3. Practice intentionality

Being involved in someone else’s live takes intentionality. I have a friend who I try to call and pray with each morning. Even though we’ve been at this for months and I have a reminder in my phone to call him at a set time, we still have days where the call doesn’t happen.

We are often far more intentional about our work and our hobbies than we are the people who matter most to us. If you aspire to a different relational life, then don’t complain about your frustrations to other people. Take ownership of what you can do. Change your intention and align your actions. Desire is not enough.

4. Build trust

Relationships move at the speed of trust. Trust is built over time, but lost in a moment. Our relationship with trust and technology is growing more bizarre by the day.

In a world driven by social media, some of us are far too comfortable sharing intimate information online. Whether you call it “oversharing” or TMI, we regularly share more information than we have trust established.

Trust is built when another person has shown consistently that they are predictable and consistent. Keep showing up in the lives of people around you and allow them to do the same. You’ll find trust growing over time, even when you’re not aware of it.

5. Let people in

At a certain point, we have to let people in to a level where they can hurt us. While this may sound morbid, you don’t get close enough to love someone without also being close enough to hurt them. As one writer put it, we can only be loved to the extent we are known.

Think about it. If you’re close enough to hug or kiss someone, you’re also close enough to stab them or whisper something cutting in their ear. Deeper friendship requires greater proximity.

In a recent message, I shared about the danger of not letting other people in and how I moved from living superficially to trusting people deeply. Letting others into our lives can seem scary but this is the only way to grow closer.

6. Ask the right questions

Great friendships are built on great conversations. Great conversations begin with great questions. In a recent post, Ryan Stigile wrote, “You have to constantly work to create safe spaces and open conversations. Asking great questions without trust will result in guarded communication. Deep trust without intentional questions will result in shallow communication.” After we’ve built deep trust, we have to ask the kind of questions will lead to communication which produces community. If you sense your relationships are stuck, maybe it’s time to change the conversation. The people who have the deepest level of trust with me are those who ask me the best questions at the right time.

7. Offer to help someone else

Serving side-by-side is one of the best ways we build friendships. Just last weekend, a man who attends my church came to my house to help me install my new TV antenna. (I tell the story and share some lessons I learned about leadership in this post for Thin Difference, a site on leadership.) As we complete that project and helped fix my flat tire (which he randomly noticed), we learned a lot about each other – probably more than we would have just attending Sunday services together for a year.
I learned so much about him and began a friendship by his offer to help me. His offer to help me led to increased trust, deeper friendship and a happy football fan.

park bench fall leaves practical friendships tips

As the seasons change, we have great opportunities to connect with people around us and connect in new ways. Friendships make the best moments in life better and they lessen the blow when life’s hardest moments come.

I’d love to know how you’ve taken your friendships to the next level and what you’ve done in response to frustration that you’re missing out relationally.

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