Friendship — Cultivating Trust, Belonging and Vulnerability
Friends are an important part of our lives. They help us feel that we belong and ward off loneliness. Friendship is a give and take. It takes trust and vulnerability to gain intimacy. We all need different things from our relationships and have different things to offer. Knowing what you need is a great way to enhance and strengthen friendships.
Consider the Levels Friendships
One of the challenges of talking about friendship is that we use the words to mean so many things. We talk about best friends, work friends, old friends, new friends. We talk about people we make small talk with but would likely not call them friends in the same way as the person who has known us best.
Think about these levels of friendship.
- Acquaintances — People you know enough to chat with. The person you always see at your regular cafe or the parents you talk to at pick up time, maybe a neighbor. You make small talk, but it rarely goes deeper. You wouldn’t make plans with them, but they are part of the fabric of your daily life.
- Casual friends — Have you ever met somebody doing something you enjoy? The person you met swimming at the pool or standing next to you at choir practice or at a cooking class. You talk, maybe meet up outside of the thing you do together. It’s fun. You share a little bit about yourself, but it doesn’t get too personal.
- Close friends — Close friends are there for you. You tend to share more of yourself with these people and know more about them. Close friends are the ones you turn to for support.
- Intimate friends — Many people consider intimate friends to be even closer than close friends. These are people you feel the most yourself with and feel like you could count on them for anything. They make you feel that you belong – to yourself and them.
Assess Your Friendships
As you read the descriptions, did you find yourself thinking of people from your life who fit the different categories? Do you have friends at each of these levels?
Do you have people you can talk to:
- as you go about your day even if it doesn’t go very deep?
- about things you really enjoy, like movies or books or sports?
- about your feelings?
- about your relationships?
- about your health?
How well do you know:
- Your neighbors
- People at work or school
- Other parents, if you have kids
Do you have people you can:
- Go out for coffee or a meal with?
- Share an activity with?
- Connect with in-person? Online?
- Ask for help or a favor?
- Call in an emergency?
- Turn to if you are feeling down or excited?
- Reconnect with easily, even if it’s been a long time?
Where do your friendships shine? What, if anything, would you like more of?
Making / Strengthening Friendship
And, sometimes when we feel lonely, it’s a sign that we haven’t connected — or that some level of connection or friendship is missing in our lives.
It can be hard to make friends as adults. Life is busy and it can be hard to coordinate time together. We also may become more guarded, less willing to become vulnerable. You have to trust and be vulnerable to gain intimacy.
Often that takes time. The more time you spend with somebody, the more you share and feel safe doing so, the more you both may open up. Sometimes a situation like a health crisis or death or shared hard experience can open things up more quickly. There is no right pace. I have made many friends, even in the past few years, getting to know people I shared classes with or over long walks and conversations.
Looking to deepen your friendships? Start with some journaling.
- What friendships in my life have been most satisfying?
- What about those friendships was important to me? What do I value most in friendships?
- How did our friendship develop?
- What have I done to be a good friend?
- Somebody I’d like to deepen my friendship with is … because …
Have you told your friends what they mean to you recently? Whether it’s an acquaintance that you say, “It’s always a joy to run into you” or a close friend you say, “I appreciate being able to talk to you about anything,” it’s important to acknowledge friendship. If you can share a story, even better.
3 Steps to Having a Meaningful Life You Love
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Hi, I’m Melanie!
I’m a Journaling and Joy Coach and I believe your story is the key to the life you want.
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