Eight Tips for Maintaining Friendships

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 8 tips for maintaining friendships.

Ancient philosophers and scientists agree: strong social ties are a KEY to happiness. You need close, long-term relationships; you need to be able to confide in others; you need to belong; you need to get and give support. Studies show that if you have five or more friends with whom to discuss an important matter you’re far more likely to describe yourself as “very happy.” Not only does having strong relationships make it far more likely that you take joy in life, but studies show that it also lengthens life (incredibly, even more than stopping smoking), boosts immunity, and cuts the risk of depression.

It can be challenging to make the first overtures of friendship (here are some tips for being likable). But once you’ve got the beginnings of a friendship, how do you proceed? How do you keep a friendship going? Here are some strategies that I use:

1. Use Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. One of the biggest obstacles to keeping friendships going is time. It takes time to email, to call, to make plans, to send holiday cards, to remember birthdays. For that reason, I love social media. Some people argue that technology hurts friendships, because it encourages people to stay tapping behind a computer screen rather than see people face-to-face. At the extreme, this is a bad thing, but for me, at least, technology lets me keep in touch with more friends in a wildly more efficient way. I feel more up-to-date, I feel a stronger sense of connection. At the same time…

2. Show up. Nothing can replace seeing someone in person. Go to a party, go to a wedding, go to a funeral, visit a newborn baby, make a date for lunch, stop by someone’s desk. Make the effort. But because it can be tough to make time for friends, one strategy can be to…

3. Join or start a group. I’ve joined or started eleven groups since I began my happiness project, and almost all of them (particularly my children’s literature reading groups) have been huge engines of happiness – in large measure, because they’ve allowed me to make and maintain new friendships. It turns out that seeing a person once every six weeks is plenty to keep a friendship alive. Meeting in a group is efficient, because you see a lot of people at once; it also means you’re creating a social network, not just a one-off friendship. It’s a lot easier to maintain friendships with people if you have several friends in common.

4. Think about what’s fun for you. People like to socialize in different ways. Maybe your friends like to go out drinking on Friday nights, or to go to the movies, but if that’s not fun for you, suggest different plans. Take charge of shaping your social environment. Some social people become exhausted by their desire to keep up with all their friends; some less-social people find it hard to get motivated to make plans at all. Think about what level and type of social activity brings you happiness, then make the effort to make it happen.

5. Be wary of false choices. Sometimes people say, “I want to have a few close, real friends, not a bunch of superficial friends.” But that’s a false choice. There are all kinds of friends. I have intimate friends and casual friends. I have work friends whom I never see outside a professional context. I have childhood friends whom I see only once every ten years. I have several friends whose spouses I’ve never met. I have online friends whom I’ve never met face-to-face. These friendships aren’t all of equal importance to me, but they all add warmth and color to my life.

6. Make the effort to say “This made me think of you.” We’re all busy, and keeping in touch can feel like a lot of work. One strategy that works for me is to write “this made me think of you” emails whenever I see something of interest to a friend. “Congrats, I saw the piece about your book deal!” “I was in New Haven — had a Greek salad at Yorkside and thought of senior year.” “You must read this review of New Moon (caution: explicit!).”

7. Cut people slack. Except in the face of overwhelming evidence of bad intentions, try not to take it personally if a friend is late, cancels plans at the last minute, forgets about something important that’s important to you, don’t answer an email, says something thoughtless, etc. The fundamental attribution error describes the fact that we tend to view other people’s actions as reflections of their characters, and to overlook the power of the situation to influence their action. Don’t assume your friend is thoughtless and uncaring; maybe he’s just overwhelmed by the demands of a new boss. This is particularly true if you’re feeling lonely. Perhaps surprisingly, lonely people tend to be more defensive and judgmental than non-lonely people.

8. Don’t expect friendship to happen spontaneously. As with many aspects of happiness, people often assume that friendship should flow easily and naturally, and that trying to “work” on it is forced and inauthentic. Sometimes friendships naturally arise, but sometimes they don’t.

What other strategies help you maintain your friendships? What have I missed?

* It’s Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
— Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)
— Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 33,000 people get it)
Buy the book
— Join the 2010 Happiness Challenge to make 2010 a happier year
— Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
— Watch the one-minute book video
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Gretchen,
    An awesome list. I posted about this topic a while back myself, not so much about how to maintain friendships but about what true friendship is:


  • GB

    Very interesting article. I find being single at 34, many friends of mine are married, in relationships, have kids, etc, so it’s harder to meet like minded people. It’s also very hard to get together w/ my friends who are married/have kids as they often don’t have enough time to meet or it takes a few months to even find a time that we could meet, even for a brief period. I don’t have the advantage of a boyfriend w/ friends I can become friends with or kids so that I can become friends w/ my kids’ friend’s parents, etc. While I love my job, there isn’t a lot of after work mingling, even though I’ve tried to plan events w/ co-workers on many occasions. They all have other commitments going on in life, so it’s just not as easy for them to get together. This list though has some great ideas that I will try. The only way to make friends is to get out there.

    • boots

      GB, have you ever gone to a meetup, through meetup.com? I’ve met some really nice people through there, several of whom are in their early 30s and single, or married and childless.

      • GB

        Thanks for the tip. I just signed up for an account! Seems like there are lots of neat groups out there. 🙂

    • shebell

      I’m with you- I’m married and 33 but don’t have kids and I find it difficult to meet new people. Don’t have a lot in common with people at work to hang out with them. I have hung out with a couple. I’m shy in the beginning and when meeting new people so that doesn’t have easily either. I have several good, close friends and have met great people through my husband. But would like to meet more people that live nearby that I can spend time with and get to know. I started a book club after reading Gretchen’s book but the people in it, I already know. I’ve planned a game night too and told people to invite someone else but no one did. I’m having fun and enjoying my life, but really want to meet some new fun people.

      • GB

        It’s funny, I used to feel like a weirdo because I was like “am I the only one having a hard time meeting folks?” but other single 30-something people I’ve met have shared the same kind of feeling. It’s not that it’s for lack of trying, but like the Meetups suggestion…I think it’s more getting into groups where you’re doing activities you enjoy and through the process you’ll have an opportunity to meet more like minded people. I love my co-workers but all are married, married w/ kids, engaged and I swear to you it took me A YEAR of trying to even get a group of us together to go out for a drink after work…and even then, many had to bail after an hour. It’s not that they dislike me or anything…they have other responsibilities in life they need to attend to, so drinks w/ the gals at work is not high on the priority list or they have to pick up the kid at daycare or from the babysitter. It’s tough sometimes when you are single w/ no significant other to find new ways to meet other people…just even someone you could call up sometime and say, “hey, want to go and grab a bite to eat?” I mean to do that w/ my married, in-relationships, have kids friends, it takes weeks even to plan a time because they have to check w/ the husband or wife, they have to get a babysitter, blah blah blah. It’s such a process. I just want to find some friends who are at a similar stage in life that I am who are looking to build friendships w/ others. At any rate, reading this article was great and the Meetups idea is great so I’m going to try some of these tips and we’ll see what happens.

    • tarichaveritas

      What about community education events? I’ve met people through playing recreational sports or taking classes in my town. It’s a sure way to meet people who have at least one similar interest. Book clubs can also be good — check your local library.

    • savannah416

      Hi GB,

      I’m a single female age 34 as well, and I have a LOT of single girlfriends my own age that I’ve found in my big city. You may not have the option to move, but I just thought I’d throw this out there in case it may be an option. Bigger cities tend to have a greater percentage of single girls (and guys for that matter!), so you don’t feel so alone. Just the other day, I had a “Girls Night In” party with 23 single girls our age. =)

      • GB

        I live in Boston, MA, so not a huge city, but most of my friends have now become married, had kids, have become suburbanites, hence the problem I’m having. I would LOVE to move to NYC, but financially it’s not possible at this time. I do love Boston, but I just need to find some new people to hang out with. I did sign up for Meetups and I am going to attend some of them in hopes of meeting other single people (not to date) my age.

        • biochemjessie

          Hi GB – I live in Boston too and I’ve found that some of the professional networking groups can be a good way to meet like-minded potential galpals (Boston Women in Biotech, NetImpact, etc). Tomorrow I’ll be hitting the MITX event for women in technology. A little nerdy but it helps to have the “excuse” to be out and about! I’ve also met some fun people while volunteering through Boston Cares… and I started volunteering in part b/c it seemed like I no longer had any single girlfriends left in the city and I needed a good distraction! 🙂

  • Love these tips! Just posted them on Twitter!

  • The funny thing here is i have been working on a post about role playing games and why i like them for my blog on the topic of gaming. The thing i have found that i like about them most is that they have kept many of my friendships alive because they give us a reason to get together regularly and frequently. This had me thinking a lot about the qualitys of long lasting friendships and then here i stumble upon your thoughts. Thanks for adding to discution in my head.

    I hope the book tour is going well.

  • Pot luck get-togethers are a cheapo way to have fun with friends. I do a Women’s Day celebration every year for about twenty-five gal-pals. It’s a garden lunch, and everyone brings something to eat and/or drink. I never give assignments, because I resent it when someone invites me and says “Could you please make a crème brulèe for 12 and bring two bottles of champagne?” That’s not pot luck: that’s bad luck!
    Instead, I just tell everyone to bring what they like, but to let me know their choice beforehand so that we don’t end up with five cheesecakes. It always turns into a sumptuous buffet, and I hand out recycled take-out containers at the end so everyone goes home with a free meal.

  • Summer

    This was a good post. I think that friendships are like everything else in life – if you put the energy into them, you will be rewarded with the more of what you are “spending”.

    I wrote a post about your happiness project book a few weeks ago… http://summerplummer.blogspot.com/2009/12/happiness-project.html


  • These are great tips, especially to think about what’s fun for yourself. We’re redefining fun to include our 16 month old son and our friends and that’s been an exciting challenge. Nowadays, Sunday afternoon pancake parties with friends who also have kids sound a lot more fun than trying to organize a dinner around bedtimes.

    Another thing that’s worked for me is having a weekly date. Over the years, I’ve experienced several casual friendships turn into close friends over months of Wednesday night coffees (for example)!

  • candef

    I have a few great tips that I just blogged about today.. They apply more to reaching out to people in general but I think it’s still a relevant list: http://smileonceaday.blogspot.com

  • Rich Hall

    Gretchen, this is wonderful stuff. Your posts always reach me in ways I don’t expect, but this one is particularly cogent for me.

    Thanks for all your thoughts and insights. You are appreciated.

    And, good luck with the book!


  • Something that has helped me to cultivate the type of friendships I am looking for is to realize that the world really is a MIRROR of myself. So whatever sort of person I want to attract into my life (artistic, adventuresome, funny) I need to embody those qualities myself.

    I blogged about it here:


  • Tzipi

    Great post!

    I wanted make a request (perhaps it already exists and i dont know it) Can you make a link on the blog with a list of all your great concept works like – emotional contagion, unconscious overclaiming, fundamental attribution error, situation evocation . . . to name a few. These are awesome and super helpful for depersonalizing seemingly hurtful words and behavior of others.

  • lattemama

    Excellent tips. I especially need to remember to show up. I did that tonight. I wasn’t planning on doing dinner with my friends, but showed up at the last minute. I enjoyed their company, caught up on their lives, and ended up feeling a lot cheerier by the end of the evening. I also need to remember to cut people slack. I know how grateful I am when someone cuts me slack.

  • gmj

    Something hit home about using social media. I am from back in the “old pencil and paper” days. I have had friends for 30 years that we only communicated once a year with a holiday card. We all have been keeping in closer contact with email, etc. What a great thing! Our friendships were established back in the day so now it’s gravy keeping in contact. Don’t worry that it’s too impersonal. It’s contact and that’s personal!

  • Erin

    Loved this post! So many of these tips rang true for me, especially #2, 5, and 7! 🙂

  • HoustonHeather

    Thank you so much for this post. I decided to call a friend I normally see only in groups to help me go shopping today. So we loaded up our girls (we each have two that are 4 and almost 2) and met up at the mall. It was great. She helped me find the right jeans and we kept the kids happy withe their friends on a rainy day. I almost didn’t call, but I remembered your suggestion about making an effort with people. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction!

  • jenny_o

    “Go first”. Be the one who suggests getting together. It was hard for me because I was shy and easily hurt. I finally realized a lot of other people feel the same way.

  • All of these are great ideas! I especially love social media and emails since so many of my friends now live in other states than I do. Face to face time is great, but so very rare. At least with the computer we can still stay connected.

  • theresemiu

    Thank You so much I really appreciate this. I honor and respect my friendship so much that I do tend to go above and beyond for my friends. So I liked reading Cut people some slack. I have been more patient over the years with everyones busy schedules. Anyway I appreciate this and will pass it along 🙂

  • Very nice positive post! Showing up and making the effort are the ones who hit home for me. I’ve never e-mailed anyone to say I was thinking of them – even if I was. Maybe it’s something I must try out.

  • Gretchen,
    One strategy I’ve found very useful is to schedule times for friends – so a weekly bowling night or a book club or hookah thursday, it doesn’t matter what it is as long as the timing’s regular. This is useful because neither person has to initiate the meeting, it’s just a part of your routine.


  • I’d definitely add that you should meet real life friends at least weekly because it gets boring chatting to people too much through a computer interface.

  • Rachel

    It’s funny. I’ve spent all day thinking about friends. Three years ago I left my husband for another man. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? But he made me so much happier. This Sunday, we’re getting married, and it’s a wonderful cause for celebration, yet almost none of my former friends will be there. The friendships haven’t survived. And tonight while my partner is out celebrating with my brothers – because all his friends have disappeared too – I’m sitting at home alone wishing there was someone I could share a glass of champagne with. The last three years have been hard, but I’m happy, so I raise my glass to all you happiness seekers out there… Congraulations to me!

  • This is pretty cool!

    Yet reading over a couple of points made me feel a bit of resentment. Especially the ones about social media to stay connected and false choices.

    Maybe it is just a matter of definition, but I truly believe that a friend is somebody that is truly special to you and if somebody calls me a friend then it better be a genuine relationship. That is exactly why I do not call that many people my friends, because I think it should be reserved for those truly special people in your life. But it maybe just me.

    The same exact thing goes for social networking. The world is not getting busier, we are making it more busy. Just because there is tool to have 5,ooo friends does not mean that you have to have many “friends” and keep in touch with them all. In my opinion it just comes down to being more selective as to who you call your friends and why. That in itself will make those connections more genuine.

    But one thing that I will have to really take into consideration is cutting people some slack. It’s the toughest for me to do.

    Thanks for sharing and making me think, Gretchen!


  • Great post! Social media gave me my friends back and more.

    Being a father of two quickly isolated me from the world. Social media sites like facebook enabled me to connect easily with friends and family and give them a window into our lives again.

    Be Happy!


  • midwifeforyourlife

    I had a little chuckle when I read about the fundamental attribution error.

    Recently a dear friend and colleague left my practice and became an administrator 4 months ago. Over the last several months I’ve called to ask her out and she was always too busy. I started to see her inability to meet with me as thoughtless behavior.

    Luckily I was able to “cut her some slack” and we had a lovely lunch last week. Yes, she is overwhelmed by the new demands of her job but she is still the fun, thoughtful, fabulous friend she always was. Thanks for this post with these great tips!

  • meaganfrancis

    Love your #5. So true.

    Last summer I was scratching my back and felt something out of place. To my horror, I quickly realized it was a deer tick, its head embedded in my skin-but too far down for me to reach with tweezers. My husband was working out of town, it was 9:00 at night and were new to the neighborhood. I called a good friend of mine who lives about ten minutes away, and she said “I’ll be right there.” Fifteen minutes later, she was there, removed the tick, and went back to her husband and two kids.

    I use the Tick On The Back principle sometimes when I give advice to moms about making and maintaining friendships. “Do you have somebody–preferably more than one person–in your life who would come to your house RIGHT NOW if you had a tick on your back?” If not, well, what would you do if you DID have a tick on your back…or some other mini-emergency not major enough for 911, but too big to ignore?

    Social media is great, but Twitter doesn’t carry tweezers.

  • Alicia N.

    I recently moved away from just about everyone I know and I am finding it extremely difficult to make new friends. I was never very good at being social due to the fact that I am extremely shy, but I did have a couple of good friends back home. It was much easier when I was in grade school or college to meet people, but now that I am out on my own and far away from my hometown, the only people I ever see are my husband and the people that I work with. And now that I’ve moved, I don’t keep in contact with my friends nearly enough and hardly ever see them since I usually only go back home for the holidays, when they are visiting their families and would not have time to just hang out. I would really love it if I could connect with them on social networking sites, but two of my closest friends adamantly refuse to join Facebook or anything of the sort (the reasons for this escape me). And, of course, that is the easiest way to connect with people for me. I really dislike talking on the phone or emailing because I don’t feel like I can convey myself as well in those mediums.

    On big problem in trying to make new friends for me is that most people my age just don’t seem to share the same interests. My husband and I (both in our mid-late 20s) act like a couple of old folks according to the stereotypical 20 somethings in the college town that we live in because we don’t like to go to clubs or out drinking – we’re more likely to play a board game or go to a museum. There are a couple of people at work who I feel I have some things in common with, but I’m afraid to approach them to ask them if they would like to hang out. It’s almost like I’m dating again – I’m afraid of being rejected. They also have families, so I feel like I’m intruding in their personal lives and that I also wouldn’t have anything to talk about if their conversation centered on their children (since I don’t have any children).

    Thank you for the tips, Gretchen, I really think that social relationships contribute a lot to happiness. What it comes down to for me is just being painfully shy. I wish I could get over that somehow!

    • tarichaveritas

      I would hang out with you! My boyfriend and I might go to a bar twice a month (mostly for coworker hangouts), but we’re far more likely to spend Friday night playing Yahtzee or reading a book out loud. Wish there was some sort of way for those of us more “sedate” (sane?) twenty-somethings to connect.

      • Alicia N.

        Thanks! You don’t happen to live in the Tallahassee area, do you? 🙂

        Yes, wouldn’t that be great if there were a way for people like us to connect? I’ve actually thought about starting a meetup group for my area that would get together these sorts of people, but I’m not sure if I ‘m willing to pay the money to start one up if there isn’t any interest. Tallahassee is just full of college students who like to party and I fear that there just aren’t many people my age that would share my interests. I suppose if there is at least one though, it would be worth it. 🙂

        • tarichaveritas

          Sadly, I live in Minnesota.

          It would be awesome to have great ways to connect with other 20-somethings. When I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I played ultimate and found it a great way to connect. Book clubs at the local library are hit or miss but can work.

          It’s hard to find like-minded people, but once you’ve found a few, you can often find many more 🙂 good luck!

    • TracyW

      Can I suggest a walking/hiking group? The members tend to be childless, as kids’ sports tend to interfere with walking on the weekends (there are some dedicated walkers with kids, I’m just talking about the tendencies). You have plenty of time to wander along chatting to people, and if you can’t think of a conversation topic then there’s “I’m thinking of buying a new raincoat/pack/pair of boots”, or, “what trips are you planning this summer…” or if they come from the area you are walking “Do you know of any good trips around here for a schoolgroup/my frail aunt/etc”, or if they come from a different area “what walks have you done in …?, Is the weather different?”

      • Alicia N.

        I have actually joined a hiking/walking meetup group in my area but I haven’t attended any meetups yet. I really love to hike and to walk, but I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with anyone, so it discourages me from going! I’m very short and in horrible shape, so it’s hard for me to keep up a moderate pace AND have a conversation. I’ve had that sort of experience before – been walking with a group of people but because I’m too slow, I get left behind and wind up walking by myself. It’s very frustrating and I’m not sure what to do about it. Join a walking group specifically targeted towards short, fat people?

        • TracyW

          There are walking groups targeted towards the very unfit, my aunt goes to one of those, as she has a neck injury that means she can’t walk fast. The problem is that these do tend to have older members as it normally takes time for the health problems to accumulate, or just years of lack of exercise. Also I’m not sure how to find them – ask at your doctors’ practice perhaps? My aunt’s group gets a lot of people who have been given green prescriptions – basically get out and get some mild exercise.
          Perhaps a city walking group might be a good start. If your being in “horrible shape” is due to lack of experience walking rather than some more permanent medical problem like my aunt’s neck, your fitness will probably go up rapidly when you first start walking regularly, and you’ll be able to “graduate” to a faster group. I’m short, only 5’2″ and I can’t keep up with the 6′ ultra-fit guys, but I can keep up with a normal group comfortably.

    • danielle

      One thing that occurred to me as I read through your comments is that you may need to consider meeting people that aren’t your age. Since the things you like to do aren’t “typical” for people your age (at least in your city), keeping your mind open to meeting friends/couples that are older than you could be helpful. Sometimes if we just expand our focus a little bit, we can see something that has been there the whole time.

      • gretchenrubin

        Yes, it’s absolutely true — and research bears this up — that having
        friends of different ages contributes to happiness.

  • Nomi

    Depressing post. Everywhere I turn there’s something written up lately about how you need close friends for your mental & physical health. I’m in a whole lot of groups, some going back for years, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to any of those people about anything personal. I have a jillion acquaintances, but how do grown-ups escalate that into friends? I’m involved in loads of activities, but nothing ever turns into “let’s get together & do X” or even serious conversations. I guess part of it is I have faceblindness (prosopagnosia) and so I can’t recognize people or tell if I have met them before or not — even members of my own family, and they still get angry about that after all these years. But still…. how the heck do you increase the “smile, be friendly, address the meeting/task/rehearsal and then go away” step to anything that could be called friendship?

    • TracyW

      I really only figured it out last year. The way to go from “smile, be friendly, address the meeting/task/rehearsal and then go away” to friendship is to contact them and say “Would you like to meet for a drink-after-work/coffee-on-Saturday/see-the-new-gallery-at-the-museum/other-low-key-social-activity.”

      Sometimes people don’t agree to the meet up, whether that be because of dislikes or logistics. But really often people do, even when the invite comes out of the blue, it surprises me.
      It seems that I often need to initiate the next few activities as well in the process of becoming friends. But, you know, I wish they taught this at school.

  • The funniest part is that the friend this post made me think of was actually one I used to share Greek salads with at Yorkside in New Haven in college…so I emailed it to her with a note. 🙂

  • kate_bartolotta

    Great advice! I would also add – don’t count anyone “out” the first time you meet them. Some of my most wonderful, lasting friendships have been with people who at first glance I assumed I had nothing in common with. It’s an old saying – but true – the best way to have a friend is to be one!

  • Two principles have been driven home to me in the past few years :
    1. Be open-minded – sometimes the people who end up becoming friends aren’t people who I would’ve initially gravitated towards. But if I’ve stayed open to it, I’ve found that there is a lot to be learned from each other and things we mutually enjoy.
    2. Let friendships take their course. – I’ve had my heart broken over old friendships that just suddenly seemed like we just didn’t get along. They suddenly became a lot of work and both parties get frustrated and hurt. When looking at it logically, I realized that we’d just grown apart. Our lives had taken us in different directions and we were both having a hard time adjusting from being “best friends” to feeling more like acquaintances. If you can allow your friendships to be fluid, it’s a lot easier.

    One tip for meeting people that worked for me – get a dog! Two years ago I adopted a dog and started going to a local dog park. Some of the regulars have become very close friends. We went from talking about our dogs to talking about some real life experiences and transitioned to spending a lot of time together with the dogs at home.

  • These are great tips, Gretchen! Thank you! Social connections are SO important to happiness. When I haven’t been around my friends enough I start to implode!

  • Bookwoman

    As the mother of two children, one of whom has significant ADHD, as well as a full-time(plus!) professional, it’s been essential for me to maintain my friendships with women. At various times I’ve had work-out or walking partners, weekly coffee dates with colleagues, and the very occasional weekend away with a close friend. These friendships have been rejuvinating and nourishing, and allowed me to create some balance in my life. The times when I most lose perspective and feel unhappy are when I “forget” to take the time to spend time with friends. It’s also good modeling for children to see parents engage in sustained, caring, long-term friendships. An additional benefit is that my husband is able to develop his own relationship with our children on his terms, instead of being overshadowed by MOM.

    • I had a friend who eventually became a stressful, negative part of my life. She wasn’t a close friend, but she was (and still is) a part of my extended social network. It was hard, but letting that relationship go was a very healthy move for myself and my boyfriend. We no longer cringe with the phone rings, and we no longer have conversations about how terrible our last interaction with her was.

  • Leah

    These are great suggestions, and I totally agree with the fact that maintaining healthy friendships is key to personal happiness. However, nearly as important to my happiness is recognizing when a friend or acquaintance is no longer a healthy part of my life. These “friend breakups” are hard, just like the other kind of breakups, but can be a necessary part of one’s own personal happiness project.

    I had a friend who eventually became a stressful, negative part of my life. She wasn’t a close friend, but she was (and still is) a part of my extended social network. It was hard, but letting that relationship go was a very healthy move for myself and my boyfriend. We no longer cringe with the phone rings, and we no longer have conversations about how terrible our last interaction with her was.

    Keeping negativity out of my life is one of my personal happiness goals.

  • Social networking sites are a convenient way of keeping in touch, however, there is a big difference between someone you know and someone you have a meaningful relationship with. The first merely distract us from keeping in touch with the latter. If your relationships contribute a significant amount to your happiness (or unhappiness) just think of how much better your life would be focusing and doubling the effort on those people who mean the most to you in your life.

    As a coach I would want to identify what few things in your life give you the greatest sense of joy and what are your biggest distractions and things you are most discontent with. When I know what they are the solution is simple; cut out the bad and the wasted time and fill it with all the positive, good stuff instead!

  • pamwalter

    I have been blessed with many wonderful friends who have gotten me through the rough times and made my joyful times even happier. These are good tips and reminders that friendship, like a garden, needs tending.

  • Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I am simply amazed at your ability to continue to write meaningful and helpful posts when you are so terrifically busy. Your commitment to your readers is lovely and much appreciated.

  • #SMMOC we spend so much time on the role of SM in biz, it’s good to see thoughts on the SOCIAL role of SM

  • Luke

    Thank you for writing this!

  • Caf

    Great post! I especially love the paragraph on false choices, I have many different types of friendships and I find that diversity much more enriching and less draining than needing everyone to be my bff 🙂

  • brio

    Hi! Thanks everyone for sharing your own tips and experiences. I’ve recently moded to a new country, so finding new friends is very actual. The problem is, I simply don’t like people around me enough (at work) to invite them somewhere after work. Perhaps, it means I am not a likable person myself. But what am I to do with the situation? It could really be a hard exercise to try to initiate something with people I don’t have any initial liking for.

  • I have one more thing to say – if you want real friends, just be a good friend. Like, don’t adjust to anyone but be happy with them. That’s how things go.

  • mjsinnyc

    I moved to a new city 3 years ago (to NYC from Calif.) and had to forge new friendships — at age 45! What helped me was keeping my mind open to befriending people who may be very different from me, especially since NYC is so diverse. My circle of friends here reflects that diversity: religion, ethnicity, age, sexual preference, married/single, you name it. Each one of my new friends makes my life interesting, and I am truly richer for knowing them.

  • joan ochoa

    great list!!!
    love it…

  • Barbara

    I loved your stuff about maintaining friendships. I consider having friends my favorite avocation. I love making new ones and do so whenever I have the hankering. Our family has made friends on airplanes and airports and at various vacation locations. I love your point about different kinds of friends – you totally captured my friend experience. And I absolutely agree about showing up – my daughter reminded me of that point when we sort of begrudgingly showed up to someone’s party we weren’t really into going to, although we really like our friendship with them. And re working at it – I think of it more as cultivation than work. And making small efforts, like conveying “this made me think of you, makes for good fertilizer.

    So, this week, when Natalie Portman is filming in our building, my daughters have charged me with the task of making friends with her. They are confident that I can do it and that by the time we have our annual Hannukah party, she’ll be over making latkes.

    People tease me about my friendship making habits, but almost all of those who tease me comment at some point, that they wish they could have the “balls” that I do. Really, though, it’s just fun for me

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  • beanski

    I agree with tip number 7. I used to get annoyed if someone agreed to do something and then backed out. I wondered if I should give up on having friendships with people who did that. But I realized that everyone has flaws and one has to make compromises to maintain friendships. One has to weigh the good and bad of the friendship.

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  • Just want to add my rule, – give each other space. It is imperative that couples who share friendships with other couples give each other space. Even if you live next door to one another, you should not be together 24/7. If you’re all getting along well, the temptation may be strong to constantly call or visit each other, but everyone needs a break every now and then.
    Regards, Samanth,

  • I agree with tip number 7. I used to get annoyed if someone agreed to do something and then backed out. I wondered if I should give up on having friendships with people who did that. But I realized that everyone has flaws and one has to make compromises to maintain friendships. One has to weigh the good and bad of the friendship.

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  • Algins3783

    These friendships aren’t all of equal importance to me, but they all add warmth and color to my life…

    Most of these people are not your friends. They are aqauintances. You find out hwo are your friends when life hands yoy difficult thigns like illness andpoverty

    • gretchenrubin

      Well, I guess it’s the definition of a “friend.” I have a pretty wide view
      of what counts as a friend, but of course, people have different, legitimate
      idea of what the term friend connotes.

      There are so many relationships, over different contexts, different spans of

      • Deb

        You should keep that in mind next time you’re dividing people into opposing categories of two. People are much, much more complex than that. You’re very insightful, but you’ll learn a lot more when you realize that there’s so much that just doesn’t fit into those boxes you keep making.

  • Digger

    I don’t agree with your false choices comment.  Of course it is good to be polite to people outside of your close circle, but I don’t consider these friendships and in today’s busy life its just not worth the time to try to keep up with dozens of people that are not truly friends.  

    • gretchenrubin

      Do people fall into just two categories: “true friends” and “polite acquaintances”? At least for me, there’s a wide range of people who don’t fall into either of those two groups, and I think I would limit my relationships if I didn’t think those connections were also significant — even if not AS significant.


    • Smichaelgriffin

      I’ve found that polite acquaintances can become close friends (and vis-versa) over several years as hobbies, careers and living situations change.

      • stariter

        Certainly, this is the natural process for friendship to develop, isn’t it?

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  • Jem Kristel_m30

    thanks very much! now i know how to maintain my friendship to my friends!

  • George

    What an awesome article. Im very social and make strong initial connections but because of bad habits I lose touch with people. I’ve been looking through google trying to find ideas for maintaining friendships because I felt overwhelmed by the number of people I had to keep in contact with.
    Thanks for the useful suggestions!


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  • Melissa Goldstein

    Maintaining friendship can feel impossible as adults UNLESS your lives overlap in very regular ways (part of same group, in same club…and see each other frequently). Otherwise they can just fade away. Not because you dislike the person, but because there was no work put into it.

  • stariter

    Good article, but it reminds me that the word ‘acquaintance’ is becoming an old fashioned, seldom used word, especially in N. America. Everyone one knows is now ‘friend’…a nice work ‘friend’ that one never meets outside of the office, etc. Those are ‘good acquaintances’ not ‘friends’.
    A good gauge of that is, friends are those with whom you can confide in and count on and among friends there are degrees of confidence and reliability.
    A good acquaintance is a nice person for a chat, someone you get along with at work or elsewhere but with whom you don’t feel comfortable with entrusting information.

    Friends, you invite into your home. Acquaintances, you meet elsewhere.
    I think in English, ‘friendship’ is far too broadly defined and loses its true definition.