08 Dec Cultivating Friendships
Since early spring, many of us feel disconnected from our friends and family because we have been unable to spend time with them. And while it is important for us to practice social distancing, the price is high when it comes to the connection many of us crave. This challenge is made more difficult around the holidays when we are used to gathering with old friends and have opportunities to make new ones at holiday parties and outings.
What Makes a Friendship?
According to the author of We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships, Kat Velos, four factors are needed to grow a companionable and collegial friendly relationship:
- Close physical proximity
- Regular interactions
- A compatible outlook on life
- A shared commitment to being there for each other
How to Strengthen Friendships
Because of the tensions arising from COVID-19 safety precautions, political polarization and the spotlight that reveals racial injustice, many of us find that our friendships are stretched thin. There are several ways to revitalize and energize these important relationships:
- Make a genuine connection. If getting together is not feasible or safe, arrange for a video call. Plan to check in with each other on a frequent basis.
- Extend grace to the other. Find compassion for each other’s stress. Theologian Richard Rohr no longer asks his friends, “How are you?” Rather, his greeting is “What are you going through?”
- Express gratitude for the relationship. Handwritten notes can be especially engaging.
Reflect on Your Friendship Journey
Recognize the pandemic has caused each of us to examine our friendships. With some, there may be noticeable drifting apart. If this is the case, resist the urge to make permanent decisions about the friendship right now. Wait until the crisis is over and life begins to feel a little more normal. Then re-evaluate the need to allow the relationship to close or if it is merely a quiet season for the two of you.
Jackson Rainer, PhD, ABPP, is a psychologist at CHRIS Counseling DeKalb. You can reach him at Jackson.Rainer@CHRIS180.org. If you would like to schedule an appointment with our CHRIS 180 Counseling Center, give us a call at (404) 324-4190 or email counselingcenter@CHRIS180.org.