Note: This is a guest post by Flora Morris Brown of Color Your Life Happy.
This old Girl Scout lyric brings back memories of singing with childhood friends around a glowing campfire. The analogy to precious metals in the song emphasizes the value of friendships.
Every book and article on happiness lists the importance of personal relationships to our joy. It’s not because we get our happiness from others, but because by sharing the happiness we have with others, our own happiness is strengthened. But warm friendships don’t just happen. They must be cultivated and nurtured if they are to be meaningful and long-lasting.
Here are some ways I have maintained friendships through the years. Maybe these can help you too.
1. Send occasional greeting cards, not just at Christmas
My friends appreciate greeting cards for the many occasions that fall between Christmases. One friend commented that she didn’t even know they make Thanksgiving cards until she received one from me.
Make someone’s day by sending an unexpected thank you card letting her know what a difference she made in your life. The best time to do this is when you think of an incident or time when this person was especially helpful, supportive or encouraging.
It’s easy to send these cards. You can get a pack of imprinted or blank for under $5. I often address them while I have waiting times””beauty shop under the dryer or dentist waiting room. I keep a supply of stamps so that I’m always ready to dash off these cards.
2. Call a few people you haven’t talked to in a while
Email is my favorite form of communication, but it can’t replace the human voice. On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon I will go through my address book until I land on someone I haven’t talked to in a long time. They are so delighted to have a personal chat.
Short frequent calls work well too. I have one friend who calls on Sunday mornings and says “Hi, just checking in. Is everyone OK? ” If I have anything unusual or interesting to report, I do. Then I ask for an update on her week, and then we’re finished until the next week. Sometimes our calls last longer, of course, but most times they’re brief.
If she gets voice mail she leaves the same message.
3. Be a resource
When I run across a newspaper article, a sale, or a link on the Internet that may be informative or helpful to a free, I send it to them.
When I returned from my family reunion I put one of my cousins in touch with a childhood friend in the same industry.
Another friend mentioned that she is starting a new website to help writers who want to get published. When I went through my email I saw a link in a newsletter that may be a good lead for her.
One girlfriend is taking care of her mother stricken with Parkinson’s disease. When I saw an article in my alumni magazine about new research, I clipped it and mailed it to her.
4. Make lunch or coffee dates
It’s so easy to say “Let’s do lunch sometime.” But if you don’t make a definite date, it’s not likely to happen soon. Sadly the years can slip by if you don’t make a concerted effort to at least touch bases occasionally.
I have three upcoming dates.
5. Be really engaged – listen
When you are visiting with friends, really listen. It’s so tempting to be busy planning what you’re going to say next instead of listening to what they are saying.
Because I’m a big talker, this is my biggest challenge. Whenever my husband and I would return from a party, he would always know so much more about everyone than I did. When I would ask him how he learned so much, he said, “I listen, not talk.”
Since I’ve made it my goal to be a better listener, I notice that friends experience our visits as being so much more enjoyable.
Friends are not people with whom you always agree, or even always get along. Friends are not people you tolerate, but people you celebrate for being who they are.
Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D., an author, coach, speaker, and entrepreneur, has spent her life teaching and inspiring students and professionals. Her passion for motivating others has lead to her upcoming book, Coloring Your Life Happy. From her blog, www.coloryourlifehappy.com she shares tips for living life more harmoniously and abundantly.
This article is part of August 2008 theme: Relationships
Photo by notsogoodphotography