4 Simple Steps for Building Friendships that Last

A new school year means new classes, new faces, and if you’re lucky, some new friends as well. But while the beginning of the year is the perfect time to connect with potential friends, maintaining those friendships can be a bit tricky when September comes to an end. It’s not uncommon for a friendship that seems shiny and new in the first few weeks of school to fizzle out as the semester gets underway, and everyone gets caught up in school work and other activities. But that doesn’t mean none of your new friends are here to stay! Check out these tips for avoiding some common new-friend pitfalls, and learn how to build a social circle that survives the year:

Find Common Ground: Friendships with a rock solid foundation have the best chance of surviving the up’s and down’s of the school year. So make sure you’re really taking the time to get to know your new friend. Learn about his/her interests, hobbies, and sense of humor. Use your conversations to figure out what you have in common. This way, you’ll always have the perfect conversation topic to fall back on, when the year gets busy and you haven’t been able to hang out for a while. Plus, knowing what you and your friend both love will give you some ideas for things to do when you meet up outside of school.

Aim for Quality over Quantity: You may like the idea of being a social butterfly, and having lots of different friends to hang out with during the day. But there are challenges that come with maintaining strong friendships with a large number of people. Friendships take time and attention to become strong. And if you’re spreading yourself too thin, you may find that you’re not able to show your friends how much you appreciate them. That puts your relationships at risk of fading away over time. So make sure you’re really getting to know the people you consider to be friends. Stay up-to-date on what’s happening in their lives. Listen when they confide in you. Be supportive when they need it. You’ll most likely find that it’s worth the effort. It’s a lot more fulfilling to have a few really great friends, than a lot of so-so ones.

Keep Some Independence: In any friendship, it’s a good idea to have some breathing room. This is especially true for new friendships. While you may be excited about the idea of hanging out with your new friend all the time, remember that a strong friendship can (and should) thrive, even if you each do your own thing sometimes. Your new friend may have a busy schedule, family commitments, and other relationships to attend to. They may even enjoy getting a little bit of alone time during the week. If this is the case, you shouldn’t try to pressure him/her to hang out, or make them feel guilty about having other plans. That kind of behavior can make them want to avoid you, and even get you labeled as being clingy. So take a breath, and be understanding of the fact that your friend might not want to include you in everything he/she does, especially in this early stage of the relationship. Believe it or not, a little bit of distance in the beginning can be a very good thing for a friendship in the long run.

Keep Checking In: It’s easy to get bogged down in the craziness of the school year, and let social relationships lapse. And while it’s important to stay focused on your grades, and it’s great to get involved in after-school activities, you want to make sure you’re not completely bailing on relationships that matter to you. So make sure you’re putting in the effort to keep up with your friends in the coming months. Try to meet up in the cafeteria, or make plans on the weekend. If you’re really swamped, exchange some texts or phone calls throughout the week to stay in touch, and keep your connection going strong. Letting your friends know that you still care, in spite of all that’s going on in your life, will help keep your relationships from fading away whenever life gets a little hectic.

Of course, not all friendships are going to last forever, even if you do everything right. Sometimes, we find we just don’t have very much in common with a person as we initially thought. That’s okay! You don’t have to have a strong connection with every person you meet. You just have to recognize which friendships make your life better, and help you feel valued, and cared about. And when you find a friendship like that, make sure you’re putting in the effort, and giving it a chance to reach its full potential!

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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More