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12 steps to grow a best friend and friendship growth

November 30, 2010

12-steps to grow a best friend and friendship growth..

Best Friends: How to Grow a Friend
A twelve-step program

The best time to grow a best friend is before you need one!

Written or compiled by Joy Stevens

1. People Equal Friends.
There is a certain chemistry with friends just as in a love relationship. Therefore, contact with other people is the first building block to grow a friend. Friends can’t grow in a vacuum. Best friends take time.

2. Talking Is Essential Among Friends.
Talking between friends requires reciprocity. In a mutually satisfying friendship, both friends talk and both friends listen. Friends talk appropriately to each other.

3. Friends Acknowledge Friends.
Friends acknowledge each other when talking. Many conflicts in your personal relationships can be avoided if you will take the time to acknowledge other’s feelings and points of view.

4. Friends Listen to Friends.
Listening to friends in an important step in building a closer friendship. We often take listening for granted, never realizing what it means to really listen to a friend.

5. Friends Attend to Friends.
Friends focus during conversations. Friends pay attention in conversations. It means that your ears, your eyes, your body and your feelings are all focused on that person at the time.

6. Friends Show Empathy With Friends.
Empathy is identifying with your friend’s feelings and seeing life through your friend’s eyes. Confidences are freely given when they are received with empathy among friends.

7. Friends Touch Friends.
Touching is a warm form of communication between friends. When you see best friends communicating, you will notice friends “listen with their eyes,” stand close together, and touch comfortably.

8. Friends Praise Friends.
Affirmation is a powerful tool for growing a friend. Genuine praise can affect your friends’ lives. Be liberal with praise for all of your friends, including your casual ones.

9. Friends Are Loyal and Trustworthy.
Trust and loyalty go hand-in-hand for friends. Friends can trust you with their secrets, both large and small, because good friends never break a confidence. Good friends are forever loyal!

10. Friends are Equal.
Friends are on a seesaw. In a healthy relationship, friends are equals. Not 50/50 every time, of course, but with a true, lasting friendship it always evens out in the end.

11. Friends Reveal Their Feelings.
We feel closest to our friends when we are suffering together, when we feel like our friend needs us, or when we feel a friend has shared something of great importance with us.

12. Friends Do Not Mind Read.
The person who thinks, “If you really liked me, you could read my mind” can not have an adult friendship. No friend can read your mind. And you can not read your friend’s mind.
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Friends Equal People. People Equal Risk.
How to Grow a Friend: Step One.

Remember, friendships do not happen in a vacuum. There is a certain chemistry with friends just as in a love relationship. Therefore, contact with other people is the first building block of friendship.

The transition from stranger to acquaintance to friend begins with attention–one of you attracts the other, or it’s a mutual attraction. This happens when you share an experience.

And you can not share an experience until you get out in the world with people. People equal friends and friends equal people.

Some people have more trouble getting out there than others. Who does have trouble getting out in the world to make friends?

Shy people or people who are true loners often seek safety by staying away from people. If they don’t even work with many people, they will have a hard time sharing experiences with someone who is attractive to them and vice-versa.

Elderly people or people who do not drive also have trouble getting out in most of the American world. Other people are isolated by physical disabilities, by geography, by abusive relationships, etc.

New mothers are often too tired or just too busy to keep up an active and satisfying social life. Yet studies have shown new mothers are happier and more assured when they are able to meet with adults regularly, particularly other mothers.

Once you have captured the attention of another person or vice-versa, you must expand on that original attraction. This expansion includes additional contacts and conversation.

Who’s on first?

Someone must be on first for a friendship to develop. Certainly there is risk inherent in forming a friendship. The truth is that you can never be totally certain of your friend’s response. Eventually one person must take the risk of confiding in order for a friendship to grow in intimacy. Making friends is risky.

Grow a Friend!

Friends meet, friends attract, friends interact, and friends confide in friends.

Friends equal people. Friends equal risk.

Who Needs Friends?
All people need friends. Shy people need friends. Men need friends.Women need friends. Children need friends. Best friends grow from casual friendships and acquaintances
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Friends Equal Talk.
Talking Is Essential Among Friends.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Two.

Talking is an integral component of friendship. In any friendship, some talking is merely one person reciting his/her self- centered problems. However, talking between friends requires reciprocity. In a mutually satisfying friendship, both friends talk and both friends listen, usually to an equal degree.

When a friend talks and reveals ideas or feelings, he/she is expecting shared information in return. When the talk is not equal, the friend talking feels as if the listener is uninterested. In fact, the friend who is always the listener is really playing the role of a counselor, not that of friend. Anytime you have been talking for more than a minute or two without participation from the person you are talking to, you are lecturing, bossing, or putting your friend in the role of a counselor.

People talk for many reasons. And people don’t talk for just as many reasons.

Why Talk?
People talk to extend themselves to another, to accept responsibility for the growth of the relationship, and to share ideas or feelings with someone else. Good, rich conversation is always available for friends and lovers.

Why Not Talk?

People don’t talk for a variety of reasons. One person may be shy. Another may not know what to say in a particular situation such as the death of a relative. The timing may be off. A night owl may seldom talk in the morning. A friend reacting to stress may be temporarily mute. Non-talking can be used as a defense, as manipulation of another, or even as punishment. And last, but not least, talking can be a lot of work. But friendship is a lot of work as is anything worth having.

How to Talk.

Be excited. People who talk enthusiastically and with vocal animation are listened to more often by everyone.

Be Sensitive.

Be sensitive to the needs of your friend. Diffuse defensiveness by using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Saying “I feel upset when I have to wait,” is less threatening than saying “You’re always late”

And when friends talk to you, show gratitude for their confidences. “Thank you for sharing that with me” is the language of friends.

Friends Talk Appropriately.

Make certain your subject is appropriate to the situation. For example, you would not disclose your exciting new promotion while your friend was telling you about her mother’s terminal illness.

Other situations are not so easily read, however. Karen Blaker, Ph.D., can help you decide about appropriateness. In her book Intimate Secrets, she gives nine basic reasons to reveal a secret. They are:

To feel connected.
To get it off your chest.
To be true to yourself.
To achieve reciprocity.
To prevent discovery.
To spread the good word.
To cry for help.
To show you are in the know.
To get revenge.
Before engaging in a confidence with a friend, compare your reason(s) with the above nine. If you are uncomfortable with your reason, your disclosure is probably inappropriate.

If your reason for confidence is for revenge or to gain power with privileged information, it is best to maintain secrecy. If telling your secret achieves intimacy, help, or change, your confidence is constructive according to Blaker.

On the other hand, repeatedly “dumping” on someone is not confiding. The person who constantly brings every conversation back to his/her troubles is actually acting selfishly. This selfishness puts a strain on the relationship and may eventually destroy it.

We all know “yes-but” people. Anytime you are getting an abundance of “yes-buts” from your friend, you are probably trying to problem solve when all he/she wants is an attentive ear.

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Friends Acknowledge Friends.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Three.

You are talking to a friend. He starts complaining that a certain situation was not fair. You were an onlooker in this situation and don’t really agree with him. What do you do?
Often when your friend tells you a story or voices a complaint, it doesn’t mean he wants agreement. He may want to be heard and understood. He is really asking for acknowledgment.

Try these three steps to acknowledgment:

1. Repeat Back

Acknowledge by repeating back to your friend what she said in similar words to show you have heard and understood her.

Examples:
“You were upset today because I was late.”
“I understand that you are upset by what happened.”
2. Don’t Invalidate

It is not necessary to agree with your friend. You do not even need to feel what he said is correct. However, do not invalidate him.

Examples of invalidation include:
“You’re too sensitive.”
“It didn’t happen that way”
3. Don’t Try to Change

Be satisfied just to acknowledge. Don’t try to change her.

Many conflicts in your personal relationships can be avoided if you will take the time to acknowledge other’s feelings and points of view. In fact, understanding is what talking is all about and many cases.
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Friends Listen to Friends.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Four.

We often take listening for granted, never realizing what it means to really listen to a friend.
Watch someone really listening to another person. He makes eye contact and focuses on the other person. He listens with his eyes as well as his ears. While listening, he nods or makes attentive noises from time-to-time. He is a skilled, attentive listener. The person he is listening to feels a sense of communication.

You can grow more friends with your ears and with your eyes than with your mouth.

After your next conversation, test your ability to benefit from listening to that conversation. Analyze and ask yourself:
What did I learn from my friend?
What did I learn about my friend?
Did anyone interrupt?
What questions should I have asked?
What questions should I have answered more thoroughly?
Was I absolutely certain I understood everything?
Did I ask for clarification?
Did I practice acknowledgment?
Did my friend practice acknowledgment?
Were both parties attending?
Was the conversation balanced?
Did anyone keep changing the subject?
Did anyone get angry?
Did anyone appear sad?
Was everyone paying attention?
What will I do different in my next conversation?

The ability to listen is a skill that can be improved with use. This skill can and will improve your friendships.
Repeat:
You can grow more friends with your ears and with your eyes than with your mouth.
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Friends Pay Attention (Attend) to Friends.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Five.

Paying attention to someone in a conversation is called “attending.” It means that your ears, your eyes, your body and your feelings are all focused on that person at the time. Attending includes:
Physical Presence

Friendships are a building process. You and your friend gradually share interests, feelings, and goals. Much of this is done by being together physically. Your physical presence shows your friend that you care about him. It affirms that he is important to you.

Focusing

Focusing means all of your physical and psychological attention is directed toward your friend during the entire conversation. Your body language is good. You are facing and slightly inclined toward your friend. Your facial expressions show interest.

Keep the focus on your friend. Relating similar personal experiences or offering solutions to problems takes focus away from your friend and places it on you. Even though you may feel you are offering empathy or sympathy in this manner, it may seem that you can turn any conversation around to you.

Looking

Remember to look with your eyes.

A classic example of looking with “your eyes” is a child coloring while her mother cleans the kitchen. The child finishes a picture and says, “Look at this one, Mommy.”

The mother mumbles, ‘ “That’s great,” while continuing to chop vegetables.

Finally the child says, “Look now, Mommy. Look with your eyes.”

Looking at another person shows that you are “there for her” during conversations. It requires a lot of eye contact.
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Friends Show Empathy with Friends.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Six.

Reciprocal confidences deepen any relationship. Ideally those confidences are received with empathy. Empathy is identifying with another’s feelings. It is seeing life through his/her eyes.
How can you communicate empathy?

Listen with empathy. Lean closer to your friend and frown, smile, or cry appropriately.
Touching your friend also shows empathy.
By your physical presence and/or the gift of your time. At times just sitting with someone communicates empathy.
By your body language and facial expressions.
By your words. Say directly, “That hurts me,” or “I’m happy for you.”
Paraphrasing often shows that you are in touch with your friend’s feelings.
Your tone of voice is as important as the words you use. A sad tone is slow and quiet. A happy tone is faster and louder.
If you felt certain of a caring, empathetic response to a confidence, you would rarely hesitate to confide. However, when you are not certain of the response, you may find yourself teetering on the brink of intimate disclosures:

“Should I risk saying this or not?”

“Should I reveal this part of myself?”

“Can I trust my friend not to use my disclosure to hurt me in the future?”

Your uncertainty is probably because the other person has not revealed enough personally to make his or her response predictable. You are not sure if your disclosure will be received with empathy, indifference, or even ridicule.
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A Friends Is Someone You Touch.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Seven.

A friend is someone you want to touch. When you see best friends communicating, you will notice they “listen with their eyes,” stand close together, and touch comfortably.

No one is recommending that you indiscriminately touch and hug everyone in sight. Physical gushing is as much a turn-off as verbal gushing. It repels more people than it attracts.

But once a friendship has grown to the point that both friends are comfortable with touching and feel they are being touched with sincerity, touching is a warm form of communication.

Good friends want to touch. Good friends touch comfortably.

Sometimes just sitting and holding the hand of a friend or touching them on the arm communicates our depth of feeling. When you need to offer comfort, extend encouragement, or express sympathy to a friend, a simple touch can say more than any words.

Men, in particular, have a hard time touching. When friendship has progressed, however, a pat on the back or a playful punch on the shoulder is acceptable to most men.

A friends’s touch is comforting.
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A Friend Gives Sincere Compliments.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Eight.

Be liberal with praise for all of your friends, including casual ones. There is some genuine compliment you can pay anyone once you get in the habit of searching for those compliments.
Praising friends is an excellent way for a shy person to make contact. When a shy person is walking to greet another person, he is usually thinking about himself and dreading the contact. If he walks toward the other person finding something to compliment, he will have a hard time keeping his attention on himself.

Again, we are not talking about the insincere compliments of the manipulators of the world. That grows old quickly.

We are referring to genuine praise for a person you admire and love.

If you were fortunate enough to have a grandparent, a teacher, or an older friend who took an interest in you as you were growing up, you probably understand the power of affirmation very well. That person who sought out the best in you certainly had a strong effect on your life.

You can have a strong effect on any friend’s life by looking for things in them to praise and then being generous with that praise.
As your friend walks to meet you, smile, and think of a sincere compliment. This is particularly helpful for shy people.
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Friends Are Loyal and Trustworthy.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Nine.

Deepening friendships mean people can trust you with their secrets, both large and small. Good friends never break a confidence.
Psychologist Don Moore made this observation, “I have a friend who tests relationships early on by giving a small disclosure to an acquaintance. Use this disclosure against him in an argument, repeat it to someone else, or betray this confidence in any way and he realizes you are not good material for a close friend.”

Moore continued, “Many people feel the more secrets they know, the more approval of others they have. And this is true. However, when they feel the need to brag a bit by revealing the scope of those secrets, they are on the road to the friendship’s end. A person does not have to be a genius to know if you will reveal someone else’s secret to her, then you will reveal her secret to someone else.”

Alan Loy McGinnis in his book The Friendship Factor writes, “It is a great honor to be privy to information with which you could hurt the other, for your friend took this into consideration before telling you. If you will freely show your gratitude, you will open the way for greater intimacy.”

Trust and loyalty go hand-in-hand. When we know someone will be loyal to us, we are on the road to true friendship.

When we know someone is trustworthy and loyal, we will take the risk that friendship requires.
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Friends Are Equal.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Ten.

In a healthy relationship, friends are equals. Not 50/50 every time, but 50/50 over the long haul.
Dr. Joyce Brothers opined that a healthy friendship is like a seesaw. One person isn’t always dominant and the other person isn’t always submissive. In any relationship, whether it’s friendship, parent/child, or marriage, at some time one is more dominant than the other, but it evens out in the end.

Don’t walk in front of me, I might not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I might not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend.
Author Unknown

Jim Simmons, M.A., says, “All relationships, including friendship, involve a balance of power. When one friend grows, it upsets the balance. The other friend is forced toward growth.
“If that other friend refuses to grow, one of two things will happen. The friendship will end, or it will become stagnant (dead).”

Anytime there is a perceived inequality or imbalance, the door is open for jealousy. Yet jealousy has no place in a friendship.

Anytime you have jealous feelings in a friendship, ask yourself three questions:

1. Do I need to feel jealous about this?
2. Don’t I have a choice here?
3. What does she/he have that is more important than our friendship?

You have actually chosen to be who and what you are. Therefore, there is no reason to be jealous of anyone. Once you have answered these three questions, you will probably realize nothing is more important than your friendship.
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Friends Reveal Their Feelings.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Eleven.

How many of us ever feel close to the person who must always be strong? It is hard to do. That is because he/she never reveals his/her feelings in conversation.
Conversation can be divided into three categories:

Facts
Opinions
Emotions
Take this example:

Facts: “Sally and I had dinner together last night.”

Opinions: “Sally and I talked last night over dinner. I really don’t think she will marry John after all.”

Emotions: “I felt really depressed after I had dinner with Sally last night. I feel pretty certain that she will not marry my brother John now. I know this will break his heart and I hate that. Besides, I’m also sad that Sally will not be in our family. I like her.”

Of course, any conversation contains a certain amount of all three categories but friends move talk from facts to emotions. In fact, you can tell how close your friendship is growing by how often you talk about feelings rather than facts or opinions.

We feel closest to other people when we are suffering together, when we feel like the other person needs us, or when we feel someone has shared something of great importance to him/her with us.
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Friends Do Not Read Minds.
How to Grow a Friend: Step Twelve.

If you are going to grow a friend, you must discard or break your crystal ball!
Why?

No one can read your mind. You can’t read anyone’s mind.

The person who thinks, “If you really liked me, you could read my mind” can not have an adult relationship with another person.

All of us would like our friends to be so attuned to us that they know our moods and our needs instinctively.

That rarely happens and never happens with any consistency. No one will ever be able to meet your needs if they don’t know what your needs are.

It is true that you take risks when you let your needs be known. You may be turned down and hurt. However, when you are expecting your friends to read your mind and satisfy your needs without your input, you are going to be disappointed and hurt without your friends ever knowing why.

This is a common fallacy of friendships and even marriages. When asked if he had told his wife he wanted her to ride bicycles with him, one husband snapped, “Of course I didn’t tell her. After all these years of marriage, she should know!”

The sad thing is she will probably never know unless he tells her.

So, tell your friends and lovers what you want and what you need. Otherwise you will be stuck in infantile relationships that can never grow to be “best friends.”

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