Friendship is one of the most rewarding aspects of life, but real, deep friendships don’t just naturally come along. When I was growing up, we moved many times, and it was difficult for me to really build deep friendships. Plus, I wasn’t comfortable with “being real” about myself.
I first read The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis when I was in college (yep, way back in the 1980s) and my copy of the book is now dog-eared, highlighted and well-used. It gave me some concrete steps to develop deep friendships, and of course, living in one place for more than 20 years has helped too!
No matter what your life story has been, you probably have experienced at least some difficulty in a relationship. I don’t think any of us are exempt from that. Subtitled “How to Get Closer to the People You Care For,” The Friendship Factor asks you these questions:
- Do you have at least one person nearby whom you can call on in times of personal distress?
- Do you have several people whom you can visit with little advance warning without apology?
- Do you have people who will lend you money if you need it, or those who will care for you in practical ways if the need arises?
McGinnis writes that if your response is largely negative, it may be that “your friendships are being impeded by your social life! Some people immerse themselves in such a whirl of parties and social affairs that there is no opportunity to establish a close relationship.”
Here are four (plus one!) of my favorite tips from McGinnis that I have used and will continue to be purposeful about as I develop friendships with both young and old:
- Assign top priority to your relationships. “Why do we seldom relate at such a deep level? Why is there such a shortage of friendship? One simple reason: We do not devote ourselves sufficiently to it. If our relationships are the most valuable commodity we can own in this world, one would expect that everyone everywhere would assign friendship highest priority.”
- Cultivate transparency. “People with deep and lasting friendships may be introverts, extroverts, young, old, dull, intelligent, homely, good-looking; but the one characteristic they always have in common is openness. The human personality has a natural built-in inclination to reveal itself. When that inclination is blocked and we close ourselves to others, we get into emotional difficulties.”
- Dare to talk about your affection. “For fear of seeming sentimental, many of us hold back expressions of warmth and thereby miss out on rich and profound friendships. We say ‘thanks’ when we mean ‘God bless you’ and ‘so long’ when we mean ‘I’ll miss you a lot.’ Why are we so reluctant to say openly that we care for another? There is the possibility that our overture of warmth will not be reciprocated and we will be rejected…. But those who are loved widely are usually those who throw caution to the winds and declare their love freely.”
- Learn the gestures of love. “The best relationships are built upon the accumulated layers of acts of kindness. Small acts of kindness demonstrate that you haven’t taken your loved one for granted.”
- Create space in your relationships. McGinnis writes about the tendency to control others, and he says this villain frequently masquerades as love. “The overly protective mother will say, ‘Honey, I’m just doing this for your own good,’ and the man who constantly corrects his friend thinks, ‘It’s all for his benefit.’ But the effect is always to suffocate, and I have never known a person who did not try to flee from manipulators. Those who have successful friendships allow their loved ones room. Rather than possessing their friends, they try to help them expand and grow and become free.”
I’m thankful for learning these steps to deeper friendships, and I hope they help you too!
Purchase a copy of The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis on Amazon. It’s also available for Kindle.