Education & Career Trends: Friendships enrich our lives. Here’s how you can make more friends.

4 min read

Edition: November 1st, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Friendships are critically important for our overall wellbeing, and they are increasingly tough to develop and sustain. (Image Credit: Wenjia Tang)

Data suggests we’re lonely and getting lonelier. Research also shows making and keeping friends is getting harder. But there is hope. Friends matter a lot for your happiness and engagement at work and for your quality of life. You can take steps to make friends and sustain strong relationships over time. 

Over the course of the pandemic, it’s been more challenging to make friends. We have less opportunities to run into people casually and strike up friendships.

Even as you may have gotten back to events or social gatherings, you might be spending the majority of your time with people you already know.

Here is why friendships are critical for us. They:

1. Bring a sense of continuity and support

A study found that friendships can be more important than family relationships for people to feel a sense of support, mental wellbeing and overall wellness. This is especially true over time, because unlike family, we tend to select our friends. And best friends last — providing a sense of continuity throughout our lives.

2. Are beneficial for our mental health

A research found that friendships also predict future mental health. When people have stronger friendships in adolescence, they have reduced social anxiety, greater self-worth and less depression during subsequent years.

3. Improve our performance at work

A meta-analysis reviewing 26 studies discovered that when you work with groups that include friends, the performance of the group improves. This is likely because friendship tends to foster trust, easy communication and valuing of each other’s input. 

4. Foster better engagement in groups

When you have friends at work, you just want to be there. The atmosphere is more welcoming, and you trust that you can bring your best to work because you trust the people around you.

5. Boost communication with shared beliefs and values

Friends are also important for imparting values and beliefs across groups. A study found that when broad networks include strong friendships along with weaker bonds, information travels more efficiently in the group. Close friendships create linkages and boost communication which foster shared beliefs and values.

How to Make Friends

Here are some research-based recommendations which may help you make friends:

1. Express gratitude in relationships.

  • To make a friend, gratitude is a powerful engine.
  • A study finds when you express gratitude in a relationship, people perceive you as warm, friendly and thoughtful.
  • This leads people to see the potential for a high-quality lasting social bond.

2. Trust others. It’s reciprocal.

  • Trust is one of the primary drivers of friendship.
  • The deeper your level of trust, the more likely you’ll have a lasting friendship.
  • Building trust starts with sharing openly. Trust is reciprocal: You share, your friend shares, you open up and so on.
  • Opening yourself to others and watching them open up in return is how trust is built.

3. Take out time to nurture your friendships.

  • Making time for friendship is also a pathway to build relationships.
  • A recent study finds it takes about 60 hours of sharing, conversation and connections to solidify a friendship.
  • When you share experiences, friendships are more solid.
  • You’ll experience a more meaningful connection when you engage in activities or adventures together. 

4. Engage in shared interests and activities.

  • Common interests are a driver for friendship—not just what you say you love to do, but the things you actually spend time doing.
  • These are the commonalities that will influence friendship the most.
  • How you spend your time is an indicator of your true interests—and these more accurately predict friendships. 

Friendships are critically important for our overall wellbeing, and they are increasingly tough to develop and sustain. With intention and investment of time and energy, we can build lasting, meaningful bonds, which enrich us both in our work and in life.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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