Last year, I had hoped to meet new people to expand my social and professional networks. I made a lot of new contacts and formed some new friendships, which is always nice, but I felt more like I was collecting Pokémon instead of building meaningful relationships. This year, I decided to become more intentional about cultivating my existing and future connections. Dedicating myself to building better relationships with the people in my life could seem like a daunting task, but declaring a relationship resolution is a great place to begin.
Here are six ways I hope to strengthen my friendships this year:
1. I will be more realistic about my expectations of others
I’ve found that the better I know someone, the more realistic I can be about my expectations for my relationship with them. One of my friends — we’ll call her Sharon — does not handle stressful situations very well. I remember getting upset with her when she seemed less-than-supportive after my father suffered a stroke. I distanced myself from her for a while, but once we got back on track, I realized that she does care for me, even if she’s not able to respond to emergencies the way I’d want her to. I now know that different friends meet different needs, and that’s okay. We text nearly every day and often compare notes on grad school (we are both set to finish our programs this year).
2. I will be honest with others
When I first started caring for my mother after she was diagnosed with dementia in 2013, I declined various social invites with vague excuses like being too busy or tired. Some friends thought I was blowing them off and took offense. Once I opened up and let people know what I was going through, it helped them understand that while my time and money might be limited, I still wanted to be invited to events, and I might want to socialize in different ways. Some friends even opened up to me about similar challenges, and our friendships are stronger because of it.
3. I will pick my battles:
When I was younger, I believed it was important to point out every time someone got on my nerves or gently correct what I thought to be character flaws in others. Thinking back, I was pretty annoying and self-righteous, and possibly even a little mean. This year, I’m making an intentional effort to let go of the little, harmless things people do, and instead focus on how much I value their friendship.
4. I will listen more than I talk:
After college, I joined a large church north of Atlanta. I was super excited to get to know some young women in my area through our small-group Bible study. One day, our leader asked to meet with me for coffee and asked me to give other, less vocal members of the group an opportunity to speak. Initially, I felt hurt and like I was a bad groupmate. But after I had time to think, I realized that, as excited as I am to tell my story, not everyone has the gift of gab. Some group members who are a bit more introverted may feel overshadowed, even if I did not intend to make them feel that way. Moving forward, I plan to step back and better share space with others, allowing me to listen well and learn from their wisdom.
5. I will support my friends, not compete with them
A high school friend of mine seemed to always get everything I wanted. Tickets to the *NSNYC concert, a new Nissan Altima for her 16th birthday, a degree from my dream school. I used to be overwhelmed by feelings of jealousy and was unable to understand why she seemed to be living the life that I wanted. But with time and maturity, I realized that she did not have these things to make me miserable. She is living the life meant for her and I am living the life meant for me. I can truly say that I am happy for her recent successes as a new entrepreneur, and I am grateful to have found my niché in caregiver advocacy. Now, when I like her posts on Instagram or congratulate her on her accomplishments, I really mean it and appreciate her support for me as well.
6. Accept apologies
Nearly 10 years ago, I messed up with a friend of mine when I revoked her invite to a girls’ weekend I’d planned because other friends did not want a new addition to our annual getaway. Although I am usually pretty perceptive, I didn’t even realize I hurt her feelings until she started giving me the silent treatment. I wrote a sincere letter of apology, which she accepted, but I was not certain we would ever repair our friendship. We had to start over, but through the years, we both grew and matured and now we talk nearly every day. Maybe your relationship won’t be the same, but forgiveness can provide healing for everyone involved.
I have learned a lot of lessons about what makes for successful personal interactions, and I look forward to using those lessons to make more purposeful decisions about my relationships. Intentionally setting relationship resolutions may take some work, but it’s worth it, and strengthening your friendships will allow for more meaningful time spent with each other. .