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8 Tips for maintaining friendship★

1.Use Facebook, Twitter, or other
social media. One of the biggest
obstacles to keeping friendships going
is time. It takes time to email, to call, to
make plans, to send holiday cards, to
remember birthdays. For that reason, I
love social media. Some people argue
that technology hurts friendships,
because it encourages people to stay
tapping behind a computer screen
rather than see people face-to-face.
At the extreme, this is a bad thing, but
for me, at least, technology lets me
keep in touch with more friends in a
wildly more efficient way. I feel more
up-to-date, I feel a stronger sense of
connection. At the same time…
2. Show up. Nothing can replace seeing
someone in person. Go to a party, go to
a wedding, go to a funeral, visit a
newborn baby, make a date for lunch,
stop by someone’s desk. Make the
effort. But because it can be tough to
make time for friends, one strategy
can be to…
3. Join or start a group. I’ve joined or
started eleven groups since I began my
happiness project, and almost all of
them (particularly my children’s
literature reading groups) have been
huge engines of happiness – in large
measure, because they’ve allowed me
to make and maintain new friendships.
It turns out that seeing a person once
every six weeks is plenty to keep a
friendship alive. Meeting in a group is
efficient, because you see a lot of
people at once; it also means you’re
creating a social network, not just a
one-off friendship. It’s a lot easier to
maintain friendships with people if you
have several friends in common.
4. Think about what's fun for you.
People like to socialize in different
ways. Maybe your friends like to go out
drinking on Friday nights, or to go to
the movies, but if that’s not fun for
you, suggest different plans. Take
charge of shaping your social
environment. Some social people
become exhausted by their desire to
keep up with all their friends; some
less-social people find it hard to get
motivated to make plans at all. Think
about what level and type of social
activity brings you happiness, then
make the effort to make it happen.
5. Be wary of false choices. Sometimes
people say, “I want to have a few close,
real friends, not a bunch of superficial
friends.” But that’s a false choice.
There are all kinds of friends. I have
intimate friends and casual friends. I
have work friends whom I never see
outside a professional context. I have
childhood friends whom I see only
once every ten years. I have several
friends whose spouses I’ve never met. I
have online friends whom I’ve never
met face-to-face. These friendships
aren’t all of equal importance to me,
but they all add warmth and color to
my life.
6. Make the effort to say “This made
me think of you.” We’re all busy, and
keeping in touch can feel like a lot of
work. One strategy that works for me
is to write “this made me think of you”
emails whenever I see something of
interest to a friend. “Congrats, I saw
the piece about your book deal!” “I was
in New Haven -- had a Greek salad at
Yorkside and thought of senior year.”
“You must read this review of New
Moon (caution: explicit!).”
7. Cut people slack. Except in the face
of overwhelming evidence of bad
intentions, try not to take it personally
if a friend is late, cancels plans at the
last minute, forgets about something
important that’s important to you,
don’t answer an email, says something
thoughtless, etc. The fundamental
attribution error describes the fact
that we tend to view other people’s
actions as reflections of their
characters, and to overlook the power
of the situation to influence their
action. Don’t assume your friend is
thoughtless and uncaring; maybe he’s
just overwhelmed by the demands of a
new boss. This is particularly true if
you’re feeling lonely. Perhaps
surprisingly, lonely people tend to be
more defensive and judgmental than
non-lonely people.
8. Don’t expect friendship to happen
spontaneously. As with many aspects
of happiness, people often assume
that friendship should flow easily and
naturally, and that trying to "work" on
it is forced and inauthentic. Sometimes
friendships naturally arise, but
sometimes they don’t.

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