21 Ways to Build Strong Friendships

Friends Jumping

“To have a friend and be a friend is what makes life worthwhile.” ~Unknown

I lost my beloved husband from complications following a routine surgery. His sudden death changed every facet of my life and rocked me to my knees. Now, more than a year after his passing, I am openly speaking of my grief experience with others and sharing how I’ve coped being a young widow.

I was asked recently what was one of the great lessons I learned from losing my husband, and I knew what my answer was without hesitation:  the importance of having a diversified life.

Your financial adviser will tell you to diversify your investments, rather than putting all your “eggs in one basket.” If one investment is lost, you’ll still have others to rely upon.

The same is true in relationships. Certainly the relationship with your spouse should be your primary focus, but it cannot, and should not, be your only relationship. Emily Dickinson said, “My friends are my estate,” and I couldn’t agree more.

As a mother of three boys, I lived in a house full of testosterone. My husband knew that not only was time with girl friends beneficial for my mental health, but also the positive tenor of our home. He encouraged me to participate in “girls’ nights” on a regular basis and to take a yearly trip to the beach with my gal pals, a tradition for almost 20 years.

Thus, when my husband passed away, I had a fully developed support system of ladies who, even now, are still meeting countless needs and making me feel included even though I am flying solo. They have been my lifeline during this dark time. Don’t get me wrong, my family members have been wonderful, but they don’t live close enough to me to give me the daily encouragement I need.

Cultivating lasting, loving friendships takes time and effort; however, I cannot impress on you how important the investment in friends is, in both good times and bad. Here are some ways to create and cultivate lasting friendships:

Be you. The greatest gift you can give to others is you—the real you. So, pull off your mask and be authentic!

Be friendly. Mother was right; you have to be a friend to have a friend.

Be giving. What can you do for another that will make their life better?

Be encouraging. The kind words you have for others are a balm for their soul. Spread them liberally.

Be interesting. Cultivate yourself so you have something to share with others. Read. Travel. Learn.

Be loyal. Through thick and thin, be loyal to your friend. From their best moments to their worst, stick by your friend’s side.

Be enriching. A true friend adds value to others by having a lifestyle of value.

Be understanding. Seek first to understand your friend. Then you can help them understand you.

Be direct. If misunderstandings arise, tackle them head-on with gentle honesty. Never let a disagreement fester and damage a friendship.

Be accepting. Just because someone is different from you doesn’t mean you can’t find common ground on which to build a firm friendship. Go outside your “zone” to find friends.

Be flexible. People’s lives ebb and flow. So do friendships. Let it be okay to have changing degrees of closeness with your friends.

Be available. Our busy lives make time a very precious commodity. Schedule regular time with friends and stay in contact via email, text, or phone calls.

Be a listener. Truly listen to your friend. Don’t spend their talking time framing what you’re going to say next.

Be fun. The more fun you share with others, the more fun you have.

Be positive. People like to be around someone who makes them feel better, not someone who poisons their time together with toxic negativity.

Be honest. When a friend’s actions or decisions scare you, share your heart in a non-judgmental way. If not you, then who?

Be dependable. Don’t let your friends down—ever.

Be appreciative. Tell your friends how much they mean to you. You may think they already know this, but a verbal affirmation every so often makes sure they do.

Be respectful. You and your friends may not have the same likes and dislikes in people, politics, or passions.  Be respectful of these differences.

Be considerate. Give your friends space and be accepting of their time with family and other friends.

Be supportive. Cheer friends on when they “win,” cry with them when they “lose,” and laugh with them when either of you do something stupid.

Building a lasting friendship is not easy. If you are authentic and are willing to open yourself up to others, you will find that there are many people who are looking for a good friend. So, if you haven’t already, take the time to invest in friendships. They may be your lifelines one day, and you may be one for them.

Photo by masud ananda

About Cynthia Hughes Lynch

Cynthia H. Lynch is an educator, mother, and freelance writer living in the Deep South. She is a recent widow and writes about her grief journey on her blog

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  • Cynthia, my sincere condolences for the passing of your husband. I have no doubt that the person you’ve become because of the friendship you shared with him will continue to do great things for others. Your friends are truly blessed.

  • Well said!

    I am deeply sorry for your loss, and I am glad that you’ve had these friendships to help you carry on.

    I think your friends are lucky people, too! 🙂

  • Cmg531

    So beautiful & so true.
    My condolences regarding your husbands transition.
    Rest assured he still loves you & is still watching over & protecting You from a higher more expansive vantage point.
    May you find Peace in your life.

  • Terry

    Great clarity comes from deep loss.  You are so very generous in sharing what so many cannot comprehend…all this to strengthen our spirits too.  Thank you sweet soul…

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  • Christi

    You are completely on point with this list. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words. 😉

  • Tiffanystorm

    My prayers are with you after the passing of your husband. I hope it was not Sepsis that claimed him. Great article.

  • I’m sorry about your loss.This is some great information here. It’s good to know that we can learn even from the worst things in life. Building up a solid social network may be just what I need.

    Thank you.

  • Will Good

    Im sorry to hear of the passing of your husband but it sounds like the knowledge you’ve gained from it has enriched your life and now the lives of others in so many ways. Thank you for sharing this list!


  • Will Good

    Im sorry to hear of the passing of your husband but it sounds like the knowledge you’ve gained from it has enriched your life and now the lives of others in so many ways. Thank you for sharing this list!


  • I’m sorry for your loss and congratulation with your development support systems of ladies. I notice that you have put a lot of effort to master all the 25 ways of creating lasting, loving friendships yourself!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Cynthia Lynch

    You are so right about learning in all situations.  I do believe that you should never let a hurt go unused.  I am working on helping others in a grief.  Sometimes, that just means showing up and being there.  No matter how small the offering, the effects can be lasting.

  • Cynthia Lynch

    I appreciate your prayers.  Unfortunately it was sepsis followed by multi-system organ failure.  It was quite a shock.  He was a wonderfully healthy man training for an Iron Man.  I miss him so much.

  • Cynthia Lynch

    Thank you for your kind words.  I am blessed to have my friends.  We fill the gaps for each other.

  • Cynthia Lynch

    Thank you, Cary.  My husband expanded my horizons in so many ways.  I was blessed to have him as my best friend.  

  • Cynthia Lynch

    You are so right…his death is just a transition.  I take great comfort in the fact we will be reunited one day.

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  • Cynthia Lynch

    Loss certainly widens our perspective.  Thank you for your kind words.

  • Karen Ray

    Cindy, we know you from several years ago when we served, with you and Steve on a Christmas charity sponsor board.  We were saddened to hear of Steve’s death last year.  We both subscribe to tinybuddha, and were thrilled to realize who the author of this amazing article was.  As Eric fights prostate cancer, and I struggle with depression, articles such as yours give us great comfort and much hope.  You are a brave person and a courageous inspiration to us all.  Thank you for an uplifting and spot-on article.  Our best to you and your boys.  

  • Something I can truly take into consideration when it comes to my relationships with others.

  • Cynthia Lynch

    Thank you, Karen, for taking the time to respond to my article.  I am glad that it gave you comfort.  I am sorry to hear about your husband’s illness and and your struggle with depression. I know this is a hard time for you both and I will keep you in my prayers.

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  • Team396

    Thank you, I do not have many friends I have lived and done all my work for my family in my home building a strong bond with my boys and husband, my son has join the army and my husband has cancer, it is a very scary feeling thinking about my life without my husband. I will use your 21 tips to bond relationship with new friends its been along time and I thank you :).

  • I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a really instructive article. Thank you. I’d also like to add that even though some of us may live far away from our old friends, we can still maintain those relationships, thanks to the Internet — though it does take some dedication. My high school friends and I are still in touch and are support network for each other, even from hundreds of miles away. Thanks to Facebook Video Chat Rounds and other webcam chat programs, we even talk to each other’s kids and get to know their families. 🙂

  • This is a really great post.  I especially like the one about Be Enriching – so important!  Thank you for sharing some of the wisdom you have gathered during such a difficult time in your life.

  • Jacie

    Loved your post.  The older I get the more important my friends become to me.  If I lost my husband, who truly is my best friend, I also would be devastated, but know that my friends (and family) would be there for me.  I sent the link to your post to a couple of my closest friends because I thought of them when reading this.  Thank you!

  • Tpat

    thank you so much 🙂

  • Krystle Nelinson

    Cynthia – To call you an inspiration would be a gigantic understatement.

  • This article and all of your tips are spot-on and fantastic! Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned with all of us. I only wish everyone could read this so that those that try to be the best friend they possibly can be, receive that same love and friendship in return.

  • Amber

    Great article. I think all of these are valid points to live by… especially the “Be Considerate and respect your friends time with family and other friends. Life is not like TV where friends spend time together 5 nights a week. Sometime other commitments  come up and time passes – cherish the time you can spend with people you care about rather than bemoaning the time in between.
    My sincere condolences to you and your sons on the loss of your husband.  You have amazing strength.

  • Thanks for the post Cynthia! Nowadays with the banalization of “friends” in social media, we can easily forget what a true friendship really is about.

    I wish you and your boys all the love and happiness! May you continue to have a blessed life.

  • Marsuti

    Loved the article! 

  • Chung

    Beautiful article and also inspiring. I have also recently suffered a loss in my life and it was the support and inclusiveness of friends that have helped me through this difficult time. I don’t know what I would have become if I did not have them. I know I still have much to learn about friendships and I am very lucky to have the friends that I have. I could not agree more with your philosophy.

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  • Adamsllc Pie

    How do i handle the woman who is not giving me the chance to be her best friend ???please you guys should me because i want to be her friend 

  • Really really nice post.. 🙂

    Thanks for the wonderful list..

  • Great tips. Super!

  • fred

    Hi very nice post, I like the way you engaged the subject . I think there is 1 point that should be added is the fact that you should be able to be sincere with your friends because saying “no , I don’t agree with you ” it is also important to maintain an healthy balance in a relationship. You can not constantly be on your friend side. do you constantly agree with your parents, your partner or your children ? no. Also I think that being honest is more important than to be 100% on a friend side. However it is a must to be respectful and to express yourself without hurting or arming the relationship. Remember that people change and adaptation is needed even in a friendship. great talk…

  • mabuyie

    i lost my best freind becouse of my boy friend and now it been a while i never speak to them and i miss them very much and me an he thing didn’t go well but im still with him,although we keeping fighting everyday.but me and my friend we spoke and we back together but i doont know how to build our friendship again,

  • jay

    Really appreciating hats off mam.
    M a young blogger ,19 years old.
    I have read this whole article and it made me felt that yah m so special that i have such a nice buddies,who r always by mah side to help or make me smile when m sad,Really yo very daring,keep it up mam
    god bless u
    hats off.

  • Shana

    Hello Cynthia,
    I just chanced on your blog because I am going through trying times with a new friendship and then read about your having lost your best friend, your husband. Please can I email you?

  • Andrew

    I really like this article. It’s wise and succinct and covers so many important bases in friendship. Thanks for taking the time to write it and share it with us. I particularly like the way you said, “People’s lives ebb and flow. So do friendships. Let it be okay to have changing degrees of closeness with your friends.” I have shared this link with my facebook community, “Phoenix – Project Fellowship” and have linked to it from my site, Thanks again.

  • Terri Cliff

    Im sorry for your loss. Your all so brave. It’s a scary gamble to start a family. On the flip side they’re marvellous little healers that help you get by. I have a wonderful husband who knows when I need a night off from being Mum. The pro/con is that we are best friends. His friends have disappeared over the years. I seem to be hopeless at making friendships work, especially with couples. Im great at ruining his guy friendships. Ironically I’d like to think that I have all the above qualities. All but one.. I’m not Interesting enough apparently.. I’m my true self and caring. These qualities make people run. They don’t want a caring friend. They want bitchy, gossiping, judgemental friends. It’s like a high, an ego boost. I tried it once. It was a buzz but short lived. It ended in judgement and friendship loss. The reason why the nice girl seems to loose friends quickly is that they are an easy target. Like the survival of the toughest instinct didn’t kick in or has been repressed. It can be emotional when you don’t have that fire in your belly to ‘play the game’.
    As I wonder the shops, I watch other Mums catch up for their weekly coffee as their children play together. You watch longingly as you try to round up the kids as they rampage the shop shelves. After a shopping trip of second guessing your self worth, you ask yourself ‘what is the missing friendship bonding’ ingredient? We are all just flesh & blood. It seems that the chemistry of a friendship connection is either there or it isn’t. Being vulnerable takes courage. It takes strength to walk away from ‘friends’ who make you feel alone. Does it get easier if we stay true to ourselves as we get older? Perhaps more confident in our own skin? Or do we have to learn the game of survival? What keeps me going is a child’s love. They love us unconditionally. Why does adulthood have to change everything? #barriers are up #have allowed others to emotionally wear me down #hurt

  • Rushi Shah

    Hello Cynthia, it was indeed a simple and effective to-do list to build a lasting friendship. It should be really be helpful to people like myself who find it very difficult to have eerlasting friends.

  • Ahmed

    All these suggestions are good.

  • Zahoor Rahman

    the truth of life can be understood when you become alone. Dear You made me cry. I had lost to much in life in the shape of good friends. I dont know how will be my life passed since i am too young. I had lost and i am finished.

  • saddam k hussein

    very appreciative of the peace of information written here, you have given me a check list of what I should do to be a good friend as well as well as humane

  • vinay yadav

    good morning friends