Chances are good that you, like many people, have that one friend in your life who you love to be around and talk to, even if you can’t call them a “close friend” yet. You guys have fun hanging out whenever you see each other, and maybe you sometimes do things without a group, but you’re not at a level where you could call them if you needed someone to vent to, or just show up at their house and immediately feel comfortable there. And while every friend doesn’t have to be your best friend ever, maybe you’d like to bring this particular friendship to the next level. If that’s the case, there are a few ways to bond with a friend to become even closer than you already are.
Jumping from just plain “friend” to “close friend” or “best friend” can take time. Sometimes, you and the person just click, and you immediately become joined at the hip. Other times, the friendship moves a little bit slower, and that’s okay too. Bonding doesn’t come naturally to everyone: as a shy girl who often has trouble opening up to people, I know that firsthand.
So I reached out to a few experts to get tips on how to build deeper friendships. Below are some ways to bond with a friend, any friend, so that you guys can get one step closer to calling each other besties.
1. Share the bad things, as well as the good.
One of the best things about having friends is having someone to celebrate all of the good stuff with. But one of the best things about having good friends is having someone you can go to with the bad stuff, too. That’s the difference between friends and close friends. If you want to become closer to someone, you need to learn to open up to them.
2. Base things off of what you know you have in common.
Becoming closer to a friend can almost feel like dating sometimes — you aren’t sure exactly what to do together, you don’t want to do or say the wrong thing, and you don’t totally know what you’re doing in general because you don’t know the person super well just yet.
So as you’re trying to bond with your friend and become closer, base hang-out sessions on what you know you two have in common. Emily Roberts, a psychotherapist who is also known as The Guidance Girl, said, “If you both like outdoor activities or come from the same part of town, invite them to do something you’d think they would like, too.”
3. Really listen to them when they talk.
Simply saying “listen to them” may sound obvious, but it’s something that so many people struggle with, even if they don’t realize it. Be super mindful when your friend is talking, and genuinely listen to them.
Mental health clinician Celeste Viciere told HelloGiggles, “When we get to know a friend and really listen to them, they are able to see how invested we are in them. In today’s society, we do not engage and instead are caught up in our own world. [Listening actively] will allow a potential close friend to see you are serious about building a friendship.”
In other words: put down your phone when you’re together, give them your full attention, and don’t always feel the need to interrupt them with advice or your own story.
4. Keep things simple.
Again, planning a hang-out sesh with a new friend can be similar to going on a third or fourth date. When getting together, you don’t need to overthink things or try to do anything crazy. Just keep it simple, and don’t try too hard!
Said Roberts, “If you make it solely about what you think she would like, you’re going to feel anxious before you even hang out, and people pick up on this. Start with small activities — dinner, or a walk to the farmers’ market…don’t aim for too much friend time too soon. This comes naturally.”
5. Always be yourself.
Again: don’t try too hard. If you’re not being authentic, this person is going to pick up on that, and it might be a turnoff.
This doesn’t apply to just talking, but also to making plans together. Roberts said, “Don’t commit to plans that interfere with your schedule or your life. I know a lot of women who have stayed silent in order to feel like they fit in with new friends. Going to expensive dinners you can’t afford, weekends away that make you anxious since you’re not that close yet, or staying out later than your body wants you to only makes them think you’re someone you’re not. If you’re building a strong foundation with the right person, one who respects you, then she’ll totally understand if you can’t go out or need to head home early. If she doesn’t, then she’s not someone you really want to be that close with, right?”
6. Don’t compare your new friend to older friends.
If you’ve had bad friends before, you might compare this friendship to those — and that’s not fair to anyone. Roberts said, “Just like in romantic relationships, she’s not your ex. Don’t project your old fears onto her.” Remember: this is a new person, and she’s not going to be the same as the last person you were friendly with.
Another thing to keep in mind is how much you’re trash-talking your old friends. Roberts advised, “You’ll likely bond more over the ex-friends, but be sure not to bash them too hard. That sends the sign that you may do the same to her. Don’t talk about your friends behind their back with her — it shows that you’ll do the same thing about her.”
7. Don’t ditch your old friends in the process.
You might get so caught up in this awesome new friendship that you slowly start to bail on your other friends. You feel comfortable enough with the old friends to do this, so it kind of makes sense — but that doesn’t make it great behavior.
Said Roberts, “If you want, invite other friends to hang with you guys, but remember: your other friends are important too, so don’t leave them out of your life or make your new friend take top priority.” You don’t want to push your other friends away, ever!
8. Don’t rush things.
Roberts notes that building deep, supportive friendships is a marathon not a sprint, and it’s important to commit to getting to know a friend the way you would a potential romantic partner — slow and steady. So take your time!
Oh, and don’t forget: bonding with a friend should be fun and kind of exciting. Don’t overthink anything, and just have a good time with it.