Written by Megan Pettingill

Why we need friends

We need people in our lives. It’s a simple fact that we’ve all faced at one point or another. We simply cannot exist without other people. (Can you imagine a Starbucks without a friendly, peppy barista behind the espresso machine? The horrors!) And what do we need more than people?

We need friends.

Now, I’m not saying you need hundreds of friends or that you have to go out and make a whole bunch of new friends. I’m just saying that however you look at it, you need friends and you need to treasure the people in your life who are worth the effort. Because those people make a difference.

Our friends, family members, and significant others play a powerful role in our happiness and helping us better understand ourselves. That’s a lot of pressure to put on another person, but your friends probably don’t even know how much they’re helping you. Which means you probably don’t realize just how much you’re helping them. Never forget that friendship is a two-way street.

The benefits of friendships

We recently held an event all about developing compelling connections with others in an age that is surprisingly lonely. One of the most important takeaways from the day? The benefits of deep, meaningful connections include a more fulfilled sense of self, higher overall happiness, lower stress levels, and most importantly, a better understanding of who you are and what you value.

Humans, some scientists argue, are naturally social creatures, primed to benefit from meaningful relationships with family, partners, and friends. Additional research indicates that having close friends can reduce stress and promote good health and longevity.

Aristotle (you know him, right?) wrote “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. The young they keep out of mischief; to the old, they are a comfort and aid in their weakness; and those in the prime of life they incite to noble deeds.”

Bottom line? Researchers and philosophers suggest (and we just know) that friends make us feel better and help us be the best we can be.

Creating new connections

If you’re looking to add a few new friends or connections to your life, that’s awesome! But making new friends isn’t easy for everyone. Some people love talking to others and finding new acquaintances along the way. Others (like me) are socially anxious and find it difficult to meet and keep up a conversation with new people (or people you already know for that matter).

There’s no surefire way to make new friends, but it starts with making a plan. Join a club, ask to meet some of the friends of your friends, set up a work happy hour. Sometimes a friendship develops naturally, but sometimes you’re going to have to work for it. So, smile, be flexible, and stay true to who you are.

Going the extra mile

Sadly, not everyone is going to like you. But that’s OK! You can’t sweat the small stuff. You don’t need everyone to like you.

During your life, you’ll find and attract people with similar personalities and senses of humor. And once you have these connections, you need to work hard to maintain and bring value to the relationship. This means different things to different people. Think about how you bring value. Do you share funny jokes throughout the day? Do you enjoy sending handwritten notes? Do you make time to send a quick text every few days just to see how everything’s going?

I try to take mental notes during conversations and then write down any insights afterward on my phone or in my notebook. For example, does the person I’m talking to have an event or important anniversary coming up? Are they taking a trip soon? Is one of their parents sick? I refer back to the notes every few days and then check in with the person. It lets them know I was not only listening, but that I care — and isn’t that what most of us want? To know someone cares about us.

Friendships are vital to our success and happiness. So, nurture those friendships and connections that are important to you and you’ll see tremendous benefits — just as your friends will see the benefits of having you in their life!

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