Creating and Sustaining Friendships


Recently, I was relating a story to a close friend of mine about how I was struggling to keep a friendship alive with a different colleague. She shared some great advice with me.  She said that “a friend can be in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. You shouldn’t try to push it for more than it is.”

I have had this friend for over a decade and I realized I was trying so hard to be friends with them because of the time I had invested in them. I became friends with them at a point in my life where I felt free to travel without obligations and I felt like I could say anything or do anything without being accountable. I realized how much that point in my life meant to me personally and I would try to connect with this friend even though we no longer had anything in common to rekindle those feelings in my current stage of life.

Reflecting on the advice I was given, I realize now that my friendship with this person was for a season and the type of friendship that at the time I needed most. I think it was a friendship that she also needed. Like all relationships in work or personal life, a good friendship takes work. When you find that you’ve grown apart or no longer can connect in a meaningful way, it becomes important to decide how to proceed. Ask yourself if you are holding on to a feeling or if you are genuinely interested in the other person’s life. Also ask yourself if they are genuinely interested in your life. Then it’s important for the relationship to grow just as both of you have.

Sometimes, professionally, I find that I can mesh really well with someone and the project ends and you are left with an awkward friendship where you only talk about the past. Though this person is a great connection and you really want to keep that friendship going, sometimes seeing the end result lagging along is painful.

What I have learned is that you need to keep your friendships fresh and rewarding for both parties. Some tips are:
  • Listen. Find out about their passions and find out an interest you share. Then, go do an activity that relates to the interest. It is much less awkward to be doing an activity than forcing a conversation during dinner.
  • Reach out to them. Include them in updates and developments in your life. Sometimes others aren’t as great at planning activities or asking you what’s going on in your life. They might care, but they are too engulfed in their own situation to look beyond the aisle.
  • Compliment them. People tend to warm up or be more open to new ideas when you genuinely notice a good quality or interest aspect of their life.
  • Make an effort. I love the old saying “it takes a friend to be a friend.”

As all relationships, it is a two-way street but I find that a lot of friendships are worth putting in an effort. These are some of the efforts that I do to sustain a relationship. What do you do? What are your tips for creating and sustaining relationships?

Lekshmy Sankar is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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D. Villareal

Ditto Jackie. These are also questions of the heart. If measuring and comparing efforts helps take care of yourself and does not hurt others, then you are on the right path.

Alison Castellino

I don’t really like the advice you’ve been given. Feels to me too much like the throwaway society we have become. Don’t write your friend off completely, in later life your friend may appreciate the time you spent with you again and you may reconnect when you are both less busy.

Lekshmy Sankar

I completely get where you are coming from. I think I usually tend to do that – keep trying and then keep trying harder. What I am learning is, I just don’t have that much time anymore for friends who don’t put in the same amount of work.

Avatar photo Nicole Blake Johnson

“As all relationships, it is a two-way street.” I couldn’t have said it better. Is a friendship really a friendship if both people aren’t investing in the relationship? Letting go doesn’t mean you have to write the person off. It just means that you are taking an inventory of how YOU invest your time. Good for you, Lekshmy.

Ling Xu

“I realized I was trying so hard to be friends with them because of the time I had invested in them.”

People have always said I’m good at keeping in touch but it has started to get exhausting. I often I go out of my way to see or spend time with old friends because I want to make it convenient for them to maintain the friendship. Why not just let go of those who wouldn’t do the same for me? Your statement above hits the nail on the head -it’s because I don’t want all those years of investment to seem like a waste.

For those that are worth the effort, I find it is good to be intentional – not just saying “we should grab coffee/brunch/dinner sometime” but actually following through.

Lekshmy Sankar

It’s so hard though. As much you want to say it’s “sunk cost” – let it go, you are not going to get it back and it’s better to focus on people who will give you more effort, it’s still hard.