In a recent NPR interview, psychologist and friendship expert Marisa Franco details going through a rough breakup in 2015 and her attempts to learn on her friends for support. They did yoga, cooked and read together. As she and her friends grew closer, she realized they were a deep well of love, community and healing. And she began to understand the importance of non-romantic, non-family relationships.
Franco’s professional work now focuses on helping others experience that same profound level of friendship. Her latest publication offers tips on how to improve the quality of our platonic relationships. Some of these tips are below, but you can read the full article at
- Say it – Tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them when you think of them in passing. Remind them you are grateful to know them. These simple acts provide a layer of security in the relationship. It shows your friends that you genuinely care for them and lets them know it’s safe to invest in your friendship.
- Show them – “Think about what your skills and talents are and find a way to turn that into a generous act,” she says. For example, when she found out that her friends wanted to learn more about how to set up investment accounts, she used her research and analysis skills as a psychologist to put together a presentation on the topic for them. You can share acts of generosity like this with your friends, too. If you’re great with kids, you might offer to babysit for your friends who are parents. If you’re a gym rat, you could help your friend train for a race they have coming up. Or if you got a raise at work, treat your friends to a fancy dinner to celebrate.
- Be Honest – We feel a deeper connection to our friends when our vulnerability is met with validation and support, says Franco. It means they accept us for who we really are, the good and the bad. So don’t be afraid to share your struggles with your friends, whether it’s an ex you’re having trouble getting over or a new job you’re having second thoughts about. They’re not going to judge you — and it may bring you closer. If you’re looking for a way to let your guard down without divulging your darkest secrets, Franco suggests sharing something positive, like a personal achievement — maybe you just finished sewing your first quilt, or you broke your own time record on a run.
- Fight – But being able to deal with conflict with friends in a healthy, constructive way can strengthen your friendships, she says. It might be painful at first, but it shows you want to be authentic with them — and that you want to make your relationship better. Start by telling your friend how much you value them, says Franco. It signals that the reason you’re bringing up the issue is because you’re invested in the friendship. Use “I” statements when explaining your concerns so your friend doesn’t feel like you’re blaming them. For example, if you’ve noticed they’ve been canceling plans at the last minute since they started a new job, you might say: “I feel hurt when you bail on our plans without giving me any notice.” Ask your friend for a different behavior you want to see in the future. For example, “It would be great if you gave me a heads up a few hours in advance if you know you’re not going to be able to make it.”