Every good friendship requires mutual respect and trust. However, these components won't be there without effort and energy from both parties. Effective communication is needed to build and maintain a healthy, solid foundation for a friendship. To communicate well, you need to know how to listen, build trust and deal with any issues that may cause tension.
Learn to Listen
During conversations with your friend, make sure you are completely involved in the process. Make eye contact and use appropriate body language to show you hear what she is saying, such as an encouraging nod or a sympathetic shake of the head. Give your friend the opportunity to talk without interruption and when she has finished, reflect back what you have heard, advises therapist Isodora Alman. This shows that you have really listened and value what she has to say.
Practice Structured Dialog
Using structured dialog can improve your relationship, says behavioral analyst Stephanie Michele in her "Huffington Post" article, "Communication Boosters: Relationship Improvement Exercises." Aim to have the conversation for about 15 to 30 minutes, on a topic that inspires a verbal exchange of experiences, such as your greatest passions or your favorite holiday destinations. Listen to what your friend has to say and confirm that you understand, then share your own experiences and emotions in relation to the topic.
Back Up Words with Actions
Telling your friend she can always count on you to be there for her means nothing unless you actually prove this to be the case. When friends know what to expect from each other, trust is easier to establish and preserve, says Michele. For example, by telling your friend, "I will go to the gym with you," and then turning up every week to lift weights with her, you are building trust. Your friend will know she can trust your words, because you have communicated it to her through your actions.
Face Up to Conflict
Arguments between friends can be healthy, provided they are dealt with in the right way. Bickering, getting defensive and avoiding the issue entirely are not healthy ways to deal with conflict, says psychologist Susan Heitler in the "Psychology Today" article, "What Makes Conflict? How are Conflicts Resolved?" Talking about the problem with your friend is the only way to reach a resolution. Both parties need to agree that a conflict exists before taking turns to suggest ways to deal with the issue, explore the pros and cons of each suggestion and reach a compromise. If both of your concerns are addressed, neither will feel short-changed, and the effective resolution of the conflict will strengthen your existing bond.
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