How to Establish a True Friendship

You can begin your friendship by sharing interests.
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By the time you reach the teen and young adult years, it's likely that your friends are becoming much more than simple social playmates you hang out with on occasion. As you become more mature, when it comes to your relationships, you'll find that true friends provide emotional support, guidance and sometimes even the wisdom that you need to make weighty decisions. That said, understanding how to establish true friendships is an essential part of your emotional growth, social development and overall happiness.

1 Do Unto Others

True friendships don't work on a one-way basis. If you expect your friends to provide you with support or guidance, you'll need to do the same when establishing a lasting relationship. Avoid always taking from a friend, and instead show her acts of kindness in the same ways that she does for you. For example, if a friend gave you a shoulder to cry on when the guy you thought was the love of your life broke your heart, be there for her when she goes through a similar situation or offer your assistance and emotional support when she loses her first job or argues with her parents.

2 Accept Advice

It isn't easy to have someone else criticize your decisions or offer alternative ideas. Although it's often a challenge to hear a peer tell you that your girlfriend isn't right for you, that your college choices aren't going to make the grade or that you may need to tone down your gregarious nature at your first job, establishing a true friendship includes having the ability to listen to and accept advice. Having good judgment and providing appropriate advice is part of being a real friend. If you truly want to become friends with a peer or classmate, understanding that you need to accept this person's advice -- when it's appropriate -- is essential.

3 Asserting Individuality

Establishing friendships isn't the same thing as fitting in with a school clique. Whether you're in high school, college or starting out at your first "adult" job, cliques abound. Cliques are groups of people who have a strict code of conduct for membership and typically exclude others who don't meet their standards. If your new group will only accept you if you dress like them or drive a certain type of car, you aren't likely to establish true friendships. On the other hand, if you've found a group of people who accept you for who you are and share your interests, you can begin to create lasting relationships.

4 Constant Communication

Talking to a friend about your feelings for her and your growing relationship is one way to establish a true, and long-lasting, friendship. Whether you're starting a new friendship or trying to keep an older one afloat, communication is crucial for keeping up the commitment level. Help your friend understand just how important she is to you by using your own words. This doesn't always mean that you have to make a grand gesture. A simple "Thanks for being there for me" is sometimes enough to show your friend how much you value your relationship.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.