The elderly neighbor who inspires you with her beautiful garden and sunny outlook on life.
The straight-shooting coworker who you love to bounce ideas off of.
Your partner-in-crime bestie who cracks you up even when you’re in the worst of moods…
There’s no set formula for a friend. “Take one-part this and two parts that, shake together.” No, friends come from all different areas of our lives.
Friends ground us. They pull us back from the ledge. They keep us sane. Friends help us when we’re down and cheer us on when we’re up. No man (or woman) is an island. We all share a very real need to connect with others.
I know making new friends as an adult is a challenge—even for pretty social people. It’s hard to blurt out, “Let’s hang out!” and not feel weird or awkward. We might have hundreds of social media pals, but scheduling face-to-face time is harder. Yet, face-to-face time with friends is so vital.
When it comes to core friendships, there are certain types we ALL need to have. We may have a best friend or a close pal (maybe even a mother, daughter or sister) we really connect with the most, but it’s hard to rely on just one friend…or we may have hundreds of friends, but still feel a little lonely from time to time.
So, what really makes a friend and how can we cultivate a wide range of friends? What are the types of friends everyone should have?
1. The Confidant
Who she is: We all need someone we can confide in and talk to. We need a friend we trust, who is willing to lend an open mind and a listening ear.
How to keep the friendship strong: When it comes to the confidant, it’s all about reciprocity. Make an effort to speak kindly and avoid spreading information when it’s shared. Instead of jumping in with advice, interrupting, telling friends “how they are” or quickly relating with a personal anecdote, instead: Occasionally. Just. Listen.
Take inspiration from this pal and learn to keep confidence and be supportive. If a friend is going through a tough time, learn to listen and be there for her, too. Communication is a two-way street and when two friends share this kind of bond, it becomes unbreakable.
2. The Inspiration
Who she is: Maybe she’s older or she has great experience. Maybe she’s the gal who “has it all together” and handles situations with diplomacy and grace. She might inspire with her faith, her dedication, her work ethic, her mom skills or something else entirely. Point is, she’s a role model.
How to keep the friendship strong: Tell this friend what you admire about her. Let her know how much of an inspiration she is and how grateful you are to have her in your life. When a chance arises to spend time with this amazing woman, take her advice and thank her for her guidance.
How many people come into our lives and inspire us? And yet, we rarely take time to thank them or point out how much their friendship means. Take every opportunity to tell friends how wonderful they are and soak up time with them.
We might have many different friends who fall under the inspiration category—and that’s just fine! We can all be inspired in several different ways. It’s not about comparison and competition; it’s about learning from your friend. Who knows? You might be someone’s inspiration, too!
3. The Cheerleader
Who she is: We ALL need a cheerleader! She’s the one who says, “You can do this!”—even when we think we can’t. She’s supportive, positive and helps friends achieve their goals even when self-doubt creeps in.
How to keep the friendship strong: Learn how to cheer back! If you’ve got a friend who shares her recipes with you and gets you through a 5K or a deadline, you’ve got to do the same for her. Help her meet her goals, too!
Focus on the positive. When this friend is feeling discouraged or down, express confidence in them. If a friend is struggling, offer to help watch the kids so she can get errands caught up. Ask her how to help her reach her goals or do the achieve her dreams. Tell her how much you believe in her and tell her you’re willing to do what you can to help her achieve!
We all start to feel self-doubt creep in sometimes, and really, sometimes we need to hear we’ve totally got it under control. A cheerleader isn’t a coach and doesn’t dispense unsolicited advice. They simply cheer us along the way and help us see our inner-strength. So be the cheerleader for your cheerleader—she might need you as much as you need her!
4. The Twin
Who she is: Our “twins” are often going through the same situations we are at the same time. They’re our fellow moms, our office BFFs or the ladies we take classes with. When it comes to “twins,” they probably have similar interests and are close in age and lifestyle.
How to keep the friendship strong: Be genuine and support each other! Often when we’re so similar to our peers, we start to let competition creep in. We look at each other’s Instagram and Facebook feeds and see their perfect family photos and we feel a twinge of jealousy or a spur to keep up with the Joneses.
Instead of getting jealous or competitive, be supportive and real. It’s so funny because people often ask me how I manage to keep it all together, and I think, “Wow, if you only knew!” Not one of us is perfect…or even close. Chances are, the perfect family photo came right along with fifty outtakes, complete with tears and frowns and goofy faces.
When we’re real and genuine, it shows. Rather than one-upping your “twin,” relate to her and support her through her endeavors. When she does something amazing, tell her. Compliment her and let her know she’s rocking it and we’re all in this together!
5. The Entertainer
Who she is: She’s the friend who cracks us up with her crazy stories and experiences. She’s funny, fun and someone who breaks us out of our shells and gets us to check out new experiences.
How to keep the friendship strong: Say yes! Your girlfriend might invite you to try karaoke, check out an Ethiopian restaurant, or go to a film festival. Maybe she’s the one who gets you to play in an adult volleyball league or taking a sculpting class. This friend pushes you out of your comfort zone and that’s not a bad thing.
So often, we become comfortable with the status quo. New activities are intimidating. There’s never enough time or energy, and it’s easy to talk yourself out of trying new activities or being social.
Our social activities and face-to-face interactions recharge our batteries. The friend who keeps you in stitches and gets you to give something new a whirl is valuable because she’ll keep you social, young and vibrant. You’ll become richer for your shared experiences and have a great time making memories in the process!
6. The Voice of Reason
Who she is: The voice of reason isn’t bossy or controlling. She’s simply a good guide and a moral compass. She helps us gain perspective and make better choices. She’s the one we go to when we’re truly facing a dilemma and need some sage advice.
How to keep the friendship strong: Value her advice and don’t let her down. Use her words wisely and economically. It’s so easy to rely on the voice-of-reason friend as your sounding board for everything. She gives great advice and guidance. She’s helpful and wise.
However, voice-of-reason friends get burned out when they feel they’re constantly dispensing the same advice over and over. Rather than becoming too needy or spiraling into venting and complaining, learn to follow this valuable advice carefully, reasonably and thoughtfully. When you’re truly facing a hard choice, embrace the sound wisdom of this friend and take her words to heart.
When you’re simply annoyed or frustrated, call your cheerleader or go out with your entertainer friend to turn your mood around. The voice of reason should be valued and treated like the amazing resource she is!
When it comes to any friendship, give as much as you get from the friendship. At different times in our lives, we’re either able to do more for our friends or sometimes we get busy and it’s hard. Don’t let your valuable friends slip away. Create time to nurture your friendships and keep them strong.
Be there for your friends when they need you. After all, friendship is one of our greatest gifts!
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Such a good post! Lots of my friends have recently moved to different neighborhoods so there has been a greater focus on intentional communication. This is helpful in finding the best ways to spend time with each of my friends!
Great advice. I am currently having a hard time in this area. My very best friend and confidant was always my little sister who was two years younger than me. She passed away two years ago after a hard fought battle with cancer. The next year my older inspirational friend that always called us her children passed away. The three of us used to always meet up for coffee or breakfast, grocery shopping, etc. I am now retired so I really don’t have the social interaction I would if I were still in the workforce. I do have several friends that I meet with to do things like beading or quilting, but we are not as close as I wish we were. It is a challenge for me to make new friends at 60 years old but I refuse to give up. Your post shows me how I can plan for the day that the good Lord puts a good friend in my path. Thank you!
Interesting, this post made me realize which kind of friend *I* am! I love the emphasis on reciprocity. So many times, people focus on how they can benefit from a friendship, but forget that it’s a two-way street. Thanks for the reminder!
Your post on friendship is the best treatment of the subject that I have seen. Thank you for your sage advice! I was reminded not to take friendship for granted this week when one of my friends (closest friends) told me she had held a grudge against me for 22 years. I was shocked and hurt. Somehow back then she thought I should apologize about something I expected her to understand due to the circumstances. I was unaware of her feelings all these years. Apparently she feels it is resolved now. I am still reeling from the shock. But I forgive her even if she didn’t forgive me. So your advice about quick resolution of differences is well taken. Again thank you for the thoughtful advice. — Elizabeth