National Friendship Week

National Friendship Week: How To Build Better Friendships

Friendships are important to our lives. In addition to providing a support system, unwavering love and some much-needed comic relief, good friendships can also make us happier, healthier and more confident.

Friendships provide us with a fallback system and have the potential to teach us lessons about the world and how we run our lives. Although friendships, like any relationship, can sometimes be challenging, it is important to nurture them in order to build lasting partnerships that can stand the test of time.

Friendship Week came about as a way to honor existing friendships and focus on building new ones. The holiday week is often celebrated by the distribution of bracelets with positive messages on them or through various school and workplace programs.

Friendship week offers a great opportunity for in-home care specialists to create some fun events with their clients and use the week as a way to promote bonding and increase closeness between themselves and their patients.

In honor of Friendship Week, here are the top five tips to build, nurture and maintain great friendships:

1) Be Open

In many ways, friendships are lessons for the rest of our lives. Friendships can teach us many things and provide us with a forgiving platform to improve ourselves and be honest about our faults and mistakes. Because of this, one of the most important aspects of nurturing strong friendships is learning to be open.

Being open means sharing feelings honestly, discussing any annoyances or bothersome occurrences that may pop up and learning to be respectful. Friendships, like many of life’s other relationships, have a hard time surviving if open communication isn’t happening. Focus on being open in your closest friendships and you will be rewarded with an unwavering support system and plenty of laughs for years to come.

To apply this to a home care setting, work on telling your clients one of the things you appreciate about him or her, each day. In addition to strengthening the bond between you and your clients, this will often serve to help a client with depressive symptoms feel happier and more positive.

2) Practice Acceptance

As much as we love our friends, nobody is perfect and it’s possible (and very likely) that there will be times when you don’t agree with a friend’s choices. In these instances, practice acceptance and let your friend make his or her own decisions.

In addition to allowing you to let go, practicing acceptance is also a great way to show our friends that we respect and love them, no matter what. Feel free to share your opinion if your friend asks for it, but then take a step back. Remember: your friend has his or her life and you have yours.

Respecting a friend’s intelligence and autonomy and accepting them just as they are at any given moment is the best way to ensure that you get the same treatment down the road. Additionally, practicing acceptance does nothing but make you a bigger, strong person that is more capable of handling anything that might come down the road.

To apply this to a home care setting, practice accepting the choices, moods and opinions of your clients, even when they don’t align with yours. Home care is an intimate environment and one of the best ways to ensure you are providing the best care you are capable of is to ensure that you are not attempting to change or coerce your clients in any way. By doing this, you meet your clients where they are and provide them with the respect and assurance of caring for them without also trying to change them.

3) Make Friendships a Priority

In order to build great friendships, it is important to ensure that your friendships have priority in your life. In today’s busy world, it’s easy to get wrapped up in work and various other obligations at the expense of our friendships. Unfortunately, this carries the very real risk of damaging relationships in the long run.

To avoid this pitfall, ensure that you make your friendships a priority, even when things get busy.  Think of your friends as your life jackets. You don’t want to throw them overboard in the middle of a stormy sea.

Learning to apply this to a home care setting is twofold: on one hand, this means that you should focus completely on every client while you are with him or her, thus making that client and the relationship between you your priority. On the other hand, it also means taking the time to nurture your friendships outside of work. Home care is a rewarding yet stressful environment that can easily make it difficult to make time for friends. In order to avoid this pitfall, learn to consciously make time to see your inner circle, no matter how tired or stressed you may be.

4) Listen

The act of listening is a central feature in any great friendship. It is impossible to have open, honest or fulfilling communication without being able to listen actively. In order to build and maintain a great friendship, it is important to learn to listen. Active listening means making eye contact, turning your body toward the person speak and using reflective responses to convey understanding and attention.  In addition to helping your friend feel heard and respected, the practice you get listening to friends will benefit you in almost every other area of your life.

People who know how to listen without interrupting, becoming defensive or actively trying to “fix” things help make other people feel safe and comfortable, which is especially important for those engaged in-home care or healthcare settings. Practice listening to your friends and your clients and watch how it ripples out into the rest of your life.

5) Express Gratitude

At the end of the day, great friends are one of our biggest blessings and they deserve to know how special they are to us. To show your friends how much you appreciate them, hand-write a small thank-you note, schedule a special dinner or purchase a small gift or a bouquet of flowers.

To apply this to a home care setting, don’t be shy about telling your clients what they have taught you. People in a home care setting often have depressive symptoms and may feel as if they are no longer useful or wanted. By being open with your clients about how they have positively affected your life, you can help uplift your clients and inspire a gratitude ripple effect.

Expressing gratitude helps our friends feel appreciated and valued and, in turn, produces stronger friendships, deeper bonds and more lasting connections.

Elbert Hubbard is famous for having said, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” In that spirit, we honor Friendship Week. Our friends are our greatest support systems, cheerleaders, court jesters and psychiatrists and life would be much different without them.  This week, dedicate some time to nurturing, building and maintaining your great friendships because, come what may, our closest friends make our lives distinctly better.