Written by Riley’s Way Council member Olivia Rosenfield in partnership with the One Love Foundation
This summer, the One Love Foundation and Riley’s Way Foundation teamed up to highlight the roles empathy, kindness, and respect play in healthy friendships. Together, One Love and Riley’s Way trained a dedicated team of interns to write inspiring advice articles for the next generation of kind leaders! Each week their work focused on fostering authentic connections that build bridges (not barriers) in friendships rooted in empathy and compassion. Visit Joinonelove.org/learn and RileysWay.org to support our dedicated team of summer interns as they spread awareness about the importance of empathy, kindness, and healthy friendships with a new post each week on our blog.
Friendships are often based on what we have in common, but sometimes our interests can diverge and suddenly what was once a close friendship starts to shift. What do you do when you feel like you are drifting apart, now that you aren’t bonding over a similar lifestyle? It’s not always easy, but a little effort can go a long way. Even though you may not be in touch the way you were before, like texting all the time or talking on the phone, it’s quality rather than quantity that counts in preserving a friendship.
Here are a few ways to stay connected to a friend who has a different lifestyle than you.
The easiest way to strike up a conversation is to always ask your friend about their day. Saying “hello” or “what’s up” opens up a conversation and shows that, even though you may now have different interests, it doesn’t mean you aren’t interested. If their day was bad, listen to them tell you why. It goes a long way in showing someone that you care about them. Remember to listen for specific details when they are talking. You can bring up details about your friend’s life in later conversation, which serves as a good way to start talking if you feel distant or unfamiliar with your friend’s interests. For instance, let’s say that your friend now wants to play video games all the time and that is something you just aren’t into. You can still cheer them on when they say they won a tournament, even if you think you would rather run one hundred miles away from the nearest video game.
It’s important to keep an eye on how often your friend reaches out to you as well. In a healthy relationship, each friend should put equal effort into the friendship. If you are always the one to reach out, maybe it’s okay to distance yourself from that friend. If you notice that your friend is always reaching out and you’re not, put in a little extra effort to show your friend you care about them! Even if you don’t mean to be distant by not reaching out, it can sometimes come across that way, so just make sure to reach out as much as you can.
Being kind is just about the easiest way to preserve a friendship. When you feel like you and your friend are drifting apart, it’s natural to want to distance yourself from them first but it’s not necessary. A kind gesture, like being the first to say hi when you see them in the hallway, is the simplest way to break the ice and keep your connection strong.
Texting, Liking, and Posting
Use the ease of social media to your advantage! Since you probably aren’t talking as much as you used to, social media is a good way to see what your friend is up to and allows you to stay informed about their life. Don’t discredit the power of presence—if your friend posts a cool picture on Instagram or Facebook, like it to show your support, even if it’s not of the two of you. If you’re not the type to use Instagram or Facebook, try texting. It’s simple and helps you stay present in your friend’s life. But, try not to play the texting game. If he/she texts you, text back when you can, and don’t wait for a long time on purpose because your friend happened to take a long time to respond to you.
There is no replacement for seeing each other in person. A great way to spend time with a friend who you’re not as close to anymore is to get food together. You can work together to find a place on Instagram or Yelp, and then feel that sweet satisfaction when you finally get there. Additionally, going to cool food places is a good way to bond because it creates memories. It’s also fun to just hang out at someone’s house and watch a movie, or maybe even bake. Doing little things like a picnic at a park is also fun because you can spend time together without having to take up the entire day.
Honesty and Openness
Something important to keep in mind is that friendships take work. They’re not always perfect, and healthy friendships require both people to work hard at maintaining them. If you and your friend are becoming distant, try putting a little extra effort into any of the ways of reconnecting listed above. If something still doesn’t feel right, there is nothing wrong with having a candid conversation with your friend about your relationship. It’s important not to point fingers, but to try to get to the bottom of why you are no longer as close as you used to be. If it’s because you both live different kinds of lives, it can’t be helped and that’s ok! People grow and change and accepting each other’s changes will help you maintain a connection.
It’s normal to feel lonely sometimes. In fact, 72% of Americans say they feel lonely. When your friend becomes distant from you, it’s not unusual to feel twinges of loneliness but, if you make sure to stay in touch online and in person, your relationship has a better chance of working out. The bottom line is life is all about changes and friendships are no different.