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Friends: How to Make, Keep, or Leave Them

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WebMD Feature

Maybe you have 571 friends on Facebook, but do you have close friends you want to hang with? A few special friends you can tell nearly anything? It's important for all of us to have good friends -- and to know how to end friendships that aren't working anymore. Here are some tips to help you navigate the twists and turns of friendship.

Find the Right Match

"You want to find someone who's as much like you, in terms of what you like to do and what you think about things,” says Kenneth Rubin, PhD, who studies human development at the University of Maryland. “What are their thoughts and feelings about smoking, drinking, sex, politics, other kids, and themselves?" Look for friends who like to do what you like to do.

Beware the Popular Kids

Hanging out with the popular kids isn't always so cool. It's usually tough to crack that inner circle, and you may not get the meaningful friendships you want.

“Very often, the kids who are popular make the worst friends,” Rubin says. They're trying to maintain their status in the hierarchy, and they're not trustworthy. You don't want to confide in them and provide them information that will keep you down in the hierarchy.”

For Closeness, Go for a Close Schedule

This may sound harsh, but you probably won't stay close friends with someone if they go to a different school, or you never have classes together.  You "grow apart, and then find a new friend in a new class or club," says Julia V. Taylor, a high school counselor in North Carolina. And that's healthy. Just think how miserable you would be if you never saw your good friends except on the weekend.

How to Nurture New Friendships

Once you've found someone you want to be friends with, help the friendship grow with these three tips from Irene Levine, author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

  1. Take it slow. Experts say friendships should develop gradually in order to last.
  2. Be available. Make time to do things with your new friend to help the friendship grow.
  3. Don't seem needy. A needy new friend can seem relentless, which is a huge turnoff.

 

How to End a Friendship You've Outgrown

It's natural for friendships to come and go as you change and learn more about yourself. If it's time to move on, let your friendship drift apart gradually, rather than fighting. Remember, Levine says, “A best friend today can easily become a frenemy tomorrow.”

“You can downgrade the friendship by being less available and spending less time with the person,” Levine says. “This can be difficult if the decision is one-sided, but it's important not to hurt or blame the other person. You have to think about how it will affect other mutual friendships. When you dump someone, there's no going back.”

Reviewed on July 26, 2011

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