5 Ways to Build Lasting Friendships

Abigail Workman • 6 minutes

When I look back on my life, I realize that it could look completely different than it actually does. I have exciting things going on both at work and in my personal life, and I have people around me to celebrate with. These are the same people who gathered around me this time last year when life was really hard. They’re the people I call to process a difficult day at work. I’ve known and been friends with these people for years, and we’ve built lasting friendships that will endure through everything life throws at us in the future. But it’s not by accident.

How could my life have ended up looking completely different? I could have kept to myself when I moved to a new state. I could have decided that I didn’t have time for friends and that it was okay to be on my own. It would have been easy to choose loneliness as a safety blanket. But I chose to pursue lasting relationships.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably in one of a few situations. When you think about friends in your life, there might be a few people who come to mind, but you’re not really sure how close you are to them. The conversations stay more surface-level, and you don’t really know about the highs and lows in each other’s lives. The tips below will help you.

Or maybe you don’t have people in your life right now that you would consider to be friends. You may work in an isolated environment where relationships with coworkers aren’t a priority. Or perhaps past hurts have caused you to put up emotional walls. The idea of having friends may seem more daunting than being alone. Or you might have made choices that have pushed people away and you’re not really sure what to do now. All of that is valid—and I would encourage you to try again.

Lasting friendships are relationships that go through different seasons, have ups and downs, and persist, despite what life throws at them.

Regardless of what your relationships look like right now, I want you to know that it’s possible to build lasting friendships. Lasting friendships are relationships that go through different seasons, have ups and downs, and persist, despite what life throws at them.

Here Are 5 Ways You Can Build Lasting Friendships, Starting Today

1.  Start a conversation. 

Sounds simple enough, right? But I’ve found that if you want to build a lasting friendship, you need to have conversations that go beyond “Beautiful weather we’re having,” and “How has work been?” Every person has a desire to be known. And one of the best ways to become known is through real conversations with others.

Think of some truly meaningful topics to talk about:

  • Your passions and dreams.
  • The things that break your heart.
  • What you would do with your life if anything were possible.

These kinds of subjects don’t just lead to longer discussions; they lead to deeper ones. And when you have more genuine and intentional conversations, you learn more about each other in a way that naturally brings you closer. You discover common interests, passions, and ways to encourage one another toward your goals and dreams.

2. Be okay with weird people—you’re probably one of them. 

I never wanted to be perceived as “weird.” But then I had a conversation with someone I trusted, and with the most sincere response, he told me that everybody’s weird. In other words, we all have qualities, experiences, and gifts that make us unique. Yet, sometimes, we hide who we are to fit in.

My trusted friend reminded me that everyone has a quality someone might consider “weird.” We can hide and pretend to be a false version of ourselves. Or we can embrace who God made us to be. This truth brought me incredible freedom. 

It helped me realize that being weird is just part of the human condition. We’re all weird in our own ways, and I’ve developed a perspective of gratitude for other people’s differences and oddities instead of jealousy and comparison.

Acknowledging that everyone’s weird, including me, has allowed me to step into new friendships without feeling forced to “have it all together” or to be some definition of perfect. Instead, I get to show up exactly as I am, and the other person is free to do the same.

3. Manage your expectations. 

Many of us have a vivid memory or experience that comes to mind when we think about a friendship going wrong. Whether we’re still hurt or have healed, these experiences still make it challenging to pursue friendships now. So it’s important to manage your expectations of others. There will be moments when people fall short and let you down. So go ahead and decide right now how you’ll respond. And pre-decide how you’ll respond when you fall short of your own expectations and hurt someone else.

Boundaries aren’t barriers—they’re bridges.

4. Set healthy boundaries. 

This can feel like an intimidating or scary thing to do, especially when you’re thinking about building friendships that last. Setting boundaries around the relationships you want to grow and build for the long haul can feel counterintuitive. So I’d ask you how you currently think about boundaries. It’s likely that if you think of adjectives like “restrictive,” “mean,” or “hurtful,” that you have an incomplete definition of boundaries. Boundaries aren’t barriers—they’re bridges.

Instead of viewing boundaries as confining barriers that negatively impact your relationships, think of them as bridges. Bridges connect two places in a safe way, and protect the health of both places.

Here are two boundaries that I have in my friendships:

  • Emotional Boundaries. We all express emotions and needs in different ways in different seasons. If I find that a particular friendship feels more draining and less mutual, I find ways to set better emotional boundaries like displaying empathy without feeling pressured to propose a solution, communicating off-limits topics, and sharing when I need a moment to process my own feelings in response to a conversation.
  • Time Boundaries. We all run on our own internal clocks. Sometimes, I’m in bed by 7:00pm and up by 5:30am. Other times, I stay up later and sleep in longer. And sometimes, my friends are on opposite schedules, which is okay. It doesn’t mean that we’re not prioritizing our friendships, it just means that we have to work harder to find better times to meet.

5. Keep showing up. 

It takes time and energy to build and maintain lasting friendships. There are hard days and great days. Sometimes we don’t know if our efforts will pay off or be in vain. When you start wrestling with similar thoughts, I want to encourage you to keep showing up.

We all need people. It’s how we were designed from the beginning. Healthy community has always mattered, and it still matters now—despite the lies we hear in society that try to convince us that we’re better alone. Instead, choose to keep showing up for your people. And when you do, I promise that they’ll show up for you, too.

We all need and want friendships, but it’s not always easy to know how to come by these healthy relationships. Trust me when I say that a conversation can change your life. So go do something about it. Set up a coffee with an old friend, grab lunch with a coworker, or spend time in a new place intentionally looking for someone to connect with. You’ll begin to see the power in building lasting friendships.