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Keep Friends


Techniques Happiness > Keep Friends

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One of the major sources of happiness is good relationships with other people. In other words, it pays to find and keep good friends.

A positive way to sustain friendship is to focus more on what you can do for them than what they can do for you.

Friends can include siblings, colleagues, fellow hobbyists, neighbors, or whoever. Keep on good terms with people as much as possible and try not to make enemies. Build a wide circle of friendly acquaintances and then steadily develop deeper friendships that naturally occur. This can be helped if you sustain a positive attitude about others, and that people are to be trusted until they prove otherwise.

Friends are people who you like and who like you. Good friends accept you as you are, and also care enough about you to criticize you when you act foolishly. Even though we may sometimes argue, it is a mark of friendship that this can happen without recrimination as we know that friends have our best interests at heart. 

Be ready to winnow out those that seem to take more than give, that want more from you than they are ready to put into the relationship. While the balance of give and take can slosh back and forth, in the end it should average out approximately equal. Note also that what you give and take can vary greatly and may include practical help, listening, praise, empathy, laughter, thanks, forgiveness and simply being there.


The Harvard Study of Adult Development has been following the lives and well-being of 724 people (and their families) for 75 years. Their overwhelming conclusion from regular studies of lived experience is that a very common key to happiness is good relationships.

When we see friends, we feel good. When we spend time with them, even doing nothing much, we feel good. When we help them, we feel good. When they help us, we feel good. This is related to the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which correlates with social interaction and consequent good feelings.

Friendship is like a flywheel. It spins along under its own momentum for a while, but still needs regular injections of effort to keep it going. With good friends, the friction is less and it is easier to pick up with them after a break. And yet the nature of friendship varies with each relationship and the only reliable advice is to find what works in each connection and avoid blaming anyone if a relationship does not work, even when wondering why the breakdown has happened.

While seeking to help friends is good, beware of over-doing the giving as people can feel you are building up too much social capital and that they are unable to repay you. This can lead to them becoming critical and angry. It can also lead to asymmetrical relationships where they keep taking as you keep giving, rationalizing the social imbalance as deserving punishment for your 'unkind' creation of an insurmountable obligation mountain.

See also

Social Networking, Devoted Service, Family Matters, Oxytocin, Friendship


The Harvard Study of Adult Development


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