Admit it: You probably could be a better friend.
You’re not alone. We all live busy lives; jobs, significant others, family and so many other demands tend to take precedence over quality time with your besties. They’ve probably put you on the back burner, too!
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Most friends don’t need constant attention. Carving out a little time each week ― no more than 30 minutes, even ― is all you really need to remind them you’ve still got their back.
Therapists share six ways to strengthen your friendships no matter how busy your schedule is.
1. Use your commute time to check in with them.
Don’t think of your commute as dead time: Instead of staring out the window, watching some guy pick his nose through the reflection, use that time to start a conversation with your bestie, said Marie Land, a psychologist in Washington, D.C. (So much more pleasant, right?)
“Many people feel their commutes are just a waste of time and life, but try to make it a habit to call or text friends when you’re coming and going from work.”
Don’t use public transportation? Use those spare moments in line at the market or on your work break to catch up.
2. Spill the tea or tease something juicy that happened in your life.
You may not have the time ― or the zippy texting capabilities ― to fill your friend in on everything that’s happened since you last talked, but chances are you’ve got enough time to share one funny or interesting detail from your day.
“I think of my quick text messages as being similar to newsroom teases,” said Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas. “Text something from your day, like: ‘I just had a micro-needling procedure done to my face [attach your real-life horror pic], what’s up with you?’”
How could that not get your friend’s attention?
3. Text them a random memory that still makes you laugh.
Remember that time you tried to hit on a guy at the bar with your business card, then he introduced you to his boyfriend sitting right next to him? We bet your friend will remember, too. Send a little refresher text to add some humor to her day.
“Text those random memories that make you laugh,” said Andrea Bonior, a psychologist and the host of Baggage Check, a live weekly chat on The Washington Post site.
“Sharing a memory helps solidify your common history,” she said. “Basically, it reemphasizes the long-term role you have in each other’s lives and lets your friend know that you are thinking of them even when you’re not hanging out.”
4. Follow up when your friend tells you something rough that’s going on in his or her life.
A good friend will listen when you tell them about your crappy day or a truly heinous job interview. A great friend will listen, then follow up the next day to make sure you’re OK.
“You always want to let them know you’re thinking about them and really listening by checking in with something specific.” Land said. “If they were looking forward to a trip home, or nervous about an interview for a job or a doctor’s appointment, make a point to text them about it.”
5. Share something you’ve been feeling vulnerable about.
Make the time you do get to spend together count. If you have something weighty on your mind, get your friend’s thoughts on what you should do.
“Tell them something that’s been on your mind that you’re feeling a little vulnerable about. This increases your emotional intimacy with your friend and strengthens the trust you have between the two of you,” Bonior said.
6. Make a point to put in face time.
Texting and social media can get you by for a bit, but don’t let too much time pass before you see each other IRL.
“Most friendships can thrive on text, but I’d say you should meet in person every three to six months at least,” Whetstone said. “Do it with a group dinner or happy hour event with mutual friends so you can kill many birds with one stone.”