Deep friendships are rooted in our beliefs about them.
These beliefs shape our expectations, which are then either confirmed or contradicted by evidence. Evidence is gathered when actions align with or contradict our beliefs and expectations. We all desire deep friendships that evoke strong emotions within us.
The key to experiencing these emotions lies in actions that reinforce our beliefs about what it means to have a profound connection with others.
QUICK Recap of emotional intimacy roots
The key to a strong friendship? When actions support your beliefs.
Your beliefs are your story roots.
Some Examples of Story Roots:
“We are best friends.”
“We are family.”
“We show up for each other.”
“We care about each other.”
“We will be friends for life.”
“We work together.”
“I can depend on this friend.”
“We were friends before we were even born. We’re friends for life.”
“We are sisters-in-law now.”
“I can trust them with anything.”
“They would help me if I needed them.”
“This person is my person.”
“I trust this person will show up for me.”
“It’s safe to tell this person about my mistake.”
“This person will comfort me in hard moments.”
“It’s ok to let my guard down.”
“I want to keep this person in my life.”
“They will understand this because we’ve had similar experiences.”
HOW TO build deep friendships
Growing Strong story Roots
Understanding your beliefs/expectations.How will you know what evidence to look for if you don’t understand your belief/expectations?
Niche down your beliefs. Instead of “they are my true friend,” get more specific with your story roots. Break down those story roots so you have a clearer understanding of what you expect.
Reflect on the ways your friends show up for you. Maybe they are putting effort into story roots you don’t even realize they are acting on.
Personalize story roots and expectations to each individual friend. Don’t create one blanket set for all friends.
Appreciate the small actions. This is important! More on this later.
Discuss your story roots with your friends. Communicate upfront. Communicate when you are let down. Communicate when you feel it’s time to reevaluate.
Growing OFFSHOOT ROOTS
Some actions provide evidence for multiple story roots. Notice when some story roots might be linked.
Friends show up in their ways, which might not be “the way you would show up.” However, these are ways they are comfortable showing up. Notice and appreciate their actions, strengths, and tendencies. Consider shifting your expectations, especially if there is a story root your friendship is struggling with. If you change the story root so that it highlights a natural way your friend shows up that makes consistency easier.
Evidence becomes inconsistent. You have outdated expectations or beliefs. Put in the work to reevaluate or let that story root die.
You have a story root, but unclear expectations. Finding evidence will be hard because you don’t know what constitutes good evidence.
Evidence had a pattern, but now is inconsistent. Discuss and allow for change. Tell your friend you found those actions meaningful, but also consider alternatives if they don’t feel like those actions are sustainable for them.
You don’t “take the compliment.” Your friends actions are evidence, but you find yourself thinking,“oh, they just do that for everyone.” Be sure to appreciate someone showing up for you.
You overlook the evidence.
Life has changed. A move. A new romantic partner. Kids. New career. New Business. Evidence will look different in new life circumstances. Time to reevaluate.
Roots wither. It’s bound to happen.
You must decide whether or not to invest energy into adjusting roots and/or creating new roots.
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Story roots die all the time, even in our strong friendships.
When a story root dies you don’t choose that belief anymore.
- Evidence contradicts our story root.
- There is a lack of recent evidence. You find yourself thinking “They used to care about me, but I am not so sure anymore.”
- Life has changed. A move. A new romantic partner. Kids. New career. New Business. Evidence will look different in new life circumstances. Time to reevaluate.
The other person let a story root die. They were acting out of guilt/shame or because they felt like they “should” but they have decided to let a root die, and that means you also need to mourn that root.
When we make and grow friendships, we create all sorts of new story roots. As we grow more roots overall, we likely start to have enough evidence to choose story roots.
Story roots we created as newer friends are constantly being replaced with new versions, but established friendships also require updates to their story roots.
Story Roots Keep Us Connected
Story roots can be why we initiate, connect, or think of each other.
Countless people have been a part of your life – classmates, family, teammates, neighbors, community members, co-workers, romantic partners, past friends.
We maintain contact with some because we share a similar interest or because we both went through a life-altering experience (illness, death) and share emotional intimacy roots.
We stay in contact with many of our long-term friendships or family relationships because of story roots:
- “I should call my grandma. We are family. A good grandchild calls their grandmother regularly.”
- “I need to see my childhood best friend when I am home for Christmas. We’ve been friends for so long. I should make an effort.”
- “I care about that person. I really should call them.”
- “They are my best friend. I need to make an effort to reach out more often.”
We care about these relationships, so we put in the effort to support the story roots on our end, but sometimes it’s important to take a step back and decide if you feel they are creating evidence to support your story roots. If they aren’t, you might feel unnecessary pressure to hold this relationship together from your side.
Curious how to keep a friendship strong? Read about the other types of roots.