One of the greatest stress relievers in life is to have a good friend. Before the age of psychologists and psychiatrists, people reached for their friends to talk over their problems. In many cases, a good friend is all that is needed when we are confronted with the normal stresses of life.  Doctors tell us that meaningful relationships and friendships help us live a longer and richer life.

In the year 2000, the Dalia Lama said to me, “You should only be friends with people who see, who you are, value, and validate you.”  And, in fact, you can only be a true friend with people who share your values.

Reach out to people with similar interests

To make friendships and relationships rewarding, one must first reach out to others. The best place to look for a friendship is in the areas of your own interests.  My mother told me, when I first started to date, that “Prince Charming is not going to come up to your door on a white horse, you are going to have to go out there to find him.”

The same is true of friendship. You have to go out there to find it. You must override both reticence and shyness. This is a behavior modification model. You have to put yourself out there and reach out to others who have common interests. Great places to start searching for friends with similar interests include: clubs, organizations, churches, synagogues, and mosques, meet up groups, and online groups.

You have to know how to be a friend, to make a friend

Here are some tips on developing strong, lasting friendships:

1. Create intimacy. In all relationships, bonding is everything, whether it is your mate, your child, your family, or your friend. The moment you meet someone on a date, the first thing the two of you do is share your history. That is the first step towards intimacy and bonding. By telling your story and listening to the story of others, you learn about shared experiences, challenges, and what you have in common. You discover who that person is under his/her skin; how they view and experience the world; their likes and dislikes; and, their interests and passions. This information connects you to one another and gives you a way to relate. Such intimate sharing is so powerful that it can become a vehicle to help you emotionally touch one another, and even help confirm each other’s feelings.

Many people, however, are fearful of intimacy.  In fact, it is one of greatest roadblocks on the way to relationship. Some times, a person will sabotage a blossoming friendship/relationship simply because they fear the vulnerability of being close. It is very common for a friend or mate to initiate a fight, after a particularly intimate conversation or experience. This gives the fearful person, space and distance, which once again restores a sense of control.

2. Listen and learn.Be respectful and value both yourself and others by recognizing that each one of us is a unique human being. When you give your full attention to another’s story and life experience, you gain insight not only into the other person, but into yourself. The message you give to the other person is that you appreciate and value what he or she has to say, who they are, and their passions.

This exploration of self and others also gives us good information to help us to decide whether this person is the right friend/relationship for us. Do you share common values, goals and interests? Do you see the world through similar eyes? And most importantly, can you be your authentic self with them?

3. Be authentic. Find your inner voice, your vocation, and dare to listen to it. Only the outcast can lead. By being yourself and respecting yourself you will find others like you. There is nothing worse in friendship or relationship than feeling that your friend is so high-maintenance that you can never be your essential self or have your needs met. Knowing that informs you, therefore, that you are not liked or valued for how you are, but how you perform.

Each of us has our own special talents and gifts. By listening to that inner voice, you will find not only a good friend who likes you for yourself, but also, your place in the world. The unconscious is always organizing your outer world to bring you to that understanding – to bring you to consciousness and your authentic self. By being who you are and who you were meant to be, the unconscious will bring you what you need to support your journey and that is always bigger and better than what you could image for yourself. This is how we access our own gifts and talents, and this is how we create a legacy.

4. Leaving a legacy. If you change the course of one person’s life for the better, in a sense, you change the world. The ripple effect of kindness is transformative. Finding friends with common interests, passions, and values can give you the support you need to recognize and acknowledge your inspiration and your dreams into reality. Value-for-value is how legacies are born. When you help someone, you lend value and meaning to your life, and that validation allows you to give value to others.

5. Don’t pressure anyone, including yourself.In relationships, people react to pressure by either shutting down or withdrawing from the source. Pressuring another to see or follow our point of view can frighten a friend away. The most common desire is the desire to be free, and when we force our perspective onto others, we threaten their sense of self. This feeling of “gotcha” is both demeaning and humiliating.

6. Never manipulate or dominate.Manipulation and bullying diminish who you are and defines what you think of your friend or mate. It is difficult enough to control yourself, never mind the actions and behavior of others. People who have the need to control are often feeling out of control. When you move into friendships with low self-esteem, you attract friends that have low self-esteem. This forfeits the opportunity to make a mutual and healthy relationship.  The best friendships and relationships are crafted from a place of strength not weakness.  Nobody likes needy friends. In fact, it is important to honor your friends’ need for space and distance…and that takes maturity. However, by bullying and manipulating others, you are revealing your own insecurities. Often in friendships and relationships, you gravitate to that which you need and are familiar with, rather than what you want. If you pay attention to your behavior, you can deliberately override it, and choose a more healthy approach.

7. Don’t be a Critical Parent.Whether in relationship or friendship, grownups have passed through the stage in which they need or want to be judged and criticized by their parents.  Unless you want all the negative baggage from parental relationships to enter and merge with your friends/relationships, you need to keep judgment away. When you criticize others with a charge and a passion, you are usually projecting out your flaws and vulnerabilities.  Remember that the pointing finger points back. When you have a particularly intense reaction to another’s behavior, it is often because you see some aspect of that behavior in yourself. By recognizing, acknowledging and integrating back your projection, you have the opportunity to redeem it. This is the path towards wholeness and health for both yourself and your friendships.

8. Weed Your Garden. Sarah Ockler, wrote in Fixing Delilah, “In your entire life, you can probably count your true friends on one hand.”  It takes a lot of effort to be a real friend. It takes commitment, obligation, mutuality, and responsibility.  As a result, that level of interaction cannot be shared with everyone. There are levels of friendships and the wise person understands the difference. You can give confidences to a friend, but you have to first know that they are a friend. They need to fit into the categories of commitment, obligation, responsibility, mutuality, and share your values. Friends should be loyal and validate you, be there when you need them, support your dreams and goals, be mutual and trustworthy.

It is difficult to recognize these characteristics when you first meet someone, therefore, it is important to know someone well, before you share your deepest and darkest secrets. Never give a person the tools with which to hurt you. If you share a confidence before your friend is tested, tried and true, then you do not really know if your secrets are safe with them. Trust is based on experience. You have to know someone before you can trust them.

Value Your Friends

Authentic friends value your friendship and treat it gently. A true friend is someone you can count on to be in your corner, whether you are right or wrong.  Remember my last point: weed your garden.  Let go of the negative and toxic people in your life and make room for real friends, who like you for who you are, value you, and validate you.

A good friend is hard to find, and a true friendship takes commitment…it is worth the effort.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.