It’s actually pretty simple. “If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.” These are the famous words of my husband’s grandmother. She took conversation making seriously, and understood the golden rule of friendships — put into people what you want back.
When it comes to making friends, we all pretty much understand the same principle applies: to have a friend, we know we have to be a friend. But sometimes this isn’t so straightforward, and is harder than it seems.
It’s not that you aren’t trying — focusing on your efforts can undermine your relationship-building. People pick up on your negativity and your self-focus…and it’s a turn off.
Healthy people are ultimately drawn to happiness, and people that are kind. If you don’t seem happy or able to give and take, you’re not attracting the best people around you.
Here are three ways thinking of others — instead of yourself — can help you turn the corner in developing more MEANINGFUL connections:
1. You Can Actually Trick Yourself Into Actively Seeking New Friends
For starters, it’s not like it used to be. Making friends is about putting in the effort, and at times it can feel a bit like networking — not something most people like to do, even if it’s something we all have to do if we want to cultivate resilient social networks.
New research from Harvard Business School suggests that taking the focus off of yourself entirely, and instead focusing on how you can help others or a valued cause can facilitate your willingness to participate.
2. You Can Deepen (or Renew) Your Connection With the Friends You Already Have
While this should go without saying, being kind to others is universally well received by them. Not only do people appreciate being shown attention and understanding, but these efforts make an impact, distinguishing you from others who may not show friendship.
Instead of tracking what you are getting out of a friendship, try instead to track what is going on with the people in your life and how they are doing. Try putting yourself in their shoes and reach out to them.
To have a friend, after all, is to be a friend.
3. You Can Benefit From Better Mental and Physical Health
Science shows that kindness is not only a great way to cultivate relationships, but is good for your physical and mental health. Compassion and kindness have been linked to better physical health and longevity.
Thinking about others is also good for our mental health, because when we are happier when we are kind, and we are kinder when we are happier.
Adopting a compassionate and caring mindset can have positive ripple effects on the people around you, the quality of your relationships, and most importantly, your physical and emotional health.
Thinking about others is not just a strategy for winning friends; it’s a strategy for nurturing the relationships we care about, as well as ourselves. Be more kind to the people around you and you might be surprised how full your social life will become.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: If You Want To Make Friends, Stop Being SO Obsessed With YOURSELF.