Here are 23 things you might do to improve your time together with someone whether they be a friend, work colleague, or romantic partner.
1. Walk side by side together. Intuitively headed in the same direction at the same pace, your breath, leg, and arm movements become synchronized leading from a physical camaraderie to an emotional and mental commune.
2. Have meaningful conversations. Beyond the daily weather, TV, sports, politics, traffic, etc., consider letting your guard down. Talk about what you want out of life, how you felt when you didn’t get accepted to the college you wanted to go to, what kind of parent you want to be, and so on. Obviously, you need to strike a balance of meaningful conversations and regular conversations, but the meaningful ones will really accelerate your friendship.
3. Share yourself. That includes worries, hopes and dreams, and your feelings about the other person. Don’t be afraid of any of it. This is kind of an antidote to really bad relationships: if you’re super honest about how you’re feeling, then you’ll end up communicating your disappointment as soon as necessary.
4. Go to a wedding, funeral or christening together. Seeing life’s defining moments together can form a lasting bond. If the same things make the two of you smile, cry, etc., that’s taking your friendship to a deeper level.
5. Do something entirely text and phone free like camping, hiking, climbing, backpacking or perhaps something such as “Burning Man.” and burning man work for me. Anywhere text free probably works.
6. Do favors for others and just as importantly, let others do nice things for you. Studies show that when you do something nice for someone, especially on a whim, then you will like them more. That’s right, the person doing the favor will feel closer to the person receiving the favor. It turns out that when we go out of our way to do something for someone else, our minds thinks, “I did this nice thing that I didn’t have to do, so this person must be worth that effort.” Go out of your way to visit a friend at the hospital, help them move to a new house, stay up late helping them practice for a presentation, and so on.
7. Work together on a project that you both care about deeply. The connections formed via work and grad school are obvious, but it’s also true for civic projects as well. There’s something inspiring about getting to know a friend who is trying incredibly hard at something that matters to you, too. Even if you argue at time, those arguments will sharpen and realign your understandings of each other.
8. Try some fun games including board games, races like who would walk back home faster, or a socially interactive yet physical game such as golf.
9. Share truly unique experiences. Beyond the usual movies that you won’t remember a few years from now, pick something truly memorable like attending an amazing concert, playing a famous golf course, eating at an esteemed restaurant or anything you both do for the first time. You will remember the event vividly and, by association, you’ll remember the people you shared it with. When someone is a core part of many of your most precious memories, it’s hard not to feel closer to them.
10. Take a long drive together and leave the radio or music off.
11. Suffer together. Do something that each of you believes will be hard. This might mean volunteering for a presentation when both of you are afraid of public speaking, training for a marathon, volunteering for an assignment, or taking a college class together. When two people suffer side-by-side, the suffering deepens their connection.
12. Get to know each other’s families. You will see the same people with different perspectives. So often we act in response to our experiences and understanding another’s family provides keen insights. Share impressions afterward about what someone’s uncle, sibling or child is all about. As you do so, you and your emerging friend will find one another more intriguing.
13. Revisit each others’ past. Just like getting to know each other’s families, sharing glimpses of old diaries, photo albums or even childhood playgrounds can be an insightful window into another. If you and a friend open up about how you each became the person that you are today, that’s adding a lot to your friendship.
14. Fake it ’til you make it. You become closer by acting as if you were already close. One study showed that pairs of strangers who were asked to stare into each other’s eyes for several minutes reported higher feelings of affection and attraction than a control group. Pretend intimacy results in actual intimacy.
15. Commit to something you don’t yet have. Relationships are about moving forward together, but someone has to take the first, scary step forward. Express your dreams and maybe you have something in common you can both work toward together.
16. Play together. It’s been said that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. And don’t stop there. Laugh and tease together. It’s a basic principle of emotional intelligence that if you’re not able to have fun with what life throws at you, you won’t connect with people.
17. Consider connecting through Facebook. Yes, Facebook and here’s why. It allows me to stay up-to-date on the basic facts of other people’s lives. So when I’m with them in person, we can skip the fact exchange and move directly into a deeper conversation.
I have numerous friends, but many are distant, and I don’t see them in person as often as I’d like. Pre-Facebook, we used to spend oodles of time “catching up” every time we got together. This basically meant easing into feeling connected emotionally and exchanging basic information about what we had been up to lately. Now we have a stronger baseline of feeling connected because we see each other online several times a week. If one of us has a new job or is thinking of moving to a new city, we already know about it. If one of us has a sick family member, we already know about it. We may even be friends with said family member on Facebook! As a result, it’s just easier to move quickly into a deep conversation with rich emotional content.
18. For some, it’s better to simply be quiet together, to treasure the time together , and say very little yet hold hands, or sit close together. It could be simply watching a film and just be close to another. There is a lot to be said for being quiet, and close, and simply holding hands and showing affection. Leave world peace, global warming, and job conversations aside and just breathe, live a little, and take your time.
19. Eat together without noisy distractions or idle conversation. Dinner and conversation actually isn’t a bad way to spend time. The caveat is having good conversation; you should be happy from eating good food and talking about things that matter to you rather than making small talk over the little crappy things that bug you or idle gossip.
20. Be an attentive listener. What you do and what you don’t do can be equally important. If you optimize the activities you do together, but forget important things about the other person, you will end up sabotaging your time. Nothing communicates “I don’t care about you” more than you not remembering something that’s very meaningful to your new friend.
21. Be authentic and willing to risk or lose something. Sharing sadness, happiness, anger, and excitement may bring you closer or drive you apart, but you must be willing to come from your authentic self if you want an authentic relationship.
22. Give yourself space to reflect. Moving a relationship forward requires deliberate effort, and if you don’t give yourself time to understand what the next step is, you won’t get there quickly or ever. What’s more, without time to reflect, you might end up pushing into a relationship that sucks the energy right out of you.
23. Follow through. So far, you’re being self-aware and honest. Follow this to its logical conclusion. If there’s enough dissonance between the person you’re with and the person you want, then you should end it.
Let life’s natural pacing take care of itself. Part of getting relationships right is knowing when to spend time together — and when to allow for at least a little time apart. Sharing is good, openness is good, and unique experiences are good, but that doesn’t mean that your first meeting should involve telling someone about your issues with your parents while you awkwardly stare into their eyes during a treacherous hike. Pace yourself. And simply being present for one another may be the best tip!