In part one of our article on friendships, we discussed a number of surprising benefits that come with having friends and how many friends you actually need. In part two we will now discuss how to best choose your friends, and how to nurture and maintain friendships.
Choosing and Meeting Friends
If your friendships and social network is not quite up to your standards and expectations, then this section can help guide you on how to go about meeting potential friends and increasing your support system. The reality is that many friendships are often selected in the same way that mates are selected. There is an assortative process that tends to yield the selection of friends or mates that are similar to ourselves on a number of attributes and characteristics such as personality, beliefs, background, and upbringing, or even appearance. Whether you stick with what you are familiar with or reach for greater diversity, you still need to find potential friends somewhere.
Many people feel there are at a loss for where to begin looking, but perhaps you needn’t look too far. Often there are potential people that may have been overlooked in your existing social circles. These may be casual acquaintances or even friends of friends. Think about people you may have met even only briefly that perhaps left you with a positive impression. Similarly, you might consider people you encounter at work, school, or broader social gatherings such as neighborhood get-togethers or bonfires. Other people you may have forgotten could include old friends you have lost touch with that could be rekindled or even familial relations such as cousins or in-law relations. If someone stands out as a viable prospect, take a risk and reach out to the person, or ask a mutual acquaintance to share contact info or reintroduce the two of you via text or email. Try to set up a coffee or lunch to get things off the ground.
If you are starting from scratch or perhaps find yourself a transplant for a new job and have no connections, you may have to be a little more creative. Many people explore opportunities via the community or recreational interests. This could be attending a community event such as carnivals, fairs, or exhibits. Others join social clubs or groups. Many people check out community center postings to see if there are events or groups that meet that they would like to join. It is often easier to bond and connects with people with whom you share similar interests. One such venue is www.meetup.com where you can search by hobbies, activities, and interests for groups that have formed to engage in such events together.
Another great way to meet people can be through sports or physical activities. Some people join gyms or fitness clubs. Many gyms have classes that are offered, which gives you the opportunity to interact more with people. Others may join pick up leagues or sports teams for volleyball, softball, tennis, basketball, etc. You can also go for a walk, head to a dog park, or wander the neighborhood to meet people near you and strike up a conversation.
Volunteering can be another great way to meet possible friends. There are countless venues that provide volunteer opportunities whether it’s the hospital, community center, local theater, museums, or other charitable organizations that need help. Here again, you have a chance to do something enjoyable and interesting to you and meet others who may share the same interests. Lastly, many people join a faith-based organization or religion. Most churches, temples, or mosques have any number of groups, outing, or committees that can put you in more direct contact with people to form closer relationships.
Nurturing & Maintaining Friendships
As the saying goes, “you have to be a friend, to have a friend”. Friendships are a two-way street that involves a mutual meeting of needs, not unlike a romantic relationship. It cannot be all about you, about meeting all your needs, or only when it’s convenient for you. As with all relationships, sometimes it is more about you, and other times it is more about the other person. There is a natural give and take and hopefully, there is no scorekeeping going on. You can let your friends know that you care about both words and actions.
- Be safe and trustworthy: As we discussed in the last article, these are critical ingredients for a solid friendship. Make sure you are doing your part to be safe and trustworthy for your friends. They will be much more inclined to reciprocate similarly if they are getting this from you.
- Be kind and dependable: As noted, being safe means being kind, caring, and supportive. Being trustworthy is about being honest, forthright, and dependable. Show up on time and follow through on what you say you are going to do.
- Listen: People want to be heard, understood, and validated. Demonstrate interest with good eye contact and non-verbal cues. Express empathy and affirm your friend’s experiences and feelings.
- Intimacy: You don’t share your whole life story out of the gate, but it is important to incrementally and systematically take some risks and share some deeper things with friends. This is what creates depth and intimacy as well as closeness.
- Log the time: If you want your car to continue working you need to drive it, clean it, change the oil, and do other maintenance. Similarly, if you want friendships to last you need to check in, reach out, pick up the phone, and hang out with your friends.
If you are interested in talking with one of our therapists about how to improve your social experiences and create more happiness, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.
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