Have you ever wondered why the hit T.V. show Friends was so successful for the past 10 years? Perhaps it’s because the topic of friendship resonates deep within us. We wish we had friends like Ross, Joey and Monica – and more than likely, the humorous and touching episodes of Friends evoked past memories of friends we too once had.
For many of us, life transitions have forced our hand and have revealed the somber reality of losing touch with old colleagues, classmates and roommates. As they graduated college, married, moved away and found new jobs, we found ourselves in a precarious situation we probably haven’t felt in years. We’re alone and itching for a few friends to share our lives with.
The problem for most Americans; however, is that life transitions have drawn us away from social relationships. We are a people driven by work and the need to build a career, to raise a family, to solidify financial security, to entertain ourselves and to find time to stay relevant.
But even while we’re so busy with life there’s something missing in our success when we don’t have friends. We all want that shared sense of community that our popular Friends sitcom so idealistically emulated. So, if you’re like me, then maybe you’ve asked yourself the following question: “How exactly do I go about making friends?”
[ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FRIENDSHIPS] There’s a commonly held belief that friendships “just happen,” but when you stop to think about it, how many things in life are so serendipitous? We are intentional in pursuing a job, pursuing a relationship with a life-partner and in raising a family, so why should forming friendships be any different?
Forming new friends is just as intentional as the other things in life we’ve gone after. The first (and probably the most important) step in making friends is that you need to want to make new friends. After that, there are a few tips that can only help you along the way. Believe it or not, you won’t be the only one looking for a new friend.
[INITIATING CONTACT IS HALF THE BATTLE] You have to start somewhere and starting off by saying “hi” is a great way to go. Initiating conversations with people can be intimidating but once you break the ice you’ll find that you’ve already won half the battle.
A great way to open up conversations with people is to look for commonalities. There are a thousand things you could have in common with any given person – work, school, sports, art, television, film, theatre, music, location, age, gender and the list goes on and on. All you have to do is to ask questions.
As an International Student studying in the United States, Nilawaty Salim believes that befriending somebody is just a matter of asking the right questions. In class, she’ll ask someone next to her if she can borrow their notes or if they’ve studied for an exam. Finding something in common with people allows her to build on possible relationships.
[QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY] Initiating contact is only the beginning of making friends. Commonalities based on interests are good openers, but once you get past the initial get-to-know-you phase you need to go progressively deeper. Commonalities based on experience are a more intimate way of bonding. Have both of you lost a loved one recently? Has an employer ever laid you off? The point is, when you share personal things about your life you invite the other person to see you and connect with you in a vulnerable place. Stanford University psychology professor, Laura Carstensen, when studying senior citizens’ has found that “it is the quality of their relationships that matters – not the quantity.” We raise the quality of our relationships by sharing our deep personal feelings and experiences.
[A SPIRITUAL THING] Solomon once wrote, “if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:11). The warmth that a friend gives was an enduring metaphor for the kind of social relationships that we long for and desire, as well as the kind of spiritual relationship we need.
The deepest depths of a person lie within their soul and to get there we need to pray for our friendships. When I joined my church, Harvest International Center, several years ago, I purposefully prayed for three good friends that I could have quality relationships with. It was God who welded the four of us together and the warmth we felt was because we shared in spiritual things.
[GIVE TO GIVE AND NOT TO GET] Samuel Johnson once said that “we cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” It’s those little acts of kindness and generosity that win a person’s heart. No wonder Paul constantly wrote about serving one another in the Church, because when we give to give and not to get we receive what we need through humbling ourselves to one another. Giving gains a person’s trust and opens their heart to your friendship. In any relationship, always seek to give.
[THE SECRET TO MAKING FRIENDS] Just as no man is an island and no two friends are isolated from other people, the secret to maintaining friendships is to build a community of friends. Live life with a community of people and you’ll find what it means to be truly rich. A community of friends means that you have a group of people that all know each other deeply, invest in each other and are spiritually like-minded. Living in community rather than isolated islands of relationship is what connects the fragmented facets of one’s life and can, in many ways, bring wholeness and healing. Friends are a man’s treasure and how we invest in and nurture them show a lot about what kind of person he or she really is. Lastly, never stop looking for new friends.
[OTHER TIPS IN MAKING FRIENDS]:
– Take time to cultivate friendships. Don’t expect too much too fast. Be intentional, but let it develop over time.
– Do things together with other people, such as mountain biking, playing wiffle ball or making origami (if that floats your boat).
– Introduce your friends to others and get to know your friends’ friends.
– Don’t substitute God for friends by dumping your problems and issues on a potential friend. Go to God for healing and go to friends to give.
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