Making New Friends

Have you ever met someone and felt an immediate “like” connection — that insta-click? Maybe you have experienced a sense of understanding and mutual appreciation with someone, bordering on the familiar, as if you known each other all your lives despite only just meeting.

The beauty and mystery of making new friends is that it can happen anytime and anywhere, through pure chance or planned intention.

Why is it important to make new friends?

Friends make our lives richer: they laugh with us, they bring lightness and joy to our lives, they listen to our stories and stresses, and they spend time doing fun things with us. Friends know us personally and can be our advocates and power of attorney when we are ill.

Sometimes we do lose friends as we move through life transitions — relationships, health, career and residential — so it is important to continue to make new friends throughout our lives.

Friendship takes time and effort. First, to meet new people, then to get to know each other, see if you have enough in common and if each person wants to continue to create the friendship and finally, to build and deepen it. Establishing strong friendships, moving from being acquaintances to new friends to good friends, takes time – months and even years.

“The best time to make new friends is before we need them.” ~ Ethel Barrymore

What do you need to make new friends?

The act of making new friends requires different ingredients. Here are a few possibilities for what we need to make new friends:

  • openness on both people’s parts,
  • common values, interests, and/or humour,
  • cultivating interesting and engaging conversations,
  • taking action like getting together outside of school, work or whatever brought us together,
  • continuity and reciprocity, inviting each other out or over,
  • courage and vulnerability, a willingness to make it known that you want to be friends with this person,
  • strength and flexibility, moving through life together, through the good times and the bad times, and knowing that we will show up for each other and be understanding towards one another.

So where do we make new friends?

Becoming friends certainly seems easier when we are young and attending school with 30 other kids five days a week, or when we spend many hours daily at our workplace working together with colleagues.

Regardless of age, making new friends takes courage: to get out in the world, to put ourselves out there, and to take emotional risks. Social media and technology can be great ways to connect with people and initiate new acquaintanceships. Trying new experiences, going to new places, being open to learning about a meaningful subject matter are all opportunities to meet new people. And not unlike dating, making a new friend requires that we be vulnerable to the possibility that our attempt at kindling a new friendship can result in rejection, hurt, or disappointment.

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you have not yet met.” ~ William Butler Yeats

Six steps to making new friends:

  1. Step into a positive mindset – one that is open-hearted, open minded, friendly, warm, kind, humourous, good-natured.
  2. Step away from negative self-talk – about how hard it is or why it is not worth the time to bother meeting new people and making friends.
  3. Step out there – go to (new) places or events where you can chat with people, do things with others, or create something with other people.
  4. Step into conversations about issues or topics that are meaningful, fun or important to you, e.g. human trafficking, politics, yoga, StarTrek, the latest gadgets, race horses, etc.
  5. Step up the invitations – invite a new or an old acquaintance to join you for an event or activity.
  6. Step into vulnerability when you feel ready and share something personal about yourself — about your family, your childhood, your history, your background.

Are there any other steps you might add to the process?

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Questions to ponder:
When was the last time you made a new friend? How did it happen? What did you do to make it happen?
When do you consider someone or call someone your friend?
What are some ways you can make new friends?
What attitude or perspective is helpful for you to make new friends?
What information about yourself are you comfortable to share at the beginning of a friendship?

Year End Reflections on Friendship

Here we are at the end of 2013, in the depths of winter, and like the cycle of nature and time, I find myself reflecting on the births, losses, deaths, rebirths and cycles of my friendships.

When Amy and I first began collaborating in 2011, we talked about friendship transitions in general as well as the ones we personally experienced. We discussed the importance of friendships to our well-being and in our lives but how the skills and tools to make new friends, deepen friendships or navigate friendship transitions are not taught to us. We talked about the ways in which we stumbled, fumbled, and learned along the way.

As we co-created events and wrote posts for this blog, we spent time reflecting on our own friendships and sharing our experiences with each other. I remember talking about what I wanted in my friendships, thinking about how I want to experience myself in friendship, and noticing which friendships lit me up and which drained me.

It was a “growth-full” year for me – a year of reflection, clarification, re-evaluation, re-defining and re-visioning what I need and want in my friendships. It was a big year for me as a friend, in my friendships and my notions of friendship. I discovered new insights, new possibilities, new edges and new boundaries.

It opened my eyes, ears and heart to noticing those friendships that enrich me and those which have been dissatisfying for a while but that I have not been ready to acknowledge or address. In the process of becoming aware, I have also made choices and decisions.

Once I realized that certain friendships were too distressing or painful I went through a tough decision-making process. Tough decisions because I love these friends. We had history and lived our lives together. Yet I knew I had to limit contact or spend less time with them for my own emotional health. I felt my energy and emotions signaling to me, telling me what I needed to do or say to feel at peace and re-energized.

As I did, some friendships faded away or ended while others deepened and became even richer. That adage “when one door closes another opens” also came true. As soon as I – with great sadness – made the decision to do something and experience closure for myself, there was space in my life and in myself for new people and healthier friendships. I opened my eyes to new acquaintances and created opportunities to deepen already existing friendships.

Still, ending or limiting contact with a friend is a sorrowful loss without any formal way to grieve. There are no common rituals, no ways to mourn the end of a friendship, yet it is a relationship that can be as, if not more, intimate as our love or family relationships. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that breaking up with a friend is an important loss and transition too.

Perhaps the best part of this learning journey has been getting to know Amy and building a friendship with her while making the significant decision to work together on this collaboration. As anyone can imagine, each type of relationship – friendship and business partner – requires a set of skills, a level of maturity, emotional and social intelligence. Being able to communicate about work issues, especially during “sticky” moments and continue to hold our friendship, or vice versa, has been powerful and positive learning.

The silence where lost or terminated friendships are suspended is a curious space. Sometimes it is unclear whether it is for now or forever, whether something specific happened or if the silence was born out of a vague uneasiness. That silence offers us an opportunity. Perhaps it is to reflect or to experience life without that friend or friendship or something else.

These reflections bring me at last to the nugget of my learning: how creating the space to be more conscious, clear and mindful about my friendships — by listening, sharing, exploring, and making the time — helped make them even healthier. And that has been great for my emotional, mental and spiritual health.

Copyrighted 2013:  The Smart Art of Friendship- Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert