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?

Friendship and Career Transitions

“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” ~ Khalil Gibran

Friendships, like all relationships, are more vulnerable at some points than others. Our work life is one of those things that can pose challenges to our connections with our friends. From the moment we finish school to begin working until the time we decide to end our careers to retire, our work can present challenges as well as opportunities for our friendships. Going through career transitions, being promoted, demoted, let go or moving away for a job are only some ways that our work can impact our friendships.

Consider whether you’ve experienced these work issues with your friends and which were the most challenging for your friendships:

  • Having different core values towards work, different levels of ambition and/or different definitions of success,
  • Making different decisions about starting a family for example, one friend eases up on work to focus on children and parenting and the other friend focuses only on career growth,
  • Spending long hours at work, your job or business which means less free time to spend with friends and having to choose which friends you want to be with during your free time,
  • Having a job that requires travel or a move abroad and the impact of the distance on your friendships,
  • Being able (or unable) to celebrate each others successes such as promotions, landing a new job, a salary increase or bonus, new roles or responsibilities,
  • Struggling with being there and with knowing what to say when you or your friend are fired, demoted, lose a contract, lose a valued role, or decide to retire,
  • Experiencing differences or a change in income levels, different ways of relating to money or different choices about how to spend money.

Each of these work-related changes and transitions have the capacity to be points of friction in our friendships. These points of friction are wonderful opportunities to discover where there is vulnerability and strength in our connections with our friends. They are also wonderful opportunities to deepen our friendships, develop our listening and communication skills, have “hard” conversations, and practice being authentic and empathic.

If you are the one going through the work change or transition, consider the impact on your friend(s) and friendship(s). You have the choice to take responsibility for helping your friendship during this transition. Plan on having a conversation or taking some action that will keep your friendship intact and even strengthen it through the change or transition. Your friend may not know what to say, what to do or how to acknowledge the career or work change you are experiencing. Telling them and letting them know is is one way you can demonstrate to your friend that your friendship is important to you.

Consider how you feel about a friend’s work change or transition. Jealousy, envy, confusion, fear, sadness, and ambivalence are just some emotions we can feel when our friends go through their career transitions. Becoming aware of how you feel and acknowledging it to yourself, or better yet to your friend, can go a long way to strengthening your friendship.

Listen, listen and listen. Listen to your friend and be understanding of what your friend is saying. Also, listen to yourself and notice what you are sensing, intuiting, and experiencing in yourself during your friend’s career or work transition. You might realize something important about yourself in the process.

Show caring and respect for your friend and friendship during their career change. Making time for your friend when she or he is going through a work transition is a gift in and of itself. Checking in with how they are doing or inviting your friend to get together are some ways to show you value them and want to be there.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” Muhammad Ali

Copyrighted 2013 – The Smart Art of Friendship

Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert