My facebook friends know I am currently preparing to give a lesson on Sunday about friendship. When I first received this impression I thought it would be easy. It’s such a universal topic of interest and something I have always held as a priority that facilitating a discussion should be simple, right? Wrong!
First of all, I think anyone who claims to be an expert in making and keeping friends probably doesn’t have very many of them. However, I’ve felt lonely enough in my life to make the search for this skill a priority, and there are certain tendencies that have repeatedly helped me along the way.
Perhaps it is being bullied as a child but I have always needed and prized friendship above all. Friendship and loyalty to those friends is probably the most important thing in my life. Not everyone seems to have this need and prefers a solitary life, and there is nothing wrong with that, but its not me. I am not a perfect person but I think you will rarely find a more loyal or interested friend. I try very hard to make and keep my friends.
As I was preparing the lesson my first thought was
1. Is friendship a necessity or a luxury? What I mean is friendship something we require for a happy existence or is it an added benefit when time allows like a vacation or a special dessert. Everyone on facebook agreed, friendship is a necessity.
So, most of us need friends. Most of us see them as an essential part of life. My next question was
2. Why as adults do we struggle making and keeping friends if it is as essential part of life?
I think there are a lot of answers to that question but the main one seems to be time. Our resources, time being one of them, are limited and often other essentials (and non-essentials) take the place of the essential need for friendship.
Now I had learned that friendship is essential and time seems to be the main barrier in creating these essential experiences. So the solution to having better, more meaningful friendship in our lives is either creating more time or using what time we have more effectively. Both can be helpful.
So how do we do this? How do we both create more time and use time we have with friends more effectively? To figure this out I’ve been reading lots of articles and getting the opinion of friends. One book I’ve read again is the old classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It stands the test of time. Really quite brilliant. In his book he gives:
6 Ways to Make People Like You by Dale Carnegie
Principle 1- Become genuinely interested in other people. I find that focusing on what we have in common helps to be interested. On the other hand differences make life more interesting. For instance, say a person is super into karate and you are not. Well, now you have an opportunity to have a friend who is into karate. Your life has just become that much more interesting and well-rounded.
Principle 2- Smile Nobody wants to be friends with a grump. I would also add be real with people. Privacy will only get privacy in return. Friendship is a vulnerable experience. Be happy but also be you. A smile goes along way to brighten anyone’s day.
Principle 3- Remember the person’s name I’d add remember details about their life. It is such an attractive quality in a friend. A friend of mine won my heart when on our second meeting he remembered about my swim meet I had been in the prior weekend and had briefly mentioned on our first meeting
Principle 4- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. The greatest human need is to be understood and be listened to. I got good at this on my mission. I had no interest in hoosier basketball or indy car racing but nothing makes a person happier than when they have a captive audience for their hobbies and interests. I know that is true for me with open water or my other interests. For most of us it makes us feel good to rattle on about our jobs, hobbies, friends etc. We don’t need solutions just to be listened to.
Principle 5- Talk in terms of the Other Person’s Interest. This goes back to principle 1 and it can be easier said than done. Sometimes it can feel impossible to have anything in common with another person but usually if you dig hard enough you can find something. For example, I have zero interest in video games but I love art so I can try to relate to those who have an interest in gaming in terms of art of the games. Usually once you get beyond the cursory interests you find deeper things you have in common but it takes digging.
Principle 6- Make the Other Person Feel Important- and do it sincerely. (Basically think more of the person than you do of yourself. Be the kind of friend you would like to have and you may come close to getting such friends. Regardless, you will be happy because you will make others happy).
A Few More From Me!
Principle 7- Friendship is not an Equitable Relationship. It will always feel like you are making more of an effort than your proposed friend. Whether this is true or not is beside the point. Expecting things to be fair will not get you far. For example, I should not invite said friend for dinner expecting to get a dinner from him or her in return. It just doesn’t work that way. I have to be the one to make the effort and be content with that. It is not a competition or a popularity contest.
We can only make an effort and be happy with our choices. Unless it is a toxic relationship, most of the time we get back plenty of what we put in; however, it just may not be in the exact way. For instance, a dinner invitation may be returned by a phone call at a needed moment. A relationship is about people not about fancy scrapbooks of perfectly planned out memories.
Principle 8- People will Almost Never be More Open with You than You are with Them. If you want meaningful, open and honest relationships than you have to be a meaningful, open and honest person. If you want a casual relationship that is just for fun you will probably get a casual relationship that is just for fun.
Principle 9- Not all Friendships Could or Should be Saved. There are absolutely toxic friendships. When we are being manipulated, lied to, or abused in anyway this is not friendship. We can be twisted to thinking it is, or that by denying this help we are a terrible, heartless person but the reverse is usually true. Don’t be an enabler. Trust me. These types of relationships are like strychnine for the soul. Avoid at all cost.
Principle 10- People May Break Your Heart. Love Anyway. I certainly have had my fair share of disappointment going way back to the bullying as a child. You never forget it. But remember the advice of Mother Teresa:
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
I guess I would end that not everyone needs hordes of friends. Some just need one and that can be your spouse. There’s nothing wrong with that but no matter the number we can all be better friends to those we know and reach out to the lonely we don’t know.