We’ve all heard the adage, to have a friend you first have to be a friend. This is absolutely true, but what does that mean? Often, we don’t know what it means to be a friend. Most people made friends easily when they were young. They went to school and mixed with a lot of people their own age five days a week. Many, went on to after school activities and met and related to even more people. Most people made at least one friend given these circumstances.
As we grow older and leave school, we have far fewer opportunities to make friends. When we leave the highly social structure of the school environment for the work environment we find ourselves increasingly more isolated. We get up, go to work, come home, feed the dog or cat and go to bed exhausted. Not much time or energy left to devote to making friends. The longer we continue on this path the more accustomed to this routine we become and the more isolated we become. If we don’t devote some energy into making friends, we will find ourselves alone.
I tell my patients that there are seven pillars that hold up a good friendship. Those are respect for one another, acceptance of the other, non-criticism, listening, being emotionally present, support for the other’s goals, and our accepting their influence.
When making friends remember to relax, smile and make eye contact. When you smile at someone, they have a reflex response to smile back. If you don’t believe me, try it out on a stranger. They average person will have a reflex response to smile back. It started when you were a baby and continues to serve you today.
Introduce yourself to people and then initiate that you get together. Go out for coffee or lunch. Find out what interests them and ask them questions about it. Explore to see if you can find some common interests. Keep the conversations light and cheery. Stay clear of heavier more emotionally charged topics like politics and religion for the time being.
Where might you meet new potential friends? Join organizations that you have interest in, join a sports team, join a choir or dinner club. There are also activity clubs such as hiking or camping clubs. Join Facebook or Twitter. Even Match.com has a section for just making friends.
There are many things you can do to make new friends. But the most important thing you have to do is to take some action. Get off the couch and become more active in circulating with other people. Making friends is like riding a bike. You may be a little rusty, but once you’ve learned how, you never forget. That reminds me, biking clubs are a good way to make new friends too!