How to Make Friends
I’ve blogged a good deal about making, choosing and keeping friends and the red flags to pick up on in relationships. Friendships require close attention which starts before you become friends and continues during the span of connection—because either of you may change for better or worse at any time, calling for relational recalibration.
As an only child, I learned early on to be on the lookout for potential friendships. At 76, it’s deep-seated habit. Whenever I meet new colleagues, neighbors, friends of friends, strangers or whatevers, I automatically think about whether they’re friendship material. The only place I don’t look for friendship is with clients, though it doesn’t stop me from considering whether I’d wish to be friends with them if such relationships weren’t taboo.
If you’re looking to make friends, keep your eyes wide open at all times. Think of people you interact with regularly in the office, at the gym, at school, in your neighborhood, and consider the vibes coming off them. Notice who you’re drawn to and who turns you off or even repels you—and why. Be clear about what you do or don’t like about them.
Notice the whole person, not only interests you share, but how they relate to you and others. When I first met one of my husband’s brothers, I was in awe of how generous he and his wife were to others while still taking care of themselves. While having dinner with college alumni, I was shocked by how rude one of them was to the waitstaff.
Pay attention to feeling heard and validated and whether people listen as well as speak. Do they ask questions about you and your life and value your opinion? If I feel invisible, I instantly lose interest in someone, “nice” as they might be. “Nice” people are a dime a dozen if that’s all they are. I want “nice” plus a sense of humor, intelligence, curiosity, ethics, deep-thinking, open-mindedness, self-knowledge, similar values, vulnerability, relational skills, and a desire to improve the world. I’m fine with folks who’ve had difficult childhoods or lives as long as they don’t come across as victims.
Once you make friends, your job is to monitor how things are going. Expect ups and downs but pay attention to how you’re treated when they happen and how issues get resolved. If you grow mentally healthier and they don’t (or vice versa), the friendship might not endure. Don’t ignore signs or patterns of mistreatment. Be compassionate, tolerant and don’t expect perfection, but don’t make excuses for others. Expect to get what you give. Most of all, even when you have an ample amount of good friends, don’t stop looking for new ones because you can never have too many people who love you.