Friends are glittering pieces of star dust we pick up on our trips around the sun. They bring every emotion we have to life.
“Each friend Represents a world in us,
a world possibly not born until they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
The Work of Friendship.
I went to boarding school from age 8 to 18 but I don’t have a single friend stemming from these school days. Maybe that’s because many of us did not live close by and fanned out afterwards on different career paths and I’m talking of days well before the internet.
My next eight years in the army gifted me life long friends by virtue of the dependency on each other in the military environment and serving in very formative times of our lives.
On becoming a civilian, I had periods of intense loneliness and lived in London and other cities where I knew nobody at the outset. My great friend John, later taught me a lesson that I’ve never forgotten, and that’s YOU HAVE TO WORK AT FRIENDSHIPS.
I’ve heard people say things like “well, it’s their turn to call” and wonder why their lives are devoid of friends. I was best man to an army friend raised in a military family that moved so often, he was sentenced to attend 14 different schools. By his own admission, he never really discovered friendship in his youth. However, he devised some amazing adventures for me such as riding clapped out motor bikes from the UK to Petra in Jordan and back. In his 50’s he sailed alone around the world aloe and survived against a 20% chance of not returning!
I never expect him to call, but thinking of him always brings a smile to my face. So sometimes I will contact him in the UK from the states out of the blue. When you love a friend like that, it’s never work to make the first move.
There’s an amusing quote “We believe that everyone’s normal, until we get to know them!” I could go on for ages about the abnormalities of my friends, and myself included, but that’s the part about them I most enjoy. In the end, it boils down to needing the one essential ingredient, and that’s of SHARED VALUES to flourish. No doubt that’s true when also applied to a marriage.
I appreciate that it’s impossible to keep in touch with lots f people but must admit to not quite liking those holiday newsletters! They usually focus on a chronology of events that quite honesty don’t empower the people you’re sending them to. It’s more of a “here I am” message rather than a “there you are” acknowledgement.
As my life progresses, I’m more and more convinced that if we have a great strength, we will have a corresponding weakness. Loving ourselves and others for our weaknesses is really something to smile about. There’s a simple word for it “Acceptance.”
Some may be reading this post and feeling lonely wishing for friends to bring joy. I feel for you because I remember being extremely lonely moving to a new job in a new town in the UK and also when I first moved to America as a single person.
The first thing to remember is that relationships take time. In situations I’ve just described, you will never meet anybody you’ve know for more than six months when you’ve been there for six months.
But let’s say you want to set about making new friends it’s important to recognize a few things:
- We spend most of the time thinking about ourselves.
- People are not thinking about us. So don’t worry about “what they might think!”
- We all love to talk about ourselves.
- The biggest compliment you can pay, is to remember someone’s name.
Now here’s the big one, take a lesson from fundraisers. When you invite someone to do something or wonder how they will react to your contact, DO NOT BE ATTACHED TO THE RESULT. Realize that you are asking them to do or say what’s appropriate to them and NOT a judgement or rejection of you.
A fund raiser may ask Mr Jones if he would like to donate $1,000? Mr Jones might say “you must be joking!” or even donate the $1,000. If you start by asking the question in reverse, say $10, then My Jones might feel a little insulted if he was ready to donate $1,000.
If you want more evidence, please read my post on How I Charged people to come to my 40th birthday party!!
Just one last thing, if you happen to be moving abroad. There’s a Group called Internations that you can join for free with groups in most countries. It’s designed exactly for the purpose of meeting new friends and learning the ropes in you new home. People are there for exactly the purpose of making friends from other countries and I cannot remember ever walking into such group of friendly strangers.