On friendship and getting better at it

A quiet week led me to thinking about friendship and how I can learn more about it. W- and I are both introverted and we spend most of our time at home. I need to make a deliberate effort to get together with people. Otherwise, it slips off my radar.

Why am I thinking about this? I see the close friendships my mom has developed with my ninongs and ninangs (godparents) and with people throughout the world. I think about the laughter and openness of my barkada (clique of friends) back home. I reflect on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and what he shares about friendship. It’s a good thing. It enriches life.

I plan for the long-term when it comes to finances. I can certainly invest the time and effort into developing something deeper and more important than that. I know that if I’m left to my own devices, I’m probably not going to make much progress, so deliberate action is worthwhile here.

I have friends. I’m also aware that I don’t get to see those friends very often. There’s a bit of asymmetry, too, which I thought about again at Lotusphere. It’s easy for people to know about the significant events in my life, and even the day-to-day details. I don’t have that same sense of awareness about a lot of people, and I’d like to develop it.

There are so many people I’d like to get to know further. I want to help make their lives a little better. I want to help them ask interesting questions. I want to learn from what they’re learning along the way. It gives me pleasure to think about them and to hear about their lives. Even focusing on people I already know will give me plenty of opportunities to learn about friendship – and then there are all these fascinating people I have yet to meet. In other words, it’s not you, it’s me. =) I can work on me.

Thank goodness many people use Twitter and Facebook to share what’s going on. The fragmentary nature of these streams mean that I get glimpses into other people’s lives, but they’re interleaved with other updates. I sometimes find myself flitting from update to update without a deeper sense of each individual person.

So I’m thinking of working on this from two aspects: online and in-person.

Online, I’m trying out tools like Gist that give me a social dashboard which aggregates news, organizing it by person. I set aside time to think about other people, learn more about what’s going on in their lives, take notes, and reach out. I set aside some money for the little differences I can make in people’s days. I switched to a phone plan that includes international text messages, too. I’m also going to more regularly check and respond to personal mail (hi!).

In person, I’m deliberately looking for experiences I want to share with other people, and for opportunities to learn more about people’s interests. This is a bit more of a stretch for me because I like spending time at home and I hardly ever eat out. (I once attended a New Year’s Dinner and found myself thinking I could host a decent party for the cost of my meal.) I’ll probably start with movies and opera, and maybe look into setting up lunch or coffee with people.

Have you worked on learning more about friendship? Have any thoughts to share?

  • Marcus Windle

    An interesting post. An issue I have given a lot of thought to resonantly. It is so easy to sink into the warm familiarity of code; Interesting problems; Things to read about and pursue. Socialising can get pushed to the side.
    My answer it to go out and talk to people from different walks of life. Musicians , artists, landscape gardeners, etc. To get involved with people who do not view computers/internet as an essential part of life. Will I become a more sociable person….. I don’t know, but its enjoyable. :-)

    • Marcus: This going out and talking to people thing – that’s hard! Easier for extroverts. I generally feel weird when random people talk to me on the street, which could be why I’m reluctant to do so myself. I wonder if it’s a girl thing, too.

  • I think the standard adage of just being yourself applies. However, if I had my own kids I would tell them that although being yourself is important, it is equally important “not to harm anyone else” and another factor is “have fun”

    These three facets must be balanced, much in the same way as the three virtues of programming. You cannot just focus on one and leave the other two otherwise “I won’t like you” (is how I normally say things ^_^)

    Some things that they may say are:

    “I’m shy”, I just tell them that’s being selfish about sharing yourself so you’re harming others in that way.

    “Having fun” is where I would put “pushing the bounds of friendship”. My closest friends and family know that I they are closer when I treat them “poorly” especially if I think they did something wrong.

    • Archimedes: I like to think that I treat people respectfully and firmly, but not poorly, if I disagree with what they say. =) But you’ve got good points there – thanks for sharing!

  • Wow, you Rock Sacha! So insightful posting. For me it’s about Purpose and Passion and Why to go out and meet people.

    When I am involved in something bigger I have passion for I want to contribute and it’s like an inner force.

  • Our personalities are different and you have been able to express yourself and contribute by using social media in an outstanding way. Don’t know but it might also have to do with feeling of uncomfortable and lack of self confidence? I have much easier to interact with people when I feel we have common interests and work together towards a goal.

    When I was a teenager I could hardly make a phone call or talk to new persons since it felt so difficult how to initiate the conversation. I was called “the silent man” on my first job and tried to avoid the feeling of being shy and embarrassed. But my silence made it worse.

    I decided for a couple of years ago to change and have challenged myself by attending courses in speeching and leadership. I applied for job roles where I was forced to talk and take initiatives and during three years I had a personal life results coach who introduced me into Anthony Robbins methods.

    This have changed my life completely and as my coach also says which I feel is so important to think about. I don’t have time to be social and be with friends since my life purpose is to contribute and help people. I would like to extend it and say that all people are my friends and we can help each other by sharing our knowledge and experiences.

    I was with my brother and a friend on an ice cream bar today :-) Very funny it’s very cold here -10 degrees C. But the ice cream was hand made with a lot of different tastes which got me to re-think about eating ice cream only during the summer when the weather is warm.

    As I have mentioned earlier, you are one of the best role models on the net who share all of your experiences. Your advice two years ago about starting to blog have given me new opportunities and I would like to Thank You!

    To become really good at something and be a role model takes time. Please continue as you do and Go out and meet people when you really want to do it, but don’t forget the power of energies by writing with a higher purpose. Your postings and conversation makes me to feel as a friend.

    • Christer, I’m delighted that blogging and coaching have helped you on your new adventures! In some ways, I’m probably where you were years ago. I find phone calls difficult to start. On the other hand, I have no problems with writing, and I enjoy giving talks (most of the time; it’s a great way to get around having to start conversations!).

      I’m curious why you say you don’t have the time to be social and be with friends. I think it’s possible to contribute and help people while being social and spending time with friends, particularly if you spend that time productively instead of just killing time. =) And if I’m spending time with interesting and inspiring people online – after all, why should friends be geographically limited – then that can work just as well.

  • My Dad taught me to ask questions in an an effort to be genuinely interested in people. Then… listen and listen.

    Often, just being there is enough to make friendships grow.

    Tita Susie

    • Hello, ninang Susie! I enjoy asking people questions, and I’m looking forward to that. It’s the “being there” that I need to make an effort to do, I think. =) Thanks for dropping by!

  • Often after big changes in our lives, we need help to make friendships. Personally having picked myself up from a really bad patch in life, I had to start all over again. It’s taken a while but now I am finding a few like-minded people to connect with.
    Oddly enough, I have also become a facilitator for a man with complex multiple disabilities I’ve got to
    know and I’m helping him to build a Circle of Friends. I think we all need Circles of Friends.

    • I’m glad you’re helping other people and learning more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      I particularly like having multiple circles of friends and bringing them together. That’s tons of fun. =)

  • Sacha: Yes, I have to re-think and agree that I should see all people as my friends and we have meetings with a purpose. My current work with helping people to start using creativity and social media makes me to work really hard and I don’t want to spend time without purpose. The people who shares this are my true friends.

    There are so many needs and when I inspire people it inspires me too and it creates new thoughts and ideas. I Love my work and what I am currently doing and it feels so important. I see on a daily basis how people start to collaborate and open up their minds for new and creative thinking and do something good for other than themselves.

    It’s an amazing and wonderful journey to meet all elderly with their experiences and wisdom to the youth and children with their creativeness and passion for the new. I am a listener who work with finding out their needs and create solutions with help of collaboration with the workforce in different companies, organizations and municipalities.

    My shyness disappears and I am only focusing on my life purpose and how I can reach out to more people and help. I was interviewed today by a Swedish Journal and a couple of years ago this would have got me to feel very uncomfortable but I don’t bother today. Life is to short and there are so many things I want to do.

    • We prioritize, and we spend our time in ways that maximize the value to us. I was thinking about this recently because J- received Final Fantasy XIII as a gift. It’s not really her kind of game, but I’ve played Final Fantasy before and enjoyed it – a couple of memorable weekends in university, actually, when that was mostly what I did. When I was thinking about whether I could make the time to play it now, though, I realized that I’d much rather spend the time writing or coding or connecting with people. As pretty as the game is, it isn’t as engaging or as aligned with what I want to do as these other activities are. We make choices about how we spend our time. Time-tracking, in particular, makes it really clear to me that the time I spend on doing something must come from something else. I have a pretty lean schedule already (no TV, little commuting time, light housework/cooking due to batch preparations).

      That said, I think it’s worth spending time with people even if the value is sometimes a bit more nebulous. Partly it’s because I already get so much value from the other ways I spend my time that I can afford to invest a little, take a little risk. It’s like the way I’m shifting time from writing to activities that might give me less flow or come less easily. It’s a combination of potentially diminishing returns from my primary activities and the need to invest in other activities in order to improve the return. Relating to people may be awkward or difficult, but it isn’t going to be easier or better until I invest the time into learning and into building those relationships, and that means meeting people on their own terms. =)

  • Thanks Sacha! It’s very interesting to share thoughts with you and I know also how important playing is for having Fun and build new relations with people. I have got invitations to Facebook games from some students, Cityville and Farmville. I have also got an invitation to Lifeville a coaching game for personal development.

    I am never making or at least try to never make any judgments since there are so many ways of doing something good for myself and others. It’s only that my current way of focusing on work is what pleases me now. This can and will probably change tomorrow since I see how life goes in waves between relaxation and be open to hard work and stay more focused.

    I am searching for a life balance between learning – teaching. alone – collaborate, feel – think etc. To see and recognize the opposites in life is for me one the biggest possibilites for coming closer to myself. TAO and Buddhism with a scientific approach with Quantum Physics is something I am really interested in.

    Famously described by Einstein as “spooky action at distance” — when two objects are entangled it is impossible to describe one without also describing the other and the measurement of one object will reveal information about the other object even if they are separated by thousands of miles. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110122110640.htm