Time enough for friends

Eric and I were talking about the ways of making friends, and I wanted to reflect on it further. Hereís what Iíve learned so far!

Friendship is good, at least according to Aristotle and a whole bunch of other philosophers, psychologists, and researchers. Some people seem to develop friendships effortlessly. Others donít particularly focus on it. W- says that Iím better at it than I think I am, but itís useful for me to think of this as something in which Iím a relative beginner. That way, I can see the parts and learn more about how they fit together.

I like developing friendships because:

  • Other people are awesome and Iím glad that they exist. Spending time with good people makes me feel even happier about life.
  • Conversations, letters, questions, and ideas help me learn all sorts of things that I might not have come across myself.
  • Working with friends helps make bigger things happen.
  • Life has its zigs and zags, and itís good to share the journey with people. We can be sounding boards and safety nets for each other.

What are some of the key actions or stages? Where do I do things well, and how can I make things even better?

  • Meeting new people: I meet lots of people through presentations, meetups, blog posts, social media, and introductions. Sometimes friends bring interesting people to my tea parties, too. Itís easy for me to bump into new people.
  • Getting to know people: Chatting with someone at a meetup is one thing. Continuing the conversation over e-mail or coffee is another. In between, thereís the first hook: Is this someone Iíd like to get to know? What common interests can we start with?Will we have interesting and comfortable conversations? Blog posts and presentations are great shortcuts for this because people can easily identify common interests. (ďIím a visual thinker too!Ē) I tend to respond better to people who are confident and who share some of the things theyíve been learning about too. If itís just the surface details (who you are and what do you do?), it can be hard to go from there. I try to focus on getting to know quirky or inspiring things about other people as a way of making it easier to follow up with them.
  • Bumping into people frequently: Meetups are great for this because I can get to know the regulars. If people blog or are active in social media, I can bump into them there and learn more about their interests.
  • Getting to know people one-on-one: Coffee, lunch, or Skype chats let me learn more about what makes people tick. Iíve gotten to the point of having a one-hour chat with someone without worrying too much about imposing or about wasting peopleís time. It feels a little awkward sometimes, but I figure that will go away with practice. Scheduling these is much better now that my assistant handles the details. For remote friends, e-mails and letters tend to be a great fit.
  • More conversations: Did we click? More conversations/letters/etc. can help us bounce ideas around or find out whatís going on in peopleís lives. Most people donít post as frequently as I do, so if I want to find out what theyíre thinking about, I have to ask them. Iím decent at this and tend to be the one to reach out. Sharing things about myself and asking questions are good ways to encourage other people to share parts of their life too.
  • Mixing with other friends: I really like mixing friends because I get to know other aspects of people Ė things weíd probably have never gotten around to talking about on our own. Besides, it means I donít have to worry about carrying half the conversation. I can mostly ask questions and share the occasional story or two. Iíd like to get into the habit of hosting tea parties every other month or every quarter. Iíd also like to have a clique of close friends who are close friends with each other, but Iím not sure how to establish that without the built-in affiliations of college, company, or accommodations (like the way housemates often become good friends). Anyway!

One thing Iím working on is creating more space to spend with people or working towards their welfare. I prefer spending my weekends with W-, so I rarely make it out to weekend things. I keep Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays generally free of consulting, so I can schedule lunches or coffees then. Weekday evenings are the best for getting together with people whose schedules arenít as flexible. Weekends are great for writing letters. Iíd like to grow into a wonderfully thoughtful sort of person, and thoughtfulness requires thought and time.

Iím pretty comfortable where I am, socially. Iím no longer as worried about losing touch with my friends from the Philippines (yay Facebook and letters and blogging), and I have frequent non-work conversations with people here as well as around the world. I think itíll be fascinating to get even better at deepening friendships, learning more about other peopleís lives, and being there for people. Iíve got a long way yet to go, but thereís time enough for friends.


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