Things they didn’t teach you at school: Making friends
Making friends is one of the very first things you do at school. Within the first days you decide who you like, who you don’t like and discover who wants to play with you at play time. But here’s the thing. Most of us would say no one actually taught us lessons on how to make friends and be a friend. What if you weren’t one of the popular ones? What if you didn’t share the interests of others in your class? The truth is that making and being a friend is an art that not everyone ‘gets’. In 2004, The Office for National Statistics found Britain to be the loneliness capital of Europe. Apparently, we’re less likely to have strong friendships or know our neighbours than residents of any other country in Europe. Many have no one to rely on in a crisis.
In some ways, making friends, is like finding a spouse: with a good friend, there is a special something that clicks, which you can’t quite put your finger on but which means two people know they are meant to be together. No article can give you a five step strategy to making a friend. What we can do is explore some friendly attributes that will improve our chances of making and keeping friends, and being a good friend to those friends we have .
- Talk about yourself
No one knows what is going on with you if you don’t tell them, and no one knows whether they want to know about you, unless you talk !
Hence in gatherings where people are disposed to getting to know one another, you are wise to share a little of your story. And if you are a friend to others, you need to continue to share your story. Of course there is an art to this. We have all suffered the ramblings of the bore who does nothing but talk about him or herself. Self disclosure needs to be pointed and appropriate. You share what may be of interest and appropriate within the cultural setting. Maybe only one or two close friends would know nearly everything, but maybe more people would be drawn closer to you if they knew something?
- Listen to Others
I was labelled as ‘shy’ when I was growing up, maybe something to do with being an only child until the birth of my younger brother when I was nine. So in my early teens I read a book, ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie, a book my Dad had used when learning to be a salesman, in the early days of his career.
The title might sound corny, but it is packed with wisdom, and I learned the very basic truth that people are interested in themselves and so the skill of making friends is to ask good questions, and let them speak! Asking open questions based on genuine curiosity about people, can transform someone who is nervous in social settings, to becoming someone everyone likes to talk with.
I recall chatting with someone at a party, whom I didn’t know. I had to smile as they concluded the chat with ‘lovely talking with you!’ when in truth, the conversation was 90% them!
- Remember the 10% rule!
Communicators have worked out that when communicating feelings to someone, just 10% of communication is based on the words used, with a massive 55% on body language and 35% on tone of voice.
So it’s not what you say but the way that you say it!
Treat the person you are speaking with as if they are a friend already, and you will be surprised how your connections grow. As we give appropriate feeling to our words, we will find that people will listen to us, get to know us and want to be with us.
- Make time for others
One of the reasons that the social media platform facebook is so popular is that you can be ‘friends’ with multiple people without giving genuine time to any of them! OK, for people who have moved away, this can be a great way of staying in touch, but we all know that true friendship takes time. You are there for them in the ups and downs. People matter and many would say that society functions best when we know one another and to a level where we would put ourselves out for one another. The Bible command ‘love your neighbour’ , implies that we should be warm to those who are ‘near’ us.
(Neighbour comes from the Old English n?ah near and geb?r dweller )
- Choose your friends wisely
We will all know the capacity of a child’s peer group to influence them more than parents and teachers. A wise child is careful to avoid corrupting character and so as we aim to be friendly, we must be cautious about embracing everyone indiscriminately. Motivational speaker, the late, Jim Rohn, famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, and when we think about it, there is more than a grain of truth in it. (Have a think about who your five would be!). Do we want to be with those who share our values and outlook on life and Faith, or those who have a questionable outlook?
As you are talking, listening, remembering the 10% rule and making time for others, also be discerning – your time is precious spend it
It was that philosopher, Winnie The Pooh who said, ‘You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.’ Maybe this article will spur you into action? Are there places you could go or opportunities you could take that will get you out of your corner of the forest? It’s a cliché, but true, that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. It’s time to shake hands with some strangers.
For some, making friends is especially hard because of past issues that have knocked their self confidence.
How to be a secure woman (CWR) aims to help women feeling insecure. www.cwr.org.uk