Making friends is so awkward—but so enlightening.
I haven’t moved around that much in comparison to others. I grew up in a small northwestern Ohio town and then moved to a nearby college town to attend university after my high school graduation.
In the middle of my bachelor’s degree I followed my boyfriend (and high school sweetheart—and now husband) out west for his first master’s degree. Then we moved out east for his first professional job, and then we moved back to Ohio for my hubby’s second master’s, and now I’m in a new part of the Buckeye State for an awesome job in his new field. Phew! I guess I have moved around a bit.
If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, I’ve been thinking lately about how these relocations have affected my ability to form friendships—and stay true to myself.
Every time you make a new friend you are confronted with the reality of wanting to hide parts of yourself while letting the aspects of yourself that you love shine brightly.
Whether or not we outwardly admit it, we’re constantly confronted with the pieces of ourselves that we don’t really like every time we make a new friend.
Conversely, I’m reminded of my favorite hobbies, interests and general self-qualities that I enjoy because new faces and conversations draw this out of me or remind me of them. It’s a truly fascinating self-study to see how you react when you meet someone new.
Are you overly self-involved when you speak? Do you ask so many questions that the other person feels bombarded? Do you pretend to be someone you’re not just to fit in? Are you unnecessarily frank and honest when the situation doesn’t call for it? Or are you Goldilocks seeking what’s just right?
The ironic thing is that when we turn on our listening ears and genuinely interact with another person, we can learn not only about other people and the world, but we can learn an awful lot about ourselves—our goals, characteristics, indulgences and fantasies.
So in honor of love and friendship—and Valentine’s Day—here are 10 things to consider when meeting new pals.
1. Smile. The world needs more smiles, and whether or not it seems like you’re always new in town, smiling at other human beings is one sure-fire way to attract other positive people.
2. Stay open. Sometimes life hurts and isn’t fair—but if you close yourself off, you will not meet the people that will help your life radiate joy and happiness.
3. Be honest. Sincerely, please don’t say that you like to play tennis because you met someone cool who freaks out over the game, while you’ve never even picked up a racket. If you really like this person and want to stay in touch, the truth will come out, and if you don’t, then who are you trying to impress?
5. Live a little. Life should be fun, and new friendships are great opportunities to do something different and to shake it up. Go dancing with a new friend or hit the nail salon to talk and be pampered simultaneously. Don’t be afraid to have a little innocent fun.
6. Ask your spouse. Assuming here that you have a supportive spouse, your partner’s opinion on your friends can be very insightful. Often having an outsider’s perspective with an insider’s concern is a great way to make sure you’re meeting additional supportive people for your life.
7. Enjoy your alone time. This might seem counter-intuitive for a friendship blog, but I fully believe that loving yourself helps you seek out healthy partnerships.
8. Practice yoga. Sorry, I had to throw this one in there. If you practice yoga, you’ll get this. Having such an important value in common is a great way to begin a friendship.
9. Be vulnerable. I was recently with two new, yet very adored, friends, and I found myself sharing things that I almost wished later that I hadn’t; but you know what? People that you love deserve to know you completely—so that they can love you back.
10. Be open. Some of my most valued friendships have come from following my own inner dreams (like my yoga training when I met my dear friend Jane). Following your passions leads you to other similarly passionate people—even if that wasn’t your original intention. It’s like a bonus or an unexpected gift.
Making friends is not easy, period.
We’re forced to confront our own egos, ugliness and authenticity—which is exactly what makes these experiences so valuable.
So the next time you find yourself in a situation that requires you to extend yourself out to others, consider these suggestions, and remember that life is a social event—and maybe it’s time to send out a few invites.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
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