“Blessed are those who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God's best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one's self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.” ~Thomas Hughes
Our old friends are like comfortable blue jeans. They are worn in, reliable, non-binding, cozy, patched in places, but still a perfect fit. We've had them so long, they are like second skin.
Old friendships are worth tending, nurturing and growing because these are the people who love us and see the best in us in spite of our flaws. Over the course of a lifetime, you may have a handful of really deep and intimate friendships. Sometimes these few friendships are enough. They are so comfortable that the idea of making new friends seems unnecessary — and even a little intimidating.
Why is it worthwhile to expand your circle of friends and reach out to new people? There are several reasons:
- Although no one can replace old and dear friends, new people in your life can open new possibilities for you intellectually, professionally, physically and spiritually. New people in your life expose you to new ideas, hobbies, interests, perspectives, and opportunities.
- New friends allow you to tap in to areas of yourself that are dormant or yet to be discovered. I recently became a member of a blogging club, and I have learned so much about myself, my untapped abilities, and new career possibilities. Plus, I have new friends all over the world who have invited me for a visit!
- New friends broaden your sphere of influence. Do you have something valuable to offer the world? It doesn't have to be a great idea or service or product. Even the smallest acts of kindness, love and generosity shared with another has a ripple effect on the world. There is no better place to start this ripple than with a friend.
- One new friend can provide you with a network of potential additional new friends. You will be introduced to the friends of your new friend, and your circle of friendships can continue to grow exponentially if you desire it.
- Putting yourself out there and reaching out to other people forces you to step out of your comfort zone and to stretch yourself. It might be uncomfortable at first, but the pay-off is tremendous. Don't let shyness or inertia prevent you from enjoying the shared value and benefits of interesting new friends.
If you agree with the premise that making new friends is a valuable part of personal growth, then the next step is taking action toward creating those friendships.
This is not a passive activity. There are things to be done!
1. Who are you seeking? Spend some time thinking about where to start. Although many friendships happen organically, if you are actively seeking new friends, you have to plan for it. Are you looking to expand your professional network? Do you want a companion with whom you can enjoy activities or hobbies? Do you want someone who will fit in with your existing circle of friends? Determine what you are looking for in a friendship, as this will help guide you to places to find these friends.
2. Where can you find them? Think about places where you might meet some of these people. Join networking groups, clubs or organizations for your hobbies, social groups at your place of worship, book clubs or volunteer activities. If you are more introverted, this will be a stretch for you, but do it anyway. Reach out to other people at these events and initiate conversations.
3. Learn the art of conversation. This comes naturally for some, but not for everyone. The key is being truly curious and interested in people, because everyone has something unique to offer. The art of conversing with someone new can begin by finding areas of commonality. Ask questions of this potential new friend so you can find shared interests and experiences. Look the person in the eye and show real interest in what they are saying, without looking around at others in the room. Use their name several times during the conversation to help you remember the person. Don't forget to exchange business cards, email addresses or phone numbers.
4. Take advantage of unexpected connections. If you have been invited to party or other event, make a point of reaching out to new people rather than socializing solely with the same group of friends. Introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. Be approachable and authentic so that people feel comfortable talking with you.
5. Be the connector. After you have met someone new who has “friend potential,” take the initiative to follow up. Contact them and suggest getting together for lunch or an activity you both enjoy. Be sure the activity allows you time to talk with your new friend to get to know them better. If you don't want the pressure of a one-on-one meeting, include the new person in a group event or with another established friend or two. You may need to be the connector for a while until the friendship is established.
6. Be neighborly. Sometimes potential great friendships are right in our back yards — literally. It's surprising how many people don't really know their own neighbors. Invite some neighbors over for coffee or cocktails. Arrange a block party or a progressive dinner. Get to know the people right around you. These can be some of your best and most convenient friendships!
7. Work the web. There are so many social media opportunities for meeting people — from networking meet-ups to Facebook and Twitter. Make the connections, but then get out there. Real friendships happen face-to-face, not through the computer. Any new meeting with a stranger should occur in a public place and with another friend tagging along for safety.
8. Nurture the friendship. Once a new friendship is off the ground, you must continue to do your part to keep it growing. Initiate phone calls and activities. Remember birthdays. Be a good listener and an authentic sharer. Be there for your friend in the good times but especially during the bad times when they need you most.
9. Remember common courtesy. As friendships become stronger, it's easy to get so comfortable that you take your friend for granted. Don't lose a friendship you've worked so hard to cultivate by forgetting basic courtesies. Be reliable and on time. Be honest and trustworthy — don't lie or gossip about your friend or share their private information. Show gratitude and let your friends know frequently how much you value them.
10. Be the first to make amends. Your friendship may hit a bump in the road — a disagreement, hurt feelings, or misunderstandings. Don't wait for the other person to step forward, even if you believe you are blameless in the situation. Work immediately to repair a tear in the friendship before it becomes a big hole.
Once you have developed new friendships, be sure to share your new friends with your old ones. Build a beautiful fabric of friendship that is interwoven with people from all walks of your life. Now you can enjoy the wide variety of interesting, fun and wonderful people you have gathered into your life and share them with each other. The fabric will continue to expand as you and your network develops even more new friendships.
Friendships are a huge part of a joyful and meaningful life. If you want to find more meaning in your life, please download my FREE eBook, How to Live a Meaningful Life.