Why Making Friends Matters (even when you are a grown-up and have forgotten how)

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in Happiness,Personal Growth

She stood in my kitchen, arms folded tightly across her body, as she told me about the tremendous opportunity to pitch her fledgling business idea to some big companies. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Yahoo! How fun!!” I said.

She looked at me, arms pulling even tighter across her body, and said, “I’m scared.”

Not quite the reaction I was expecting. Nervous, maybe. But scared?

When I probed deeper, I discovered the fear was based around talking to the CEO’s of these big companies. What could she possibly offer them? What would she say? How would she act?

I reminded her that everyone puts their pants on the same way and suggested she might just want to make friends.

That stopped the conversation in its tracks.

Make friends? In a business conversation? Really?

Yes. Really.

In almost any context, making friends makes all the difference.

Making friends has the power to shift things from the impersonal to the personal, from being a number to being a person, and from being an unknown to a known.

When it’s personal, the conversation changes – whether that’s with the cranky receptionist who is so harried that she can’t find you an appointment until next month or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company who dines with dignitaries and travels the world in a private jet.

Thankfully, making friends is not hard to do. It’s just that most of us have gotten out of the habit.

Once upon a time, when you were in kindergarten, you were a natural at making friends. You looked at everyone and said hello. The path to friendship was built on small acts of sharing -  like your skinned knees, the pet rock you called Charlie, or the peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwiches your mom packed for lunch.

In kindergarten, you assumed that everyone wanted to know and like you.

The funny thing is, they still do – even though you are a grown-up and know all of your imperfections so well that you could write a book about them.

Even more, people want you to know and like them.

They simply want to be seen and heard, just like you.

So, how do you make friends wherever you find yourself?

  • Look at people – look them in the eye so they know you’ve seen who they are.
  • Say hello – great them with warmth and welcome.
  • Start a conversation – ask them about themselves (where they got that beautiful purple scarf, the last place they went on vacation, what their favorite color is, how they made that delicious-looking lunch, where the gorgeous photo in their office was taken).
  • Listen to the answer – really listen, absorb the nuances of the response and let them carry you to the next part of the conversation.
  • Share something beautiful you’ve observed about them – sharing lets the person know they’ve been seen and heard (wow, you have the best sense of humor, are so adventurous, have a beautiful smile, an amazing sense of style, a lovely family).
  • Let the conversation be about them – your turn will come.

Simple conversations like this can put you on the path to friendship.

If you are out of practice, start slowly. Practice with the person in line next to you at Starbucks. Practice with the moms on the playground at your child’s school. Practice with the accounting manager at your office. Be sincere. Maybe you won’t become best-friends. Maybe you’ll only be acquaintances. But, one thing you won’t be, is strangers.

And, you’ll be ready when the next big opportunity for friend-making presents itself in your life. You may be nervous but, you won’t be scared.

When was the last time you made a friend?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie Walker April 18, 2012 at

For some bizarre reason this brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s that you use the same expression about knickers as I always have, perhaps it’s that I teach networking skills, perhaps it’s I’m good at making people feel easy with others, or maybe, truthfully, it’s that I often wonder does that mean they’re friends or I just know how to get on with people. I shall now go and ponder and dry my eyes!
Jackie Walker recently posted..Cinderella is a great role model

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Andrea Olson April 20, 2012 at

Friendships are so vital to our well-being … given that your work focuses on the importance of personal relationships, I wonder if this is why it resonated with you. I appreciate you – your honesty and emotion – dear Jackie.

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