People of all ages love to have friends and the older we get the more challenging it can be to make the kinds of new friends we’d most like to have. According to a recent article by Mayo Clinic in their “Healthy Lifestyle” publication, developing and maintaining friendships can enrich your life and improve your health. When people respond to too few friendships by immersing themselves in social media or getting a cat their isolation may grow to overwhelm them.
Start by acknowledging that most friendships won’t last forever. Relationships change. You change—friends change. People die. Friendships that flourished in high school and college seldom stand the test of time and that’s a good thing. When one person grows more than another or moves to a foreign country or makes unexpected lifestyle choices that affect the relationship, there may not be enough “emotional glue” to hold it together. Life happens and it is for us to continually adjust and respond.
Relationships held together only by money changing hands are not to be confused with true friendship. So even though it may look like friendship and feel like friendship, never mistake a sales call or solicitation for someone’s annual fund for friendship.
Shasta Nelson in her article, “The Five Steps to Developing Healthy Friendships” makes a very good point: We can’t just go through life auditioning people to become our best friend; rather we have to start many friendships then develop a choice few into best friends. Here are ways to make that happen:
- Start by being intentional about making new friends—ideally, multi-generational friends. Attend community events. Volunteer to participate in activities that promise to bring you into repeated contact with folks who share similar interests. Remember: givers get.
- Take up a new interest—enroll in a class—reach out and be friendly to other participants.
- Invite someone to join you for coffee, lunch or an event. Initiate as often as is necessary to come together with people whose company you enjoy.
- Accept invitations that bring you into contact with new people. Introduce yourself and others whenever appropriate. Make it easy and fun to be your friend.
- Whenever you commit to volunteering or meeting someone, show up, offer to help and be on time. Be positive and leave your complaints and baggage at home.
- Make every encounter one where you contribute—as a conversationalist and a listener. Show interest in others without being invasive. Share ideas but not gossip.
- Build trust by respecting boundaries and confidentiality.
In the words of the Mayo Clinic’s “Healthy Lifestyle,” “Developing and maintaining healthy friendships involves give-and-take. It’s as important for you to be a good friend as it is to surround yourself with good friends.” What will you do in the next two weeks to make new friends and nurture the ones you already have?
©Judy DeLapa July 2015