“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
– Albert Schweitzer
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I am lucky to have so many people that I call a friend. We might not be able to hang out regularly. (Hey, life is busy!) We may not talk as often as I would like to.
But friends are a balm for the soul in a world that just grows wearier by the day. They rekindle our inner flame, as Schweitzer so eloquently said above.
A true friend’s value could never, ever be measured.
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I am so grateful to Sarah, a blogger friend, for sharing her thoughts on adult friendships, and why these relationships matter now more than ever.
Friendship matters even more in adulthood than it did when we were children.
Children still benefit from friendships, but as adults we’re the ones teaching our children how to both have, and be, a friend. Being a friend increases happiness and strengthens marriages. It improves health and life outcomes.
But what often happens is, we let fear and false perceptions skew the way we view ourselves and the people in our lives. We convince ourselves that no one wants to be our friend, or that there’s never enough time to be a friend.
As I was writing this post, late at night on Christmas Day, I got a message from a friend.
She asked if I could come over in the morning, but she was being mysterious and not in an “I’ve got a surprise for you” kind of way.
It was 1AM. I was drinking. I was tired. Honestly, I did not want to go over in the morning. And I did not want to talk to anyone.
But something told me to call her. So, of course I called! It wasn’t about me, it was all about her.
Sometimes that’s what friendship looks like.
Being a Friend
The next hour was a blur as I kept her talking on the phone, while I frantically woke my husband so he could call an ambulance for her.
She was in serious trouble.
I called a cab and went to her place so I could stay with her children until they woke up. Then, I got in touch with her ex so he could pick the children up. I let her dog out and arranged for a neighbour to watch him for a few days. I did her dishes, washed her floor, and watered her plants.
These are things I barely do in my own home, but when a friend needs help in this way, you help them. I know she’d do the same for me if I ever needed it.
Adult friendships are messy
I admire that friend because she reached out for help. This is something many people don’t do because they believe they don’t have any friends.
Low self-esteem or fear tell them they’re not worthy of help or companionship.
Adult friendship is messy in a way friendship never was when we were younger. It all seems to matter more now than it did then. It’s hard to find friends, and even harder to keep friends. And worse, we often doubt whether we have any friends at all.
No one to turn to
I know intimately what that’s like. Eleven years ago I had a six month old and a toddler. It was all I could do to get through each day without crying or yelling or both.
I wasn’t coping. That was obvious, but I wasn’t sure how bad it was until one day things became so heavy I felt like spanking my toddler. I’d vowed to never do that, but I had no idea how I’d get through the day. I was crying, I was yelling, my toddler was laughing at me, and I was alone. I thought I had no one to call.
So, I called 911. Within minutes, I had several RCMP officers in my home. They stood between me and my children until my husband could come home from work. Unless someone was with me 24/7, we’d have our children taken away. If I thought life was hard a few moments earlier, it did not prepare me for how hard it was about to become!
A hard season of life
The next month involved assessment after assessment to see if I had postpartum depression or any other mental health issues that might indicate I wasn’t a safe parent. Finally they determined I was not depressed nor dangerous. I just wasn’t coping. So they said, “See ya later.” And they closed the door on me.
I was alone again, still not coping, with more stress than before, and they never gave me any tools to help me figure it out.
From that moment on, I’ve focused on learning how to cope, and also how to have people in my life I can call on for help.
Along the way I discovered I was never alone. Not even back then. I felt alone, but that’s not the same as being alone.
Adult friendships need to be about so much more than just having the same interests. It takes work and dedication to get to a place where you have a friend you can count on. But most of the time someone else will be there long before you think they will be.
Stories We Tell Ourselves
Brené Brown talks about the stories we tell ourselves. When you text a friend and get no response you tell yourself the story that they don’t care. You might tell yourself the story that they were too busy.
But those stories aren’t always true. In order to know the truth, you need to ask them, “Hey, I texted and didn’t get a response. I’m curious what’s up?”
Maybe they’re going through a tough time and didn’t want to burden you. Maybe they don’t feel like the friendship’s working. Maybe your friend will be vulnerable and let you know they aren’t getting what they want out of the relationship. Then you have the opportunity to decide whether you give them what they want or whether you think it’s time to let the friendship go. If you don’t ask, you can’t know.
How to Make Friends
Making friends often begins with a shared interest. Whether you love dogs or reading or watching “Star Wars” or some other activity. There’s always something you like enough that you can find others who also like it.
The fun part is meeting those people. Attend an event or join a group. If you can’t find one, start your own. The library is an excellent place to look for a variety of interest groups.
Talk to people. Be curious. The more you talk to people, the more likely you are to find someone who wants to talk to you a second time.
The Secret of Adult Friendships
Wanna know the biggest secret to making friends as adults?
Most people are naturally inclined to not like new people. This means when we meet someone new, we don’t really give them a chance. In the rare cases where people do naturally like each other right away there are certain skills they use to make that happen. It isn’t accidental and it isn’t even rare!
Keep the conversation flowing
When you meet someone and the conversation is halted or one sided, then it’s hard to tell if you actually like a person or not. Learning how to keep the conversation going back and forth allows both of you a better opportunity to tell if you might get along.
Spend time together
Don’t be fooled. Proximity breeds long-term friends more effectively than good conversation by itself. When you spend more time with someone, you get to like them more and they get to like you more! *There are some circumstances where that isn’t the case. You know what those ones feel like!
One way to both keep the conversation flowing and to also learn more about the new people you’re around is to ask questions. Asking open ended questions, such as ‘What do you think about…?” Or “Where did you grow up?” Followed by, “What did you like the most about growing up there?” You could go even deeper, “In what ways does it compare to where you are now?”
The more curious you are about someone, the more they’re likely to open up to you and the more they’re likely to want to be your friend.
You’ll like people who have differing opinions on some topics more than people who agree with everything you say. However, no one wants someone else to attack them. Attacking them will never change their opinion on the topic, but it will change their opinion of you.
If you disagree and want to keep talking about the topic, then find out how the topic relates to what they value most. This often leads to something you agree on. From agreement, you are better prepared to discuss what you disagree with. Core values are always a great way to connect with anyone you meet.
Busyness and Not Enough Time
Work. Children. School. Lessons. Volunteer. Pets. The list goes on and on. There are so many different directions we pull ourselves each day. The busier we get the harder it is to find time to connect with people outside of those small circles.
If proximity and time together strengthens a friendship, then being too busy weakens a friendship. How many times have you tried to get together with a friend only to have to book a month in advance? It happens to a lot of people. Most often when this happens a few times in a row, the other person believes you don’t value them or their friendship.
What are your excuses?
Are you one of the people who’s too busy for friendship?
If you’re the one who’s never available, then maybe you need to ask yourself what’s really important to you about being so busy.
What’s so important to you about having friends, or how about specific friends?
Are you spending your time on the things that really matter?
Having friends in adulthood keeps us healthier and happier than if we don’t have friends. But it’s up to us to cultivate friendships. They don’t just happen on their own. We need to be willing to show up and connect.
About the Author
Sarah Langner is a relationship and connection coach. She serves her clients by guiding them as they strengthen the relationships that matter to them. She supports them as they discover who they are, their deeper purpose, and she keeps them accountable as they make the changes they want in order to live their life according to their deeper purpose.
Sarah’s married to Ryan, together they have 4 children, 3 cats, and an extra large dog named Moana. She’s also a cancer survivor, a wire sculptor, a gardener, a fibre artist, and loves all things Disney.
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