How to Turn Making Friends Into a Lifelong Activity

Most people will tell you that you can’t make friends after you are 30

Photo by Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

Making and keeping friends at any age is either difficult or easy — depending on how much effort you are willing to invest in it. Yes, it is effort. Continuing to preserve those friends and retain the same depth of friendship involves constant effort but with great Return on Investment (RoI).

Be ready for the effort you need to put in if you want real friends. Over months and years. Over a lifetime! That’s how you make friends for life, by making time for them, as they will for you.

Start by trusting people

This is probably the strangest advice you will ever hear. As humans, we are wired to be wary. I suppose it is an instinct that comes out of the urge for self-preservation. If we don’t walk in with blind trust, our chances of getting hurt are minimal.

But that’s just the thing, if we keep approaching relationships with mistrust, how can the relationship ever take off? The same applies to forging lifelong friendships.

The next time you are introduced to someone, start by assuming that they are a good human being. Start by assuming that they are good friend material. Then as the conversation continues, you can assess whether there is a wavelength match at any level and if it is worth putting in effort into pursuing the friendship.

If you approach everyone with a feeling that you are going to be let down, the door to any possible friendship is already closed.

Sure, you might be hurt by a few along the way. But should you keep ruing those few, or look forward to the joy of new and better connections?

Watch out for that spark

Regardless of whatever else advice anyone gives you, you need to feel something when you meet a person. I am not talking about deep attraction, soul connections, and the like. When you spend even five minutes talking to someone for the first time, your gut should tell you this person is worth talking to. Trust your gut. This spark can occur at any time and with anyone. Be open and watch for it.

At the end of the conversation, if the other person says, ‘Let’s catch up again sometime soon’, you should genuinely want to do that. You must be clear in your head that you are willing to give up another ten to fifteen minutes of your busy life to spend time with this person.

I studied with a girl in school and later in college too. But we never hit it off. In fact, we hardly knew the other existed. Much later in life, circumstances brought us together again. Suddenly, it was as if we were meant to be besties. Something happened. Both of us knew. If we had retained the past experience alone, and not pursued that spark, we would have both lost out on a chance to build a friendship for life. Since then, we’ve had some amazing times together, and always laugh and wonder why we never hit it off in school.

Look for common ground

While this is not a mandatory clause, it will help the friendship last long if there is some shared interest.

At the cost of sounding cliched, the common ground for most women in their thirties and forties is parenting. If your kids are roughly the same age, you can spend hours talking about all the pitfalls and perils of parenting.

Within about three or four conversations with anyone, you will know what helps you both tick. Books? Music? Pets? Politics? Once you discover two or three such common pursuits, the conversation begins to flow.

I have friends with whom I can spend hours discussing books and writing, friends with whom I can crack the most pathetic jokes, and friends with whom I can discuss the meaning of life and things like that.

I have recently discovered an interest in gardening and yoga. Things that were not in my vocabulary before. Because of these new interests, I am able to have conversations with new people who otherwise did not share any common interests with me. I see some budding friendship opportunities right there!

Be open to a group of friends

Sometimes life brings you the choicest of gifts on a platter. You just need to be open enough to recognize it and receive it.

Don’t always look for a one-to-one type of friendship. And don’t be closed to group friendships because you worry about fitting in. Give it a chance.

At one of my workplaces, a couple of us colleagues got together casually for lunch. We’d take our lunch boxes to the cafeteria and chit chat. Maybe we looked like we were having too much fun. Soon, another girl joined us. And then another, and then another.

Before we knew what was happening, we had formed a totally diverse and absolutely insane gang of five girls. Looking back, I think what really brought us and keeps us together even today is the diversity. None of us are alike.

Conversations ranged from cooking to fashion to parenting to crushes to movies to … well, you get the drift. The only rule was that no work was to be discussed. I think that really kept us sane!

The point here is that friendships between two people or ten can happen. If we give it a chance.

You can make friends at work too

Some people have this rule that work and personal life must be kept cleanly apart. I am all for that too. There are ways to achieve this while still being open to forming close relationships.

I mentioned that five of us formed an amazing group at work. One clear rule we had was work would not be discussed. I think that really helped ensure no complexities in our friendship. All of us represented different departments at work, and we had to cross paths often. Those interactions were purely professional. Nothing that happened there was ever discussed or dissected later.

I think all of us brought a great degree of maturity to the table (lunch table in this case :)), and ensured that we worked at keeping our friendship and work distinct from each other.

Most of the group has moved on from the common workplace since then. But we continue to be closely connected because of the deep bond we established earlier.

Believe that it will work

Here’s the most important thing. Friendships built later in life last much longer. In fact, they last throughout life! And honestly, maintaining them doesn’t seem like hard work anymore.

By now you have seen life. Lived through pain. Dealt with troubles. There is more maturity in the approach and hence the relationship. There is an absence of unnecessary jealousy or doubt. You are in a better space in terms of confidence. So you are not easily threatened.

A lot of petty things that might have bothered you in your younger days are not worries anymore. For example, in your youth, if you are a group of three friends, you can rest assured that one in the group is always feeling left out. As you grow older, you are much more confident in yourself and of your relationships. Such trivial things don’t matter.

During younger days, there are too many expectations of each other. For example, birthdays can never be forgotten. As you grow older, you know that birthdays will most likely be forgotten. But you have faith in the relationship.

Among some of my friends, we have established a protocol. If the birthday girl is not wished by the afternoon, she should feel free to send reminders to us. This makes life less complicated and so much more fun.

Bottomline

Having made friends through various stages of life so far, I can clearly see the difference in approach as we grow older, and wiser with experience

There is no need to pretend. Since we are in a secure space, we can enter a friendship with a clear “this is who I am” statement. This goes a long way in securing the friendship because there are no layers to peel away.

Once you get over the mental block that friendships are difficult as we grow older, you will find that there is a huge world of diverse friends out there.


You may also like to read: Rituals are Important in Relationships


Originally published on Medium.com at this location.

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