Friends come and go like waves in the ocean, but the good ones stay... like an octopus on your face.
Happy national friendship day (a day late, but none less happy)! I was reading an article about the benefits of friendship and that quote stuck with me (pun intended). It's no secret that friends are good to have around. What may seem like a secret is how to find friends when you don't have them, and how to foster the relationships you do have.
Common themes in the study of Friendship from empirical sources like the Mayo Clinic, and Psychology Today suggest "good" friends possess three main qualities: Caring, Integrity, and Congeniality (Psychology Today). What? Friendship takes work?!
Of course it does. Anything worth doing takes work. So what do people look for in a friend?
Caring: Things like listening to understand rather than to respond, putting yourself in your friend's shoes, and listening without passing judgment.
Integrity: Keeping secret what was told in confidence, following through when you commit to something, and avoiding gossip that could hurt another person.
Congeniality: Here's the tricky one--people like people who are fun! Goes without saying, right? It's a bit tougher than it sounds. Here we see things like the ability to find humor in tough times, the ability to set aside the problems of today and focus on enjoying the moment, and being confident in yourself.
I find most people have the first two categories--caring and integrity--down pat, but struggle with relaxing and enjoying the moment. Relaxation techniques, like the one in the last post, can help you learn to let go of the nerves and anxieties of social situations so your true personality can shine through. Struggling to relax because of the rough day you had at work? Try focusing on someone else. Not only will getting the focus off of you help reduce the feeling of "all eyes on me," but it might open up a door for some mutual sharing and support!
Ok, I know all of that, but how do I make friends between work, school, and home-life obligations?
Dedicate an hour a week to friends. You don't need to go on major outings--sometimes a simple text is enough to start something. Invite someone to coffee, maybe join a support group or faith community, or just go to your local Home Depot for a birdhouse building class. Maybe, just maybe, spend an hour a week volunteering at your favorite non-profit farm in Northern Colorado (shameless plug). Whatever it is, re-invest some of the time you'd normally be eating dinner alone in front of the TV into building your emotional support network.