Especially as we age into our thirties and forties, it seems.
As we get older, stop partying (if we ever did), grow up, possibly marry and have our own kids.
It isn’t as easy as just being pals with the available people about. Sometimes,we really dislike the parents of the friends our kids really adore and bring home often.
Deep sigh. We do the polite smiling thing.
At times, it really seems as though ALL we have is superficial friends, and no one real. No one close.
No one actually is a “friend friend”.
One who you trust.
You know, besides your partner, and that’s just… different anyway, it’s just not the same thing at all.
Your partner, in many cases, is felt to be very close or your best friend. This is still just not the same.
In today’s society, people have increased social anxiety overall, it’s been written about extensively. With social media comes more anxiety.
People act like unhinged maniacs more often than not on social media. They get away with it more often than not as well, because in our conditioned culture of “don’t upset the herd”, most people won’t say a word in reply, even behind their screens.
They still lack character to stand up for their professed friends on the Internet, behind the safety of a screen.
Trolls, fake accounts and anons run the show. Their unfortunate friend knows in real life this pal would abandon them in a New York minute at the slightest sign of trouble.
This cowardly behavior in friendship, especially as online ones are exploding, certainly doesn’t help stem social anxiety across the country.
In addition, many people seem unable to just approach others as readily or easily as previous generations were able to.
Devices, the ease of texting and email, seems to have driven a shift away from vocal communication altogether.
Many people are paralyzed with fear over telephone conversations and will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid having to make any voice phone calls whatsoever.
“B a d” N e w s U p F r o n t
To build a real, lasting friendship with another person, you will have to attempt to quell the fears of speaking aloud publicly you may possess.
- To “warm up” to this idea, so to speak, begin to greet people in your daily routine. The doorman. The kid at the bus stop. That person who opens the door ahead of you. And so forth.
Listening for their response is also a crucial element to the active speaking exercise.
“Hi, you are you?” Listen intently. Respond genuinely.
Engaging again is really important, because you are attempting to actually show more than a rote “thank you” to whoever you are addressing.
It will feel awkward.
Until it doesn’t… after a few days of straight practice, no cheating.
You will feel better. More engaged with society. More confident.
- Friendly eye contact is key. No…not laser beam eyes, just regular, steady eye contact. You can look away time to time, naturally, of course you don’t want to stare people down.
People like others who are able to maintain a friendly eye contact while speaking.
No one — including you, admit it — likes anyone who does the following while you are talking to them:
- Looks at the ground
- Looks at their Apple Watch
- Looks at their damned phone
- Rifles through backpack/briefcase/ tote/ whatever accessory they have at hand
Yes, I realize it truly is because many people are shy and have always been this way.
However, it really comes off as rude. Considering how you instinctively think inside in regards to someone who is unable to look at you whenever you are talking directly to them.
You may intellectually be able to reason to yourself why they are not making eye contact with you.
Let’s be real.
How much actual intellectual thought do we give people and their motives… versus how much we wish we did? Or what we tell people we give…
We are awesome at making presumptions 99.999% of the time in social interactions.
Those of us with fewer friends are a bit more prone to jumping to negative conclusions. When a person has felt burned, it’s a lot harder to see benign reasons for flaky behavior all together.
Obviously, this proclivity is markedly increased in proportion to the number of people in the rearview mirror.
Okay, so here are two huge issues acknowledged! Major kudos to you!
Talking and eye contact are acquaintance killers and you are tackling them.
Now… on to THE most sensitive and prickly topic.
E X P E C T A T A T I O N S
There are virtually hundreds of articles on the thorny topic of friendship expectations. Books, too.
Even a speed reader would take quite a while wading through the the paper on this.
The popular stance currently seems to be we expect “too much” from our friends, hence that is why people cut and run.
I haven’t really seen “too much” actually quantified in the articles I have read.
If we aren’t given any qualifications on what constitutes “too much”, how is anyone given the tools to avoid this “behavior”?
I am going to throw a somewhat radical idea out here…
Maybe it’s the experts themselves that are somewhat confused and unsure. They are just throwing out tips, hoping something, somewhere will help someone, truthfully.
It isn’t as though we have seen a grand shift toward lasting, better friendships since these articles proclaiming this stellar advice hit the mainstream.
I am here to say
It’s o k a y to have certain expectations.
a Q U A L I T Y friend would possess:
- Self confidence
These three are what could be called “umbrella virtues”, under which many quality “sub virtues” live.
•If a person exhibits true integrity, it’s reasonably certain they are also a dependable person. They won’t let you down consistently. If they say they are going to do something, you aren’t going to be disappointed. They are trustworthy. They are honest; you are pretty certain they aren’t lying when they say anything, nor do they go around gossiping about you, which also leads into another sub trait, loyalty. This person has your back. Always. No one is going to talk trash about you around them and get away with it.
•A caring person will be able to offer their support to you when you are dealing with tough going. Their empathy is available and real. Even if they hold a different point of view from you, they will listen to you attentively and they do not judge you. They show support for you always. They are happy for your wins and sad for your losses. This is key — because a friend who is genuinely happy for our wins is a true friend.
•Healthy self confidence is a good thing! Being around a person who has good self esteem is shown to actually increase our own. Win/Win! Someone who has self confidence is able to laugh at themselves, poke fun at their own silly flaws, foibles, and are more fun in general to be around. They are able to admit mistakes. They take responsibility for their actions. They recognize your accomplishments and applaud them.
Looking at the huge listing of sub-virtues is daunting.
If we listed all of those and demanded a friend had to achieve all of that first?
We would be very lonely indeed.
Examining the list, we also can be honest with ourselves about the areas in which we need to improve. Where we need to work on becoming a better friend to others. No one is a perfect friend.
That expectation should never be laid upon anyone.
We should strive to be as good a friend as possible, as good a friend to others as we wish them to be to us.
There really is something to be said about the old adage:
“Do unto others as you would have done unto you…”
However, we can see how all those sub virtues naturally flow from the three main virtues listed.
If a person has strong characteristics of the three main virtues, you can be reasonably confident they also have many, if not all, the sub virtues under the surface for any of their close friends.
It bears repeating, no one is perfect.
The beauty of friendship is growing together within it.
It isn’t quite so daunting once it is broken down as such, is it?
It is actually quite hopeful and somewhat exciting!
At least I feel that way.
A good, solid friendship with one exceptional person who really cares is worth a thousand superficial, meaningless encounters with vapid people who… don’t.
Friendship doesn’t have to be fraught with anxiety, tension, worry… and it truly shouldn’t be. That isn’t friendship.
That is fauxship.
Remember, you are an amazing person, just the way you are.
Using this little passage is a helpful guide to… perhaps gain a meaningful friendship if you feel you have been missing one.
I hope this little primer helps.
Thank you for reading. Check out these other stories published by Heather Wargo: