When Bette Midler sang “You’ve Gotta Have Friends,” she was right on the money. Friends are the people who love us despite our faults. They make our hearts sparkle when we’re around them.
Friends come in all sizes and shapes and form concentric circles in our lives. Hi-bye friends are the casual acquaintances we wave to from our cars or chat with in line at the grocery store. They form the outer ring of the friendship orbit.
Regular friends are our social acquaintances. We see them frequently and have lots of mutual experiences. They tend to represent various aspects of our lives, such as work friends, gym friends or parents of our children’s friends.
Finally, we have our inner core, our soul mates. These folks understand us better than anyone else. We tell them our deepest thoughts. We know they’ll be there when we’re in crisis, but they’re equally upbeat and available to participate in daily adventures.
All friendships share similar characteristics. For instance, they make us feel good. They bring out our best qualities. Friendships celebrate our strengths and downplay where we’re lacking.
Friends aren’t demanding. They’re able to work around our schedules. They don’t feel like one more chore on our to-do list. Rather, we feel energized by their presence and look forward to being together.
Friendships are fluid. They’re not cast in concrete. Sometimes we’re intimately involved in a BFF’s life. Then circumstances change, and we go our separate ways. We’re not angry. Nothing’s wrong. The relationship is simply ebbing and flowing according to its natural rhythm.
Friends offer safety. They can keep secrets. They’re supportive. They provide an emotional haven from the psychic jostling of job and family.
Friendships are equal relationships. Neither of the parties feels as though he or she is putting in more effort than the other. They may hail from different backgrounds or have disparate lifestyles, but the relationship itself is on equal footing: No one has the upper hand.
Sometimes, friendships don’t meet these criteria. Perhaps we no longer feel safe because someone divulged private information. Or we disapprove of friends’ activities and feel pressured to join in.
At those times, we may need to end a friendship and find new people to take their place. The decision can be difficult. We dread the thought of being alone. Still, the friendship isn’t working. It’s creating unnecessary angst. Now’s the time to look elsewhere for the true friends you deserve.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH INTERESTING PEOPLE WHO WILL ACCEPT YOU AS YOU ARE
Be pleasant. Smiles are like social magnets. People flock to cheerful souls. Leave your bad mood at home, and greet your world with a grin.
Put yourself out there. Find likeminded people to interact with. Volunteer at the local music festival. Take your pooch to the dog park. Sign up for an art class. You’ll surround yourself with interesting folks and have an easy time breaking the ice.
Be interested in others. Ask openended questions. Pay someone a compliment. Offer to lend a hand. You’ll demonstrate endearing qualities that will make you attractive to others.
Take the first step. Ask someone out for coffee. Carpool to the next bike club meeting. Your efforts tell potential friends that you’re interested.
Make an effort. Friendships don’t form by themselves. They require willingness from both parties to succeed. Try hosting a wine and cheese party at your apartment. Say yes to all invitations you receive.
Accept others as they are. Friends are able to tolerate each other’s differences. Stop judging people about their appearance, political beliefs or eating habits. They’ll feel safer when they’re around you. You’ll stop focusing on their perceived faults.
Be patient. It takes time for friendships to develop. There will be false starts along the way. Don’t get discouraged. The right people are out there. They’re looking for you, too.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.