Wether you are young or old, introverted or extroverted, new to an area or have lived there a long time, you desire to build friendships and make connections to other people. Sticking with the theme of my last post on Validation vs. Invalidation I wish to now discuss how to effectively make connections and build lasting friendships with others.
First to be effective at building new relationships or even improving old ones, one must be able to look within themselves to determine past and present relationships that have failed or otherwise never even gotten started. You must be willing to find and embrace your own inner flaws that created those social failures. You need to think about what contributions you personally made to those relationships good and bad. And finally you must be willing to make a conscious choice to change and improve.
Lets face it, this is a very hard concept to wrap our heads around. I think it is safe to say that not one person on this earth enjoys or feels good admitting their own flaws. It is hard to face others when we are acknowledging we were wrong in something we said or did. We feel like a failure which brings out a whole host of negative emotions. What we don’t realize is that failure is an entirely positive experience if we are in our wise minds. It means we cared enough to make an effort. We tried. Which is far better than not trying at all. It gives us valuable insight about ourselves that we can then use for areas of improvement.
We would never walk up to someone new we were trying to impress and win over and tell them we hate their shirt, their shoes are ugly, or that mole on their face is disgusting. We would never ask them why they styled their hair that way or wore that pair of jeans. So why do we tend to do that to close friends and family we have known forever? It breaks those people down and causes negative energy. The person would not like us very well and would do everything they could to avoid being around us. They may even start talking about us to others in a negative light which spreads the negative energy. See the pattern here?
Building good relationships and finding new friends takes an extreme amount of effort on our parts. They don’t just fall in our laps nor do they come knocking on our doorstep. Friendships don’t magically fall from the sky. We must make ourselves available and to some degree vulnerable to others. To be available means getting out there and being seen. To frequently attend functions you know a certain group of people attend all the time. To join social groups of activities and hobbies you enjoy. Or even start and host a group yourself and put up fliers and run ads about gatherings you are planning for this new group. If you make yourself consistently visible to a certain group of people who you wish to become friends with, you then become familiar, recognizable, approachable, and even safe.
Like building a house or a skyscraper, building good relationships takes time. Once you have made yourself recognizable and ‘common’ to others the next step is to add communication to the equation. You can do this by simply giving someone a compliment on something they are wearing, the way they have their hair, what music they are listening too. Literally anything that will open the doors of communication will work as long as it is upbeat and positive. Maintain a smile on your face even if you are uncomfortable. Act happy, act like you are having fun even outside of your comfort zone. The more positive you are the more people will desire to be around you.
Truly listen to the other person or people when they speak without thinking of what your next response will be. Pay attention and show you are curious and interested in what they have to say. As hard as it may be, you must stop trying to impress others by focusing on yourself and comments surrounding your own accomplishments. It is fine to reveal little tidbits here and there but do not overdo it. It is much better to connect by revealing one thing about yourself at a time. A little mystery goes a long way in gaining the curiosity of others.
The worse thing you can do when trying to build good relationships is to assume what others think about you. It is so easy to fall into this trap. We all have things we judge about ourselves so we automatically assume others think these things about us as well. If a person has not come right out and said something to us, give them the benefit of the doubt and let your fears of judgment go.
Ask and answer questions to get involved in the conversation. Then respond in a positive thoughtful manner without a 10 minute essay dominating the conversation. STOP… just stop multitasking. Don’t constantly look at your phone for the time or chat via text message with others. Don’t look around the room every few minutes as this will make it seem you have no interest in who you are with. Be in the present, the now with the person or people you are with.
When trying to relay a negative emotion to others “I wish…” and “I worry…” statements are so much better than “Why do you…” or “You always…”. “You” statements cause an automatic defensive response. They shut the other person down and make it seem you are berating or scolding rather than simply sharing your own emotions.
It’s a long road but with a little effort and a lot of care and concern, I am sure you can build the types of relationships you desire that will last and others will admire. Take a leap of faith and put yourself out there.