Friendship doesn’t just happen. Too often, we rely on fate and believing that the stars will align and what’s meant to be will find a way when it comes to finding friends. There’s a common myth that friendships bloom out of a randomly found affinity, a sense of just “getting” one another. However, all relationships require a common set of skills for them to grow and survive.
People are social animals, we thrive on connection and social interaction (yes, that’s just as true for us introverts!). If you’re looking for fulfilling, lasting relationships in your life, you don’t have to wait on fate. According to Licensed Professional Counselor Suzanne Degges-White, friendship is all about having a few key skills.
“The people we like to be around are those who make us feel good about who we are, what we believe, and what we enjoy doing,” says Dr. Degges-White.
Not everyone you meet will share your hobbies, world views, travel bucket list, and sense of style, but most people will share one or two of those things.
If you’re looking to add a few more friends to your inner circle, it’s probably not that there are no potentials out there. Your next best friend may be someone who’s been in your life for a while who you’ve never taken the initiative to really get to know. I sidelined almost all of my now-besties for months and even years before I stumbled into some of the most meaningful and important relationships of my life.
Takeaway: Be open and challenge yourself to find common ground with everyone you meet. Sometimes that means being vulnerable and sharing some of your experiences and opinions. You’ll never know what common ground you have until you open yourself up!
Need a couple easy ways to start? Ask about someone’s week or if they have plans for the weekend. Most likely, they’ll be doing something you have some sort of connection with. Whether they’re going to a place you’ve been, seeing a movie you’ve seen, or hanging with friends at the beach, there’s likely something you can tie back to your own experience. Find the most positive (don’t forget this part!) opinion, memory, or hope (maybe you haven’t seen the movie but you want to) you have concerning the activity. Starting with built-in common ground (e.g. you’re both in line for a concert) is the easiest place to start when looking for new connections.
GIVE AND TAKE
Not only do we like people who support our views and lifestyle, we want people who support us in our not-so-happy times, too.
Friendships rely on the trust and expectation that those people will be there when you really need them. Knowing you can come to your friends at your lowest for support, attention, and love is important. And it’s important that they can trust you to be there for them, too.
The problems begin when the give and take becomes unbalanced and resentment begins to build. Nobody wants to be the friend that takes and takes and takes but somehow never has the time to give back when the other person needs it, but somehow it can be so easy to do. So check yourself in situations like these and make sure you’re giving just as much as you take.
Takeaway: Next time a friend needs a shoulder to cry on, don’t try to make them feel understood by launching into a story about your own similar experience. When it’s about them, let it be about them. Spend some time just listening to them. Let them feel heard. The next time you’re going through a rough time, be sure to confide in them, as well. Not only will this increase trust and a sense of connection for both of you, it will also give you an opportunity to take, and that’s important for keeping resentment at bay.
Most people enjoy being around people who make them feel good, so it makes sense that we like to surround ourselves with positive people.
But it goes deeper. Researchers have found that being positive creates a sense of familiarity with strangers. It makes you approachable. Friendships are based on mutual respect, understanding, and authenticity. Making people feel comfortable around you starts with showing that you’re not looking to see the worst in anything or anyone. Positivity builds trust, and trust makes room for those deeper bonding moments of vulnerability and authenticity.
Takeaway: Maybe you’re not a naturally smiley, just-here-for-a-good-time kind of person. That’s okay. That’s not what positivity is about. Positivity means catching yourself before complaining about the weather and giving complements instead of criticisms.
Social skills is a broad and somewhat ambiguous term. We all know what it means, but what are all the smaller, specific skills that fall under that umbrella term?
All in all, social skills are knowing how to interact with people, and it’s one of those things you learn by doing. So if you feel awkward approaching a new potential friend, do it anyway! It’s okay to be awkward. I’m gonna repeat that for you: It’s okay to be awkward. Besides, the only way to move past it is to embrace it!
Takeaway: Put yourself in social situations that are just outside your comfort zone and commit to learning by doing. Observe, practice your self-awareness, and remember that your number one priority should be to have fun! That’s what socializing and meeting new friends is all about.
Ready to put your new friendship skills into practice? Head over to Hey! VINA today and start swiping right on your new bffs! But remember – you never know who it might be, so keep an open mind.