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 you introverts out there!). 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, friendships form under specific circumstances.
“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 of those things.
If you want more friends, it’s likely not that there are no potential friends around you, but that you’re not giving them a chance. Sometimes your best friends are the people you’d never have picked out based on first impressions.
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 to people.
Next time you’re faced with a small-talk-required event (or just want to practice and meet new people), ask about their week or if they have any big 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) of the activity. Sometimes common ground is built-in (e.g. if you’re both in line for a concert or event, you probably have at least that shared interest). This 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 to come up when the give and take becomes unbalanced and resentment can begin 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, so be aware and don’t be that friend.
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, and the only way to move past it is to keep practicing.
Takeaway: Put yourself in social situations that are just outside your comfort zone and learn by doing. Observe, practice your self-awareness, and remember that your number one priority should be to have fun, because that’s what socializing and meeting new friends is about.
Ready to put your new friendship skills into practice? Head over to Hey! VINA today and start swiping right on your new bff! But remember – you never know who it might be, so keep an open mind.