Written by: Irene Abbou
Photograph by: Ben White
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born” Anais Nin
When I think about some the happiest times in my life, the moments where I felt the most a part of, belonging to a special tribe of sisterly love, where I could unapologetically be my introverted donut dreaming self, I think of moments shared with my soul sisters.
To clearly define these sisters and sometimes it was just a sister, it would be the friend I call at 8:15am when my 10 year old has me unraveling because he angrily slammed the door at carpool without saying good-bye but also the friend I reach out to when a Starbucks stranger boosts my confidence with a simple hello.
I was inspired to write this article because many of the women I have been blessed to interact with in my line of work have expressed a desire to expand their circle of friends and experience closer bonds. Although the dynamics of true friendships are complex, social researchers have been able to narrow down some key ingredients necessary to forge these meaningful mysterious connections. I will share with you some of these findings as well as other reliable tips on growing your friendship circle.
Think about the characteristics of people that attract you and those you enjoy spending time with. Then, emulate these traits. People are much more apt to want to engage in a conversation when you give off friendly vibes (smile, make eye contact, ask people questions about themselves, speak positively, compliment them). Challenge yourself, make the first move and most importantly leave people feeling better about themselves because of your interaction. This becomes easier with practice and you’ll feel empowered stepping out of your comfort zone!
Join Groups/Classes that meet regularly
Studies showwe are likely to form friendships with people we see on a regular basis. Joining a group or class that meets on a structured day and time (that is interactive) is a great starting point for sewing the seeds of friendships. It adds another important element to forging friendships, which is being exposed to people with shared interests and passions. Think about activities you enjoy or have always wanted to try, and then research where you can connect with others in your area. Some places you can look into are local Meet-ups (meetup.com), gyms, volunteer organizations and continuing education classes.
Self-Compassion is treating ourselves with the same non-judgmental understanding we extend to those we love most. It’s being our own best friend and acknowledging that we are all connected! This is key to friendship building, since it has been shown to boost feelings of positivity, increase self-worth and perceived life satisfaction. With these elements present we are naturally more joyful, recognize the best in others and engage in healthier more enjoyable relationships.
Allow for Self-Disclosure
Self- disclosure in friendships is the ability to have a meaningful conversation on a topic that goes beyond everyday surface talk. Progressing from acquaintance to friendship is often expressed by allowing people in to the deeper waters of our lives and them responding in the same way. I can remember when I knew Rochelle was someone I could see myself becoming close to. One afternoon she came to pick her daughter up from my house and she said, “I feel like the worst mother in the world and my girls are ass_h___s!” That was it. She had me at the pure courage of being truthful about a topic most moms put up a front with. Not everyone you feel comfortable enough to extend personal truths with, will become lasting friends; but with self-disclosure and reciprocity you are creating the potential for super-sized bonds.
Healthy interdependent friendships are a gift from the universe. It is when both parties understand the strengths and weaknesses of the other and embrace each other’s humanness. It’s about an equal amount of give and take. It implies being ok expressing vulnerability and relying on someone other than you once in a while. It also implies that both have developed enough self-awareness and emotional stability to not be draining the life out of the other or always taking. If you feel like you’re possibly too self-reliant to have developed this type of friendship, begin by pinpointing the root of this. What fears are holding you back from being more vulnerable? What beliefs or thoughts could you shift to become a better friend and allow potential friends to truly see how wonderful you are?
Elizabeth Gilbert author or Eat, Pray, Love and a woman that never ceases to inspire me, once wrote “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow- this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”