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Friendship: don’t take it for granted

Friendship: don’t take it for granted

What is friendship and why is it so important to us all? Of course, we all could relate instinctively to the answers, if we were pressed to do so, but many of us have never had to think about it too much: perhaps we didn’t stray far from where we were born, and still have the friends we made in our early schooldays. In that case, friendship is a natural result of shared experiences and upbringing, so it just happens. But what about those who have never lived in one place for long and whose social situation is fluid? How do they form and maintain friendships?

There are many possible scenarios that require us to take positive, conscious action to make the kind of social contacts that result in friendships: leaving home to go to college; getting into a serious relationship and absorbing a partner’s social circle; moving away to take up a new job; bereavement; and isolation due to illness or disability. These are just some of the situations that bring home to us the importance of having other people with whom we can socialise, on whom we can lean when things get tough, and to whom we can give support in return. Friendship is an interactive relationship that provides for the fundamental human need to be social and, although not everyone is confident about initiating it when necessary, the first thing to remember is that nobody should think it’s weird that you are trying! Sitting around waiting for it to come to you is unlikely to get results and does not give positive signals to potential friends.

If you find yourself in the position of having to make the first moves, there are many tried and tested ways of proceeding. For example, one of the foundations of friendship is shared interests, so it makes sense to seek out and join groups where you can pursue your hobbies, sports or intellectual pursuits with others of a like mind. It may be that you’re used to going solo, as in reading, for example, but joining a book discussion group will introduce you instantly to other people. It’s worth making the point here, by the way, that it is important to keep showing up. If you give up too soon or attend too intermittently your commitment and integrity will be put in doubt and will be a black mark against your ‘friendship material’ score.

Unlikely as it may sound, you could make new contacts by going alone to gigs, bars, galleries and shows – just the sort of places that you might normally go with a partner or a group. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, being alone does give you the freedom to engage with people you might encounter there and, if it doesn’t happen, at least you may have enjoyed the event. Or you could take a different tack and try cosying up to someone who knows a lot of people – a ‘super-contact’ who could multiply your introductions at a stroke.

But whatever course of action you choose, don’t forget such friends as you may already have. Be sure to put in the effort to maintain and initiate contact with those you take for granted. Friendship is a two-way street, as they say.

Rachel Ward Lilley is a business and educational psychologist. She has worked for many years advising SMEs and her current work relates to issues of resilience, communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past 12 years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.  Find out more here.

Image by Sasha Matveeva on Unsplash