Deepening Friendships: Early Days
“There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.” —Jim Henson
In our last lesson, we covered the three tiers of friendship: close friends, casual friends, and acquaintances. Imagine you are now ready to put some time and energy into cultivating a friendship in its early stages.
Neither of Us Has Anything (But Time)
In the early days of a friendship, two people share a few things—maybe a common interest or a third friend that they both know. They usually have a basic level of knowledge about each other.
That said, the main thing you share at this stage is a mutual interest in getting to know each other better. You might not express it that way; it might be a bit more accurate (and less awkward) to say that you’re willing to hang out or meet up with the other person or work with them again on a project.
Whatever the case, in the early stages, you are beginning to invest in each other. Although this may feel very casual, if you think about it, you are investing one of your most important assets: your time!
Don’t Worry about the “Why”
In these early days, insecurities and uncertainties can work against you. As you get to know someone, you may question your ability to handle the process of developing a new friendship. You may also struggle with that familiar foe: a comparison. You might begin comparing yourself to others, and wondering if you measure up.
“Why do they want to be my friend?” is not really a useful question. Unless you suspect that you’re being manipulated or deceived (of course it’s always smart to be somewhat cautious with people you don’t know very well), it’s mostly a waste of time to worry about the “whys” of a friendship in its early stages. It’s better to accept that you find value in getting to know this other person, and they feel the same way about you. As things unfold, you will either feel more confident, or you will know it’s time to move on.
What to Talk About
How do you get to know someone better?
Easy. Communication! While that takes many forms, conversation is the most basic.
However, many people struggle to make conversation with people they do not know well. Others find the whole concept of “making conversation” problematic, thinking that conversations should “happen naturally” or not at all.
The best tip for being a good conversationalist might also be the most unexpected: be quiet! That is, focus less on what you can say, and more on what the other person is saying. Active listening can really help a conversation feel more natural and flow better, without any need for force or “technique.” At the same time, having a mental list of conversation topics is not artificial, it is just a good social skill. It can also definitely pay off exponentially if you find yourself feeling shy or drawing a blank.
Here is a short list of ideas that make good conversation topics:
• Art (music, movies, books)
• Fame and fortune
• Current events
• Travel and culture
• Mutual friends and colleagues
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert in any of these topics. You can ask the other person what they know or like about any of them, explain your own goals and interests, and seek to learn rather than teach.
For each of the topics listed above, think of at least one discussion point that matters to you. For example, when it comes to travel and culture, what do you think of? A trip you’ve taken, or would like to take? Maybe the importance of taking a gap year? Or the cost of airfare?
Thanks for joining us today. In our next lesson, we will shift our focus once again, this time from deepening friendships to knowing when, and how, to let go.
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