Cycles of friendship
My name is Jordan Thibodeau. I’m the community manager for Silicon Valley Investors Club, which is a global community of STEM professionals dedicated to making smarter investment and career decisions. You can find our website at SVinvestorsclub.com. I’ve created courses such as Mastering your conversations, Building a network for success, How to work from home: From surviving to thriving, Bouncing back from failure, How to accomplish your goals, and Managing your manager. I’ve partnered with my good friend Joe Ternasky to create this course. Joe has managed many large teams of employees at leading Fortune 500 companies. Together, we will introduce you to simple, helpful, and sometimes out-of-the-box principles about the cycles of friendship. These principles will help you understand your role in finding, developing, and continuing (or letting go of) friendships in order to build a strong social circle and more fulfilling life.
About This Class
This class is about the cyclical nature of friendship. Specifically, we will be talking about three friendship phases: finding friends, deepening friendships, and letting go. We’ll also talk about three basic levels of friendship: acquaintanceship, casual friendship, and close friendship.
A major emphasis in this course is how you yourself operate in friendships. Keep in mind that your proactive and thoughtful behavior is the driving force behind your success not only socially, but also in cultivating lasting and meaningful friendships.
By the end of this class, you will learn:
• How to re-think your biases and discover a wider range of potential friends
• How to be the kind of friend you want to find
• How to avoid romanticizing the idea of friendship and take proactive measures
• How to map out a vision of your future social circle and begin constructing it
• How to build (or rebuild) friendships when you’ve gone through a major life change
• How to practice reciprocity in friendship
• How to understand and navigate the three main levels of friendship (acquaintanceship, casual friendship, and close friendship)
• How to mindfully deepen friendships in their early stages
• How to set boundaries and work through rough patches with friends
• How to understand and tackle the problem of complaining
• How to avoid comparison, resentment, and rivalry—and reconnect with former friends
Let’s get started!
Lesson 1. Finding Friends: Giving Yourself Permission
“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.” —Anaïs Nin
Picking and Choosing
Have you ever thought about how children develop friendships? Not that there’s any hard and fast rule, of course. But in many cases, children develop strong, lasting friendships based on very small incidents: sharing a seat on the bus, having the same sneakers, or laughing at the same joke.
As we grow older, however, we tend to look at others through a more critical lens, especially those we are considering as prospective friends.
Perhaps this is because, by adulthood, we have experienced ups, downs, and disappointments that we had not yet experienced in childhood. It’s as if we have unconsciously built ourselves a cocoon, a protective barrier that prevents hurt and discomfort by keeping people out. While this can serve as a healthy, sensible precaution, it can also go too far. When that happens, we can unintentionally block out people who could have a positive impact on our lives.
Another reason we block others out could be that we have developed unhealthy prejudices. Anecdotal “evidence” from other people we trust, the sway of the media, stereotypes, and other factors can influence us negatively and cause us to feel uncomfortable around those we perceive as different. It’s very easy to make assumptions about a person’s character based upon superficial characteristics.
It’s also possible that we distance ourselves from potential friends because we fear that they won’t fit in with our current social circle. We wonder if they are similar enough to our existing friends, or if they will cause friction, embarrassment, or tension. Young children may take each friend as a new and unrelated experience, but adults can struggle with this kind of openness.
Whatever the case, adults typically measure the people they meet against a number of internal criteria before giving themselves permission to develop the connection. Examples of these criteria could be appearance, perceived social status, perceived financial bracket, introversion vs. extroversion, and passiveness vs. aggressiveness.
Broadening Your Horizons
Do you recognize yourself in the above description? Do you “filter” the people you meet before you decide whether or not to give them a chance?
To some degree, this is normal and prudent. If a person appears dangerous, manipulative, or untrustworthy it’s in your best interest to be careful about getting too close to them.
However, in most circumstances, there’s real wisdom in open-mindedness: allowing yourself to shelve your expectations in order to get to know someone for who they really are.
Simply put, cultivating open-mindedness toward others will give you opportunities for more authentic, varied friendships.
But how do you cultivate open-mindedness? While that is a huge topic, some basic methods include:
• Listening to, and even seeking out, media (movies, news, books, music) you might not normally enjoy or consider.
• Withholding judgment, rather than making quick decisions, about someone else’s opinion.
• Asking more questions, rather than tuning out when a conversation takes a turn you don’t agree with.
• Traveling to new places or trying new activities outside of your comfort zone.
Time and Proximity
Keep in mind that genuine friendships, especially for adults, take time and proximity to fully blossom and grow. Getting to really know a person is a process. It involves seeing and interacting with someone in a variety of ways, through a variety of seasons and circumstances. In a way, it involves a fair amount of testing, growth, and reciprocity.
Along with open-mindedness, it is important to cultivate an attitude of patience and curiosity. Be willing to hang out, meet up, and do things together. If a friendship doesn’t develop, that’s okay! If a friendship does develop, it’s likely to be strong and genuine as it’s based on a shared, lived reality.
Ultimately, it’s good to allow friendships to develop without projecting too far into the future. It might turn out that the new person you’re getting to know fits in really well with your current social life. On the other hand, you may connect with a whole new social circle through a new person, but that circle could remain independent of your other social connections. Furthermore, your personality may include aspects you have not considered before; aspects that might enrich your life if only they could be expressed and developed. Each new friend is an opportunity for you to discover these aspects of yourself.
Reflect on your level of open-mindedness and patience toward others in your journal. How likely are you to pursue getting to know someone who:
• Appears to be from a different ethnic, social, or economic background?
• Appears to be significantly shyer than you are?
• Appears to be significantly more outgoing than you are?
• Seems more aggressive or passive than people you normally spend time with?
• Does not share your hobbies and tastes?
We’re off to a good start! Before our next lesson, reflect on your preferred ways of meeting new people. We’ll be talking about romantic notions of friendship and how they affect us.
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