Finding Friends: Romantic Notions
“No friendship is an accident.” —O. Henry
In our previous lesson, we learned that open-mindedness and a willingness to invest time and proximity in your potential friends are two important ways to broaden your horizons. Now, we will cover some common misconceptions regarding authentic friendship.
Friendship and Fate
Many of us have a romanticized conception of friendship. That is, we feel that for relationships to be authentic, they should happen effortlessly. We avoid actively cultivating friendships, thinking that putting effort into the process is somehow “forcing” a relationship to happen.
Instead of taking action, we wait and hope that the right people will find us. We hope—and even expect—to be swept off of our feet by relationships that are simply “meant to be.” And sometimes that does happen! But… if these fateful romances, friendships, family relationships, and even workplace-buddy-ships do not happen, we might incorrectly conclude that there’s something wrong with us or that life isn’t fair.
Taking Steps Is Not Being Fake
And of course, life isn’t fair. But that’s not the reason most of us find our social circles small or lacking. As with many things in life, the real issues are thoughtfulness and effort.
• Thoughtfulness. While a common movie trope, it’s often naive to expect two or more people to meet, relate, bond, and grow together without putting any thought into the process. Wholesome, edifying friendships are borne out of traits like consideration for others, honest self-expression, and attentiveness. These traits are all rooted in thoughtfulness.
• Effort. Thoughtfulness alone makes good communication possible. However, thoughtfulness combined with effort makes good communication happen! Put simply, most good friendships don’t come out of nowhere. They are the result of two people consciously trying: making the effort to get to know each other, spend time with each other, consider one another’s points of view, meet each other’s needs, make each other laugh, and more.
This does not mean you should be inauthentic as you pursue the friendship. Nor does it mean “forcing” a relationship to happen. Instead, it requires that you take responsibility for your role in the friendship, becoming an active partner rather than waiting for fate to take charge.
Common Misconceptions that Threaten Friendships
All of that said, let’s examine some common misconceptions about friendship. As you read each of the following items, ask yourself: “Does this sound like me?”
• Being a good friend means always saying “yes.” That’s how friends support each other. Saying “no” means that you’re not really there for the other person.
• True friends always get along. Conflict is a sign that the friendship isn’t working out.
• Friends will always have things in common.
• Real friends stay friends forever. If a friendship ends, that means that someone did something wrong.
Though these misconceptions may contain nuggets of truth, taken at face value, they represent very flawed ways of thinking about friendships. For example, consider the exact same list from an alternate point of view:
• Being a good friend means accepting that the other person may need to say “no.”
• True friends may argue, but in the end, they always try to work through conflicts with respect and empathy.
• As people change, friendships change.
• Real friendships have life cycles, like everything else.
We’ll talk more about these perspectives affect us in the next few lessons.
Task #1: Think back to a friendship you had in high school. Are you still friends with that person? If not, why not? Was anyone at fault, or were there natural reasons for the friendship’s ending?
Task #2: Create a friend profile to analyze a particular friendship. This profile will help you to reflect on this important friendship, and in later lessons, compare and contrast it with other friendships. You can use the following questions to build the profile:
1. Who is the closest friend that you have currently?
2. How, when, and where did you meet your closest friend?
3. Was your first meeting a good indicator of how close you would become? If yes, explain why. If not, describe a time when your friendship really began to take shape.
4. What are some things you have in common with your friend?
5. What are some differences between yourself and your friend?
6. What are some benefits you have gained, or are gaining, from this friendship?
7. What are some benefits you have provided, or are providing, to your friend?
Thanks for joining us! In our next lesson, we’ll talk about working on ourselves, mapping our social visions, and handling missed connections.
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