Mastering Close Friendships

03.07.2024 |

Episode #4 of the course Mastering your relationships by John Robin


Welcome back to the course!

So far, we’ve focused on the closest relationships with intimate partners and family. Now, we’re going to talk about another type of close relationship that comes in many forms.

Get ready to talk about friendships, which we’ll actually spend the next two lessons on. Let’s start with close friendships!


Close Friendships: The “New Mapping” Technique

When you think of who is closest to you, you might not just think of partners or family. Friends can also fall into this category. You might have a best friend you see several times a week, or you might have several good friends you see regularly and who you feel close to.

Whatever the case, close friendships are very important—right up there next to family and intimate partners. Getting a lot out of close friendships is also something we have a lot of control over.

When a friendship is new, you spend a lot of time trying to get to know the other person, but when a friendship has become quite developed and close, there’s a danger you take for granted how well you know them and stop investing as much effort in trying to improve it.

How do you take charge in your close friendships to keep them refreshed and exciting? We will learn how to use the “new mapping” technique.

In this technique, you take on the mindset that you are like a pioneer explorer mapping out new terrain. Most often, when we get to know someone well, what’s happened is we’ve gotten to know the major things about them. These will be details such as:

• Topics you both like talking about

• Topics to avoid

• Family and life history

• Hobbies, interests, career

You might feel you know this person very well from covering these details, but using our new mapping analogy, think of these as the major things like mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, roads. They are enough to get around well and establish comfort when spending time with this person who you consider a close friend, but there is so much more to explore!

Now, as you learn to practice other-orientation and deliberate presence, you might start seeing time with your friend as a wealth of opportunities to get to know them even better. For example:

• What other topics have you never talked about?

• For topics to avoid, why are they avoided?

• What other things have they done in life beyond whatever has happened to come up in conversation?

• What other family stories, or stories about other friends, do they have to share?

• What gets them excited about their hobbies?

• What do they like about their career? Dislike about it?

• Why do they have the interests they have?

You don’t need to launch into interrogation mode! Just use this as motivation to realize when you spend time with a close friend, there is so much more about them you can get to know.

Most importantly, be spontaneous as you explore. Grounded in other-orientation and deliberate presence, this “new mapping” technique is a way to help you end each and every time you spend with a close friend with an abundance mindset—how much each chance to spend time with them is an adventure in and of itself, and there is so much more you can discover in the relationship.


Tip of the Day: Tap Into the “Whatever Arises” Orientation

Practicing the “new mapping” technique shouldn’t be difficult or stressful.

One thing I find helpful is to turn this technique on its head a bit with a particular orientation. The whole idea of the “new mapping” technique is to inspire you to explore unmapped areas. The prerequisite to doing this is to develop openness. Tap into deliberate presence and other-orientation, then take it a step further. You are trying to connect to the “whatever arises” orientation.

“Whatever arises” can be thought of as a very neutral, non-judging, spontaneous state of mind. Imagine you are a sponge and in that moment, you are immersed in this wonderful experience to soak in the relational experience of spending time with and getting to know better the friend before you. You are openly searching for whatever might arise naturally and are ready to receive it—whatever it might be.

When I am sharp on this practice, I find I feel a child-like wonder and curiosity. Many of my guards come down. Instead of wanting to pass judgment, argue, make a point, or show off, I become wholly invested in how exciting it is to be here with someone who, no matter how long I’ve known them, still has so many layers of themselves to reveal, and these layers will all arise through the process of spending time together.

This “whatever arises” orientation will not only bring more to your relationships—it might just carry over into your general attitude toward life. I have found that before I adopted this practice, I generally was such a serious person, always so guarded around others. But as this came down in relationships, it also came down in the time I spend with myself.

From the moment I wake up until I go to sleep, my entire day is an adventure and I am as excited and curious as a child, ready to encounter whatever arises—and this all started with deciding to make “whatever arises” my main practice when I spend time with close friends.

That’s a wrap for today. Stay tuned for our next lesson, where we’ll turn next to the art of balancing many friendships.


Recommended book

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman


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