Adult Relationships

The other day I watched my new neighbor’s young daughter walk her dog past another neighbor’s house, a house with a new little puppy occupant. When the dogs saw each other, they did what dogs do: they circled, sniffed, barked and then played together.

The barking brought out the small daughter of another neighbor. These two little girls, ones I’m assuming have never met, did something sort of like the dogs. Although I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I imagined their conversation from their gestures…

Girl #1: Hi. I like your shirt.

Girl #2: Thanks. I like your shoes.

Girl #1: Do you hate school?

Girl #2: Totally!

Girl #1: Do you want to come over and talk about boys?

Girl #1: Sure!

Dogs and children make friends easily. Dogs just wag tails or sniff butts, and they become instantly close. Children, too, have no fear when meeting new friends. They just walk up and start talking. And if  the two new friends are girls, they are likely to continue talking for the next 50 years.

But when we get older, making friends takes work. Part of it has to do with having jobs that take up a significant part of our lives. And if we add a couple of children, our free time gets reduced even more. Some weeks it’s the best we can do to keep up with friends we’ve had for years. If we happen to be more introverted, the challenge of making new friends is complete.

As I watched my neighbor dogs and daughters make friendship look so easy, I thought about ways that I could come out of myself to make new friends without consuming copious amounts of alcohol to make the prospect less intimidating.

Fortunately, great minds think alike. In church this last week, the speaker talked on this exact same subject using three simple points. Instead of trying to better his points, here’s a summary:

How can you make new friendships and forge new relationships?

Ask deeper questions. I remember this ritual in college that students would use when meeting someone of the opposite sex for the first time. You would try to find out as much as you could quickly: name, year and major…then if things were going well, you would probe deeper to find out about hometown, siblings and willingness to make-out on the spot.

If you want deeper relationships, you have to ask deeper questions than “How are you?” or “Did you have a good weekend?” or “Do you like vanilla?”

Imagine meeting someone who asked you, “So what gets you out of bed in the morning? What drives you?” Or “What is one thing that you hope to accomplish today?” Yes, those questions might seem a little deep, a little personal maybe. But those types of questions are designed to blast past the superficial.

Ask for help. Years ago I read everything I could about Ben Franklin. I recall a story of his about making friends with someone who was a current enemy. In fact, the two of them had a little bad blood between them. Then Franklin had an idea. He recalled that his non-friend had a book in his library that interested Franklin. So Franklin wrote a note asking his non-friend if he would be so kind as to let him drop by some time to peruse the book there inside the library. Franklin sent the note with his servant. In reply, the non-friend personally delivered the book to Franklin that same day as a show of respect.

By showing humility and respect—and by asking for help—Franklin turned a non-friend into a very close friend in no time at all.

On a recent trip to visit a friend in another state, I wanted to help her with some yard work. Unfortunately, she didn’t have some of the tools we needed to get the job done. So we walked up to a neighbor’s house. I met a man named Carl, a very nice guy, who loaned me the tools I needed. By asking this stranger for a favor, I not only will remember his name but I will also be more inclined to look for a way to thank him the next time I see him. In such a simple way, the seeds of a new friendship have been sown.

Ask someone to your table. Breaking bread breaks barriers. A couple of years ago, I knew that I had gotten pretty isolated from others. At that time, I met some neighbors who live kitty-corner from my house. On a whim one Sunday, I asked them if they wanted to come over for a beverage. I was pleasantly surprised when they accepted.

Asking them over wasn’t difficult. But I had to get over my own insecurities. What if my house wasn’t big enough? Clean enough? What if what I served was nasty or not tasty enough?

I’m glad I got over my insecurities because I still get together with this couple on Sunday afternoons at least once a month. Never once did I see a look of judgment in their eyes due to my cobwebs, my poor decorated tastes or my inability to form a coherent, articulate sentence. It was the simple act of humbling myself and being willing to share what I had with them that allowed our friendship to begin and grow.

If you’re isolated, introverted or insecure, can you take a step to build a new friendship? Pick one thing that you’re willing to try. You have little to lose, and you might gain a new friend who will walk with you on your journey.

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