Friday, September 19, 2014

Making Friends: Part 1

I’m going to write a little series on making friends.  Why?  Because it’s been commented on several times that I “make friends easy” and don’t understand what it’s like to struggle to make friends.  I’m a military brat.  I learned at a young age how to make friends or be alone.  It’s a life skill, you’re not born with it.  You learn it and practice it and develop it.  Just like playing the piano or any other life skill.  So, I’ll share what I’ve managed to figure out so far.

Making friends: Step 1
You have to leave your house.


You would never know by this drawing that I am an artist by trade, but I promise you - this was 20 seconds of scribble because I have no extra time to do it right at the moment.  I'd promise to upgrade it later, but that would be a lie.

I know there are people who are yelling at their computers right now.  You are all pointing out all the online friends you have via your computer, phone, or gaming system.  While virtual friends are awesome, unless they can virtually help you move, bring you soup when you’re sick, share your birthdays / wild adventures / midnight cravings, or give you a comforting hug when you’re grieving – they don’t count.  *GASP*  Wait… the internet might implode.
Nope.  Why?  Because all those virtual people are off living their lives.  Lives you aren’t actually a part of beyond the computer screen.  When you are friends with real living people, even when they move away – you’re in their life.  They make plans to visit you, call you, or invite you to their home.  They know what your eye color is, because they have looked in your eyes.  These people have seen your moods change in real time, because they were there when the stupid chick spilled her drink on your new blouse at the first bar you went to while you were dancing on the pole.*

So, to have these people in your life, you have to leave your house. 
Wait!  Before you actually leave your house, there are a couple of crucial steps you must take.

First – make sure your attitude is one of a person who wants to meet others and be social.  I know this sounds silly, but if you’re projecting anger and discontent about being around other people – you’ll probably get equally negative energy back.  This is great if you’re looking to surround yourself with cynical grouches or comedians.  (Which I have several of in my life, they are lovely people down deep.)  Just be prepared for the reaction.  In life, you get (generally speaking) a reflection of what you’re putting out from others.  Getting back apathy?  Rudeness?  Cattiness?  Before you launch into your themesong of how awful people are, be sure you’re not putting the same vibes forward.  You can’t control others or their perception of you, but you can control what information they are given to perceive.
Second – make sure you’re happy with yourself before leaving.  If you’re not feeling very confident, that’s ok (and normal) and no reason to stay inside, but if you’re genuinely at a place where you hate everything about yourself (especially if you’re feeling vocal about it), then maybe going out that day isn’t for you.  Sometimes it’s a passing thing, other times is a daily battle.  It doesn’t mean you’re broken, it just means you may need help dealing with that part before going out to enlarge your circle.  Why?  Because like tends to attract like.  Surrounding yourself with other people who are going through a very broken time won’t be very healthy for you at this moment.  You can’t give from your well when it’s dry.  There are times when staying home or in a safe place is best.  There are also times when you have to ask for help if you can’t get past this.  Being an introvert is totally ok and healthy, but closing yourself off from the world can be a result of anxiety, depression, or something else that can be helped professionally to give you more freedom in your life.  Those people who battle these demons are amazing and courageous, but you have to battle the demons or they devour you.

So, you’ve decided you’re ready inside and out… time to leave the house and go…where?
My recommendation is places you feel comfortable, even if you end up there alone.  A cafĂ© in a bookstore?  A lecture?  Open mike night at the karaoke bar?  A sports bar watching Sunday night football (sit at the bar)?  A live band in the local park?  Heck, a walk in the local park might be a good starting place.  If you work, leave your desk and go to lunch or to a common area and smile at people you don’t know.  Smiling is the coolest thing humans have going for them.  Other animals struggle to do it and look inviting and not like they want to eat you, but humans can smile and say “Hey, how are you?  I’m open to talking to you.” without speaking at all.  How cool is that?! 

So there you go, the very first step.  The next step will involve conversation and body language, but let’s not overwhelm you.  Go out and see others.  Smile – make small talk.  Don’t commit to anything.  Just get yourself at ease with generally being social with strangers… in safe, public spaces.  (We’re not trying to get you on the evening news or anything.)

Will you immediately make 45 friends and besties with these techniques?  No, that’s not realistic, but you’re definitely going to put yourself in a better place to meet people you can actually connect with for longer than it takes to kill the Boss in level 3.
*not an actual event in my life, I promise.

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