Following on from a topic discussed on Loose Women, I started thinking about friendships and my own openness to making new friends.
When we were young, we tended to have loads of friends and it was pretty easy (besides the odd silly drama here and there). We spent hours on end chatting, laughing and gossiping. I really admire youngsters that build friendships and live in each other’s pockets without overthinking it. Don’t get me wrong, I know we all have experienced moments of disagreement or feeling pushed aside when our best friend suddenly got a new best friend. Yeah, those moments sucked but we got over it and made new friends.
I remember being on holiday and within a day my brother and I would have a whole new group of friends. Our little gangs strutting around the holiday complex like we knew each other for years. But when did all that change? When do we suddenly become more wary of making new friends and why?
Again, this is a generalization because I know people that still make friends really well but it doesn’t happen as instantly as when we were young. And for the majority of us it’s a real challenge or it doesn’t happen at all.
What stops us making new friends?
I asked a few people this question and some gave me the ‘I’m cool’ shrug and said they weren’t bothered but of course I had to push this further. As we continued to discuss it, it began to unravel the concerns with feeling suffocated and even feelings of vulnerability. This made sense as we don’t want friends to live in our pocket anymore but we also fear opening up and don’t want to appear needy.
Feeling suffocated from friendship
Some people rather a close friendship, that for others is suffocating. We are grownups, we have reasonably busy, ‘serious’ lives. Building a friendship that becomes time consuming can put us off altogether. We all approach a new friendship differently but it is probably best to start as we mean to go on so we both know where we stand. If we feel it is getting too much, we can always talk about it or say ‘no’. We are way too willing to say yes to everything even if we don’t mean it.
I wasn’t brought up in a family that welcomed unannounced visitors (which was sometimes unnecessary but what I can say, my mothers stuck in her ways). The door would knock and eyes would roll but as that door opened you would never know as the best friendly, welcoming face was offered. I’m sure some people hate this so much they hide and pretend they aren’t there at all. We are funny creatures but we don’t have to let it get to the point of feeling suffocated; set the standard or subtly let them down.
Don’t want to appear weak or like you need someone? Have you got a wall up to new friendships because you present with a strong persona but inside there’s a whole host of things going on that you don’t want to share? Yeah, I get it but we are only punishing ourselves. This is something we build up inside our mind as we convince ourselves it’s safer to push people away. What a shame to miss out on something that could be good for us.
So, how’s about letting that person in; we don’t have to share anything we don’t feel comfortable with and they can’t read our mind. It’s our mind that tells us we are vulnerable, but allowing a new friendship doesn’t instantly make us exposed. And in time we may develop a sense of trust where we feel more willing to open up. We won’t know until we try.
Too busy and haven’t got time for new friends
Lack of time could be the reason for everything. And that’s fine if new friendship is genuinely something we don’t need but if we are open to new friendships it may be worth scheduling some time aside; even if it’s every other week or once a month to go for a walk or have a coffee. Sometimes it feels too stressful to squeeze another activity into our week but this social time might be the break we need to be more productive with the other things on our list. Refresh the mind by taking some time out and get to know new people.
Lacking confidence or fighting self esteem
After meeting someone new, we may start to feel we’d like to be friends but we struggle to take that step. Why – is it confidence? Or maybe self-esteem? We lack confidence to say ‘do you fancy popping for a drink on the weekend?’ or maybe we feel weird and vulnerable of rejection. This may come hand in hand with a lack of self esteem as we question if we are good enough, interesting enough, funny enough etc etc etc. Only we can assess if the friendship has growth but what have we got to lose by asking? I agree it’s not nice when someone blows us down but how are we going to grow and have positive experiences if we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to get there.
I’m not open to new friendships if they can’t add something to my life
This is actually what Jane Moore said on the Loose Women panel and I can see her point. If you already have a lot of friends and feel tight on time then you may not feel open to new friendships. If so, fair enough. Discussion closed.
The majority of new people we meet will be via work which is a place many people develop good friendships. As someone that has moved from team to team recently, I know the struggle of trying to fit in to a new team let alone build new friendships. The work environment can be a clicky place where many people feel intimidated or as though they don’t have a place. This is tricky as after all we spend half our life in work and building friendships would make it more enjoyable. If its early days give it time, I’m sure you’ll find your place and click with someone. That’s hard to accept early on in a new job as it can feel so uncomfortable and lonely but try to recall another experience where you felt this way but it turned out okay in the end.
It may mean we need to put ourselves out there more; it’s no good refusing to sit with everyone for lunch or saying no to nights out as these occasions will give us the opportunity to start building those friendships. It’ll also show colleagues that we are open to getting to know people and make us more approachable. It may take a brave face and tough skin as some of the more clicky, mean girl members of the team shun us, but we’ll find our person and the rest is history.
So, are you open to new friendships?
There’re so many reasons we may cut ourselves off but sometimes it’s worth opening the door to see what can happen. As they say it’ll either be a blessing or a lesson.
“Remember that every good friend was once a stranger.”