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Friends

How to Discover True Connection

Do not underestimate the power of talking to a friend.

Key points

  • Maintaining connection to other human beings greatly improves one's chances of resilience and survival.
  • Chemistry primarily occurs when two people can share facial expressions, hand gestures, smiles, and tears.
  • It can be easier to make closer friendships as people get older and discover what is important to them and who brings them meaning and joy.

One of the most important goals of human existence is connection. When we develop and nurture our connection to other human beings, we greatly improve our chances of resilience and survival. Believe it or not, people who die early are often defined as quiet, polite, “well-behaved,” and passive. When we openly share our pain and suffering with others, we begin to see that we are not alone and that others want to help us. That fuels a longer richer life.

Please do not underestimate the power of talking to a friend.

It is particularly important as we age to develop meaningful connections. Research has shown that adults with close relationships have less of a chance of mental health problems, high blood pressure, or weight issues. Fortunately, it is also easier to make closer friendships as we age and discover what is important to us and who can bring meaning and joy into our lives.

Good friends support each other. They compliment each other and make each other feel good about themselves. One of the best ways to feel good is to make someone else feel good. It’s just that simple.

Our world has become confused around the word “friends.” We don’t genuinely “friend” someone on Facebook or Instagram. They have stolen that word to make it feel safe and “friendly.” Never would we walk around the grocery store and tag strangers to be our friends, much less share personal photos and vulnerable information about ourselves with them. Social media is not true human connection. It very often has the opposite effect of connection. It becomes competition instead of connection.

What is a true friend?

A true friend allows the connection to happen naturally. When you’re spending time with your friend, be 100% present with them.

Don’t just text and call each other. Spend quality time together. That is what humans are meant to do. Chemistry primarily occurs when you can see each other's facial expressions, hand gestures, smiles, and tears.

A true friend will make you laugh till you cry. They will sometimes disagree with you or call you out on your old negative habits. They will be honest about your personal relationships with others. They will always have your best interests in mind. They will encourage you to move forward and take steps toward your goals. They will help you set those goals.

They will allow you to do all the same things for them.

Let your friends know how much they mean to you. We like the people who appreciate us the most. Make a list of your best friends and then next to each one, write the qualities that you love most about that person. Take a moment to embrace and appreciate those qualities, and be sure and let them know.

We will not always be the perfect friend. We’re all human. When you make a mistake or realize you said the wrong answer, don’t be embarrassed to apologize. Sometimes people grow apart, or the friendship requires a break, or an unfortunate incident might end it. Difficult situations might put the friendship on hold, such as the COVID pandemic. Perhaps it is a certain phase of life that takes you apart. If you need space, a true friend will appreciate and allow it.

Other parts of your life might also take temporary priority, such as work and caring for children or parents. And of course, changing locations will change our connections. Just remember, there is always an endless number of new possibilities.

How do I make new friends?

If you meet someone who feels comfortable and friendly, don’t hesitate to ask them to meet for coffee. It’s a gift to tell someone that they feel like a good person. But how do you meet that person?

Make friends through other friends. Dig up an old friend. It’s fun to do a little research on where an old friend might be today. Introduce yourself to a neighbor. Simply say hello to someone at the coffee shop. Volunteering is an ideal way to meet others that have a similar passion and compassion. Attend local community gatherings and events.

Just remember that to make friends, you must maintain a friendly attitude. It may not happen right away, but it will eventually be rewarded.

Another great way to make friends is to start a group. I have always had fun starting many different kinds of groups throughout my life. Breakfast for old fraternity brothers. A brainstorming group for business marketing ideas. Game night for new friends. Sunday brunches for other therapists.

Be sure and come up with a clever name for the group. For instance, the group I started for therapists is called “Shrink Outside the Box.” We’re the SOBs.

Your group can be for support, for having fun, for raising money, or all of the above. I usually come up with a theme for each time we meet; a topic to discuss or an assignment to bring: something like a favorite family photo. If you want to go deep, discuss personal goals and dreams, or purpose and meaning.

Writing groups are always exciting. You can write during the group or come with a previously written assignment. Book clubs are also stimulating.

A few times when I have started groups, I have brought several old silly hats or wigs and each person draws a number and has to wear that wig or hat during the group. It adds a whole new spark to the conversation. What could be better to post on Facebook than a group photo of that?

You might ask the group to each bring a friend. Friends connect friends. And speaking of friends, dig up old friends who you haven’t spoken to in a long while and start a group with them.

Start a gratitude group. Choose four or five good friends and ask them to email their morning gratitudes to each other. It can be a beautiful way to begin the day, searching for the positive.

Friendships and connections are one of the greatest keys to happiness. Tell that to a friend.

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