Building Friendships Takes Work



I have lots of acquaintances. I have made some good friends through blogging, both virtually and in person. Even though I am happy with my own company, I understand that having a few companions can make this time of life more fulfilling. Having someone to turn to during a tough time can make a problem less fearful.  Before making a decision, asking for an opinion from a trusted source helps us make a wise choice. What are the characteristics we look for when asking someone else into our life?  

One of the keys is the ability to share openly. If we are with someone and we must constantly watch what we say or self-censor too much, then a real friendship is unlikely. Sharing both joys and sorrows is critical to a meaningful friendship. That can’t happen if communication isn’t open and expressive. We shouldn’t be hesitant to open up to a real friend.

Be willing to try and experience new things together is a good test of friendship. When any of us leave our comfort zone there is some tension and nervousness present. Even something as simple as trying a different cuisine because your friend likes it can reveal a lot about the state of the relationship. Traveling might be a good test. Being together for several days while away from the security of home and routine can quickly test a budding friendship. If you can laugh together at misfortunes and share great experiences, then a deep friendship may be possible.

A core of common ideas and the acceptance of different beliefs must both be present. While these points might seem contradictory, I believe they are critical. Common beliefs might include the importance of respect for other people, that discrimination has no place in our society, or that children deserve the very best we can provide. 

Obviously forefront in our lives today seems to be highlighting differences in place of similarities. Where we stand spirituality, politically or in one of a dozen hot-button issues of the day can make finding people to share time with seem like a continuous struggle. For a deeper relationship, these differences can’t be used as a wedge or weapon. Honest disagreements should create a stronger bond between two people that value that relationship.

There must be no pressure to “perform.” Think back to a dating relationship you had. Small talk and overt politeness are part of that world. We want to present our best possible face to the other person. But, in a true friendship, it is perfectly OK for one person to be having a bad day and admit it. We don’t have to always look or feel our best all the time. That isn’t real life and friends don’t want someone to put up a front or play a part. “Dress-up” isn’t part of this type of relationship.

There must be a sincere interest to learn more about that person. Nothing could be more unfulfilling than to spend time with someone over a long period of time and never learn more about each other. That would mean one or both people are being dishonest about their feelings and needs. It would mean that the relationship would never become more than skin-deep.

Many people much wiser than I have made the point that friendship brings depth and joy to someone’s life. True friendship is a special gift that two people give to each other. As Proverbs notes, “Disregarding another person’s faults preserves love.” Deep friendship can be an essential part of a life lived well and fully.

Luckily, my wife is my best friend, and my family (daughters, son-in-law, and grandkids) are a close second. My retired life feels nicely complete because I am surrounded by people who let me be me while still inviting me into their lives.