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Advice column: How to make friends - part 1!

October 29th, 2013     by Sarah Mangle     Comments

You can view the video here on this page or on YouTube. A transcription is below the embedded video. Feedback is welcomed! - ed

Hi Everybody! My name is Sarah Mangle and I’m doing a video blog today for you called, HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS, and it is actually Part 1: Part 1 of HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS, because I realized that there’s actually a lot to tell you. I’m going to do 2 parts of HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS, the ADVICE blog.

So, the first thing I want to talk about which is actually way more complicated than I think we realize is: WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP?

What is friendship? I think there’s this thing where we think that friendship is something that we know more about than romance, perhaps, because we imagine that kids have friends, so we have a lot of time in our life learning about friendship, and romance is something that comes later in our life, or something. But I actually think that friendship is something that sometimes is a really painful process for many of us through childhood, and then we have to figure out as adults or teenagers or whatever, how to have healthy friendships after having a really hard time with friends in childhood.

So I’ll talk a little bit about that, but first I just want to talk a little bit about WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP? Because when we’re kids, friendship is the person whose house you went to when your parents were at work, or the person you played with in the schoolyard you maybe didn’t necessarily like or understand.

So, when I’m talking about friendship, the first word I thought about actually when I was thinking about this blog for you, was the word joy - sort of like a mutual excitement that we have for another person, but this joy that we have when we’re around them. Often with friends we have a nice closeness, and friends watch each other in attentive ways. We notice subtle things about our friends and often there is mutual excitement about interests. But sometimes, those interests are not what we expect, and sometimes when we have this idea of a friend we are looking for or we’re looking for a certain body type or age of something of person to be our friend, we’re often let down. But I’m going to talk a little bit about that in the second part of HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS.

Today, I want to just focus a little bit on grounding yourself in yourself, and thinking about your own childhoods and then also just a little bit about qualities that can make you attractive as a good friend. I want to say, too, that friendship is really hard for a lot of people and really confusing.

I’ve definitely had the experience, when I moved from rural Nova Scotia - I moved from Wolfville, Nova Scotia to Montreal when I was 19 - my parents were driving down Sherbrooke Street, and I just remember looking out the window, and seeing people hanging out together, in the park, or walking down the street, and thinking, “I have no idea how to get that. I have no idea how to achieve enough closeness with someone to walk down the street with them.” This can be really confusing and overwhelming. It can feel really artificial to do.

So the first thing I want to say is: SETTLE INTO YOURSELF. This is the hardest thing in the world to do, but I think it’s a good place to start. One thing is, it’s kind of like, you have to sort of accept yourself where you’re at. And when I think of settling into yourself, I actually think of sort of like settling into a chair, or settling into a mindset of your body, where you say, “Okay. This is actually where I’m at. I might want to be somewhere else in myself, but I’m actually right here where I’m at.” I might want to be a different person, a little bit, but I’m actually where I’m at. And, the thing is, actually, where you’re at is one of the most interesting, important things about you. If you’re able to sort of settle into where you are, you’re going to be able to connect with other people, because you won’t be lying to yourself about how you’re doing. It will be easier for you to not lie to other people.

It is interesting going out in public, leaving your house and going into public. I think that something else happens to us, that in part can really fight depression, but also, we’re being seen by other people, and in part that creates our ideas of ourselves. In this other part, we can’t control what other people are going to think. So if you can settle into yourself, and just be sitting with who you are, that’s going to help you better connect with other people.

And I have this other point. This: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE IMPRESSIVE. You don’t have to be impressive to make friends. And you don’t have to perform something to make friends. In a lot of ways, if you are impressive, in a variety of ways - I’ll give examples - it’s harder to make friends.

If you bump into someone in a coffee shop and they say, “Oh! What are you up to?” and you say, “I’ve become a doctor and a lawyer and I’m starring in my first movie, but I’m also touring the world with my world famous band,” those things do not help you get more friends. There’s this disconnect for all of us between popularity - like, famousness - and having lots of friends, and actually, being well-known on the internet, or even being talked about a lot, does not mean you have any more friends than anyone else. Many times, it means you have less, because you have less free time, and you’re touring the world, and you aren’t in a neighbourhood where you’re bumping into people.

So, when you go to a party, or you’re at a coffee shop and someone says, “Oh, what are you doing? What are you up to?” You do not, in that moment, need to come up with anything impressive, anything beyond what you’re up to, and, in fact, you can come up with things to say that are really human, the other person is going to be more easy to relate to those things. And then, if you, in hearing the other person’s answer to “What are you up to?” are able to respond with something in common or a common feeling, that will bring you closer together and more likely to be friends.

There’s a thing, for those of us who are making video blogs on the internet, or doing other things in public - there’s this idea that we have more friends, I have more friends than other people who I have a video blog, for example. I actually have a really hard time making friends. I don’t have a hard time being friendly, which is something that other people sometimes struggle with, but have a hard time being vulnerable, trusting people, and welcoming them into my life. I don’t have a hard time for some reason in making a video blog. But, I do have a hard time in making friends. So I think there’s this funny idea that if you’re famous, you’ll have lots of friends, or if you want to be friends with somebody who is well-known, they don’t have space or time for you, or that you are somehow not worthy of their friendship. These things are just not true. If someone - if their face is on the newspaper for doing something cool - it doesn’t mean that they actually have any friends at all. It just means their face is on the newspaper. You don’t have to be impressive to make friends, and in fact, if you are impressive, it is sometimes just a huge hindrance to making friends. So that’s an important point for me to share.

So, the next thing: let’s just talk about CHILDHOOD FEELINGS. First, I want to just share for you a photo of me. This is me as a child. There I am. With my nice funny hair. Well, really nice hair, actually. My mom used to french braid my hair all the time.

So, this Sarah Mangle, she played a lot with these girls down the street. “Played.” “Played.” We grew up in a small town where there was big farmhouses, driving into town. I actually only have love for those girls that I played with. However, they weren’t nice to me. They didn’t know how to play. And that’s also not their fault. They came from a different class, like a higher class background than me, for the most part. And I was like their - I was literally their witch, I followed behind them chasing them. I was their permanent “it.” I never got to run away from anyone. I was “it” all the time. They threw my hat in bushes, and I didn’t get - what’s the word? I didn’t get the joke. I didn’t get sarcasm. I didn’t find it funny. I was really hurt. And I felt deeply, deeply, weird as a child.

So, one thing that I did that really worked well is that I - well, first what I tried to do is I went to their parents, and I asked them to help me be treated better by their kids. And their parents, probably with the best of intentions, said, “Well, kids are kids, you know, you work it out yourself.” So one thing I did try, was that I stole a doll from one of them, and stormed home. But then I felt wracked with guilt, that I had stolen a doll, it didn’t help me in my anger against her. I felt very guilty and I returned it to her.

But then what I started doing was just leaving. Just being like, “I’m not having fun. I’m walking home.” And I would walk home, and I would get home, and my mom would be surprised to see me, and the girls I was playing with would also be really surprised, and they would call my house and they would be confused, and my mom would say, “Do you want to talk to them?” and I would say, “No.” And then their parents would get on the phone and would say, “Your daughter owes my daughters an apology, or your daughter owes me an apology.” Because maybe I was a bit rude, because I was just so frustrated. And my mom, in this amazing parenting moment, would say, “Well, she’ll apologize to you if she feels sorry.” And then she would look at me and she would say, “Do you feel sorry?” And I would say, “No.” And so the strategy that I learned as a child was around enduring a lot of weird treatment and then proclaiming an act of self-preservation and removing myself from the situation.

So, not surprisingly, this is also something I do in my adult friendships. I often don’t expect that I will be treated with mutual support, and I often set boundaries really clearly and then maybe let conflict exist and drift back, and say, “What are you going to do to prove that you’re my friend?”

This is a thing that’s important to be aware of: what kind of childhood did you have? What kind of friendships did you have? What did you think you deserved in your childhood? because it’s going to show up in your adult friendships, and it might not be - it might be warranted or it might not be warranted. You might behave in a certain way that is confusing, that makes sense to you but doesn’t make sense to anyone around you. So it’s just useful to even just ask yourself little questions. For me: what was happening in my childhood with friends? My best friend was my brother and we had a lot of fun - otherwise, I didn’t have any friends. I had some friendly people. It was not a lonely childhood - my brother and I had a lot of great times - but for the most part, socially, I was absolutely confused and I was a total weirdo. I don’t look like a total weirdo. I maybe look like more of a weirdo now, but inside I was pretty strange.

So the last part of this blog - you might be saying, “Sarah hasn’t told us anything really about how to make new friends.” Next blog, what I’m going to do, Part 2, I’m going to talk about initial contact with people, how to start a friendship, and then I’m also going to talk about how to build a deeper friendship. So those are the two things we’re going to talk about in that one, but I just wanted to do a little intro: what is friendship, who are you, you don’t have to be impressive, and what was your childhood like?

The last piece I want to talk to you about today has to do with qualities that you can work on in yourself that will help you be a good friend. And if you are a good friend, you will have friends.

So I have these two signs: GENEROSITY and LISTEN. If you can be attentive to people, if you can pay attention to them, if you can be generous with people, and generous with yourself, you will have more friends. You just will. And part of that is something I actually learned from working with kids. That is an interesting trick. It is a literacy thing with kids. It is a literacy theory, that if a child starts talking to you about a topic, what you need to do to help support their literacy and language skills is continue what they are saying. Continue the topic that they’re on as much as possible. I mean, don’t stagnate it. Don’t be like, “We’re talking about Lego so we must always talk about Lego.” But don’t dramatically change the subject. That shows that you’re listening and interested, and that shows that what they want to talk about is important and interesting.

You can do the same thing with adults. If somebody is talking to you about this thing, one way to show that you’re listening is to contextualize for yourself and repeat back to them what you hear them say, how it relates to your life and how it relates to other things. It is kind of a red flag for somebody if I’m saying something and then they dramatically change the subject, unless it makes a lot of sense. That sort of shows me that I’m not being listened to. And listening and generosity and care are main parts of friendship all founded on a kind of connection, but that connection can look like a lot of different things.

Anyway, that is all for this Part 1, and I look forward to delivering to you the other part, but I’d like to encourage you, in closing, to think a bit more about WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP and what do you want from your friendships, and how well do you listen to people, and how could you maybe listen to people better. That’s all. Bye!

Tags: advice, love and relationships

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