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Advice column: How to make friends - part 2!

January 22nd, 2014     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! This is my advice blog for Shameless magazine. My name is Sarah Mangle and I’m so happy to be with you today. This is “How to Make Friends Part 2,” Part 2 of “How to Make Friends.” If you haven’t seen the first one, I talked about childhood feelings. I shared some personal stories about my own childhood, and I talked about the concept of settling into yourself, this idea that when you really are present with who you are, and you’re able to - as much as possible - accept for yourself who you are, it’s going to be easier for you to connect with people, and for other people to connect with you. Also, if people are being rude to you, and they’re supposed to be your friends, it’s okay to leave to stand up for yourself, and not to apologize for looking after yourself. These things are okay to do and great to do, more than okay!

I brought some examples of friends that my brother mailed me recently, who you may recognize, from a very popular TV show: Sesame Street. Here we have Bert and Ernie. Are they lovers or are they friends? We don’t know. I like that these guys, especially Bert, is looking a little glum, so they’re comforting each other, which is a thing that friends do. So that’s really nice. And then I also have these that I made recently. This is my friend Katie as a kid, and this is me. I have been writing a bit about friendship, so I wrote a story about these guys, and their friendship. So, yeah, I thought I’d just share those with you - examples of friends.

I want to just focus today on beginnings and how we initiate contact with people who are potential friends. I want to start with expectations and assumptions and just reflect a little bit. Capitalism is bad for a lot of things, and I think capitalism is bad for friendship. We have, capitalism in our blood and bones and most of us have grown up just within capitalism. I would recommend Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed to reflect on how political and economic structures affect all that we believe to be possible. That’s a good read; anyway, I’m digressing.

Basically, I think that sometimes when we think about friendship, when we think about who we’d like to be friends with, we think about who can get us somewhere, in a variety of ways. Who can make us more popular? Who can get us more opportunities in love? In jobs? In entertainment? I want us to think about: okay, yes, we live in a capitalist world, and yes, networking and community building helps us survive and get work. This is absolutely true, and also needed. But friendship is a project of love, joy, support. comfort and learning, and there are many people out there you could be friends with who you don’t even imagine you could be friends with.

Part of what I’d like to encourage people to do is to be honest about what your expectations are of your friendships and who you assume will make a good friend. Sit with those things and challenge yourself on those things, and be open to the fact that people you least expect - you could find great joy and great comfort and great friendship with those people - and open yourself to being able to be friends with people you least expect. That’s a very difficult thing to do. I think it’s a good thing to think about, despite perhaps being entirely, on most good days, impossible - to be open to every possibility, you know - but I think it’s a useful thing to just think about.

So let’s talk a bit about the invitation: when we invite somebody to do something. If there’s somebody you think you might want to be friends with who you think it might be fun to do something with, inviting people to do things with you is a great way to become friends. Invite people to do things that are simple, that are not epic, that don’t take hours and hours, that are affordable, and that are easily fun, and that you might have in common. It’s also good to invite people to do things maybe not with a large group of people who are already your friends, because that can be intimidating. A place where you’re able to listen to each other, and exchange ideas - I guess I’m kind of talking about how to have a friend date. But I think it’s an important thing to do. You could be inviting someone to go with you to a talk, or you could strike up a conversation at an event, and be like, “there is this other event that maybe we could go to because we’re friends.”

So - oh man, these things - I’ve just go to say, friendship: there’s so much to say about friendship. It just keeps going on and on. I just had a thought about how to make a video blog about the ambiguities of dating or friendship. I guess I talked a little bit about that in my first video blog, actually: having crushes on your best friend, which was really fun to make. I you haven’t seen it, I would ask you to see it and tell me what you think. Anyway, I’m digressing, but I’m just having such a great time talking to you.

So, yes: invite someone to do something that is simple, that is fun and that is not epic, that does not take all the time in the world. That takes the pressure off the thing. If it’s easily enjoyable, it takes the pressure off.

If you’re the person receiving the invitation, respond promptly and nicely, whether or not you want to do it. I would say, if you say yes - really, at the beginning of friendships … I wrote this card out, because at the beginning of friendships, time operates differently. Because you don’t have a basis of trust underneath your friendship, getting back to people is important, and following through and showing up is extremely important. It’s really important, in your first initial hang outs with somebody, as much as possible, do not reschedule, and do not be late. Even if you are somebody who identifies as someone who is late, which I used to be. If you’re someone who is just like, “I cannot be on time,” give yourself way more time than you need to show up and be on time. You’re hurting the person’s feelings and you’re showing them that you don’t care, when you don’t show up when you say you’re going to show up. And once we know each other a little bit better you might know that you have a friend that is just always late. It’s not so personal. It’s not going to hurt your feelings because you know them. But when you don’t know somebody, it’s important to just follow through and be attentive, because if you try to reschedule a bunch of times you’re just sending the message that it’s not a priority.

I will say that when things feel new, we often invent excuses that feel completely reasonable as to why we need to reschedule or why we need to be late. Just be present with those things. Be aware that maybe your nervousness is inventing excuses for why you can’t do the thing you said you were going to do, and then push through. That’s my most important message for this. It’s just that, in the beginnings of friendship, things are vulnerable, we don’t know each other. It’s very easy to have misunderstandings and not know what’s happening, and so this stuff (following through and showing up) becomes really important. And if somebody’s invited you to do something and you can’t make it, one thing that you can do is just invite them to do something else, to show that you appreciate their invitation and you do want to be their friend. Otherwise, it’s really easy for people to be like, “I invited that person to play soccer with me, they said that they couldn’t, and then I didn’t hear from them, so that means they don’t want to be my friend.” If that’s not the case, if you really do want to be someone’s friend, then make a gesture back.

So, the other thing I will say is that if you want to be someone’s friend, and they say that they’re busy, believe that they’re busy and try inviting them another time to do something.

I think I’m going to leave it at that. There’s a lot of other things to say. They’re related to how to build a friendship from the beginning of a friendship, and how to be caring with each other in times that are difficult. I’m also thinking about how to be friends with somebody and navigate that murky area of crushes and friendship. But I think I’ll leave those all for future blogs.

If you have an advice question, or you have some feedback about this, I’d love to hear from you. I wrote out where you can reach me ( If you have an advice question, you can email me at this address. I encourage you guys to enjoy all your friends-making and I’ll talk to you next time. Okay! Bye!

Tags: advice, love and relationships

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