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Keeping Friendships for Life and Beyond

Keeping Friendships for Life and Beyond

Your first friend

It was the freckled girl in pigtails who spent hours hearing about your true love without once telling you that you are talking baloney (yes you were and you know it). Endless lunch hours spent giggling because your crush looked in your direction (the fact that he was just looking for his lost pencil was not discussed); endless notes passed in class discussing his dimples, endless phone calls abusing that ‘other girl’. Ms. Pigtails was your first friend. When that crush went away with that other girl, Ms. Pigtails stayed with you.

Then, of course, there was that dorky friend, jokes so bad they made you want to cry but got you through your difficult high school years. You still remember a few of those horrible jokes and giggle, don’t you? First friend number two.

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Along the years we all have had those friends. The ones who stalk your crushes with more enthusiasm than you, roll their eyes at the exact same time you do, treat your gossip with the same seriousness that Obama brings to world affairs, turn violently abusive towards people just because you mildly dislike them and shower you with unsolicited advice to the point that you want to scream.

Along the way, we lose a few of those friends. In those moments, we miss them, we blame life and circumstances, or just tell ourselves that this is the natural way of life.

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Well, I’ve also lost a lot of friends, but I’ve found a few lasting friendships too. Here are some lessons learnt on keeping ‘your person’ –  the sugar to your cake, the fizz to your Cola.

1. Accept things, friendships change, it’s not the end

It’s easy to be two peas in a pod when you are in the same university, studying the same courses. Not so much when you get a job, get married, have kids. That’s OK. He will not always be available to go drinking with you like college days. She will not always treat your boyfriend problems as the number one priority in her life. Yes, that’s upsetting. It’s even more upsetting when you feel like they have moved on. Got married, while you remain a bachelor. Changed jobs while you remain in the same one. It’s upsetting because not only do you struggle with the fact that you have drifted apart, you also get jealous of the things they have and you don’t. How do you tell your friend that you need their attention because you are an insecure child inside? That you are also jealous of them? Well, SAY IT. Pick up the phone and tell them you miss them and want to meet!

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2. Stay a little possessive

Sounds very contradictory, doesn’t it? Yes OK, we are adults; you can’t just go fight with her because she went shopping with some other friend. But what if for once you did? What if sometimes you just act like a freckled pig-tailed pigheaded little child who demands time. Who calls for an emergency drinking session because the boss has been particularly nasty that day. Who wants undivided attention while lamenting on a haircut gone wrong. Who refuses to share that friend for a few hours – no family, no work, no nothing! Immaturity and possessiveness don’t always kill a relationship; sometimes, in little quantities, they just make it warmer, sweeter, snugglier (Yes, I know that’s not a word!).

Your demanding to be priority number one for an evening won’t turn the world upside down. So do it, demand a little time for just the two of you and let your friend try to suppress their exasperated chuckles while clearing their schedule to accommodate you.

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3. Have a common ground

It may have been years since you connected over a shared passion – hatred for the same teacher, love for the same girl, lack of comprehension of the same subject. As you go on your different life paths, let something hold you together. It could be a common hobby – music, travel, dance, yoga. And, if you are like me, it would probably be something inane and stupid – love for chocolate fudge, hate for Ms. Perfect with the perfect Facebook pictures. It doesn’t really matter; what matters is to keep it alive. So take out time to spend a few hours connecting on shared passions in your adult life. Meet on the day you are ‘officially’ on a break from dieting (as opposed to unofficially, which is every day) and make obscene sounds of ecstasy over that shared ice cream sundae. After all, no one really understands an ice cream sundae the way our ‘also on a diet’ friends do.

4. Don’t get caught up in ‘the plan’

You know, the plan to meet at that chic club has been in the making for three months. Trust me; it may just be easier to make a baby than follow through on that  ‘plan’. It’s not college anymore where no one has a life so everyone shows up. Real life is cluttered with a million things to do, so don’t clutter it up further with elaborate plans. Just catch up. At that little shoe-box café right outside work, at each other’s untidy homes where kids are wailing, or at that particularly dull park with the ghostly tree. Just meet wherever you can to talk and laugh. Every friendship reaches a point where sometimes the best thing to do is to just be together.

So that’s my unsolicited advice. I hope I’m able to follow it as well. I can just about imagine myself sitting next to my friends when I’m 80 badmouthing our Facebook connections. Now that would have been a life well-lived!

With that, I sign off. And dial that number already!

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

The hardest part of socializing, for many people, is how to start a conversation. However, it is a big mistake to go about life not making the first move and waiting for someone else to do it [in conversation or anything].

This isn’t to say you must always be the first in everything or initiate a conversation with everyone you see. What should be said, though, is once you get good at starting conversations, a lot of other things will progress in the way you want; such as networking and your love life.

Benefits of Initiating a Conversation

First thing is you should acknowledge why it is a good thing to be able to initiate conversations with strangers or people who you don’t know well:

  • You’re not a loner with nothing to do.
  • You look more approachable if you are comfortable approaching others.
  • Meeting new people means developing a network of friends or peers which leads to more knowledge and experiences.

You can only learn so much alone, and I’m sure you’re aware of the benefits of learning from others. Being able to distinguish the ‘good from bad’ amongst a group of people will help in building a suitable network, or making a fun night.

All people are good in their own way. Being able to have a good time with anybody is a worthy trait and something to discuss another time. However, if you have a specific purpose while in social situations, you may want to stick with people who are suitable.

This means distinguishing between people who might suit you and your ‘purpose’ from those who probably won’t. This can require some people-judging, which I am generally very opposed to. However, this does make approaching people all the more easier.

It helps to motivate the conversation if you really want to know this person. Also, you’ll find your circle of friends and peers grows to something you really like and enjoy.

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The Rules

I don’t have many rules in this life, for conversation or anything; but when it comes to approaching strangers, there are a few I’d like used.

  1. Be polite. Within context, don’t be a creepy, arrogant loudmouth or anything. Acknowledge that you are in the company of strangers and don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. First impressions mean something.
  2. Keep it light. Don’t launch into a heartfelt rant or a story of tragedy. We’re out to have fun.
  3. Don’t be a prude. This just means relax. This isn’t a science and conversation isn’t a fine art. Talk to people like you’re already friends.
  4. Be honest. Be yourself. People can tell.

Who To Talk To?

I’m of the ilk that likes to talk to everyone and anyone. Everyone has a story and good personalities. Some are harder to get to than others, but if you’re on a people-finding excursion, like I usually am, then everyone is pretty much fair game.

That said, if you’re out at a function and you want to build a network of people in your niche, you will want to distinguish those people from the others. Find the ‘leaders’ in a group of people or ask around for what you’re looking for.

In a more general environment, like at a bar, you will want to do the same sort of thing. Acknowledge what you actually want and try to distinguish suitable people. Once you find someone, or a group of people, that you want to meet and talk to, hop to it.

Think of a few things you might have in common. What did you notice about their dress sense?

Building Confidence

The most important part of initiating conversation is, arguably, having confidence. It should be obvious that without any amount of self-esteem you will struggle. Having confidence in yourself and who you are makes this job very easy.

If you find yourself doubting your worth, or how interesting you are, make a few mental notes of why you are interesting and worth talking to. There is no question you are. You just have to realize that.

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What do I do? What is interesting about it? What are my strong points and what are my weak ones? Confident people succeed because they play on their strengths.

Across the Room Rapport

This is rapport building without talking. It’s as simple as reciprocated eye contact and smiles etc. Acknowledging someone else’s presence before approaching them goes a long way to making introductions easier. You are instantly no longer just a random person.

In my other article How Not To Suck At Socializing, there are things you can do to make yourself appear approachable. This doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to flock to you. You’ll still probably need to initiate conversations.

People notice other people who are having a blast. If you’re that person, someone will acknowledge it and will make the ‘across the room rapport’ building a breeze. If you’re that person that is getting along great with their present company, others will want to talk to you. This will make your approach more comfortable for both parties.

The Approach

When it comes to being social, the less analytical and formulaic you are the better. Try not to map out your every move and plan too much. Although we are talking about how to initiate conversation, these are really only tips. When it comes to the approach, though, there are some things you should keep in mind.

Different situations call for different approaches. Formal situations call for something more formal and relaxed ones should be relaxed.

At a work function, for instance, be a little formal and introduce yourself. People will want to know who you are and what you do right away. This isn’t to say you should only talk about work, but an introduction and handshake is appropriate.

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If you’re at a bar, then things are very different and you should be much more open to unstructured introductions. Personally, I don’t like the idea of walking directly to someone to talk to them. It’s too direct. I like the sense of randomness that comes with meeting new people.

However, if there is rapport already established, go for it. If not, take a wander, buy a drink and be aware of where people are. If there is someone you would like to talk to, make yourself available and not sit all night etc.

When someone is alone and looks bored, do them a favor and approach them. No matter how bad the conversation might get, they should at least appreciate the company and friendliness.

Briefly, Approaching Groups

When integrating with an established group conversation, there is really one thing to know. That is to establish the ‘leader’ and introduce yourself to them. I mentioned that before, but here is how and why.

The why is the leader of a group conversation is probably the more social and outgoing. They will more readily accept your introduction and then introduce you to the rest of the group. This hierarchy in a group conversation is much more prevalent in formal situations where one person is leading the conversation.

A group of friends out for the night is much more difficult to crack. This may even be another topic for discussion, but one thing I know that works is initiating conversation with a ‘stray’. It sounds predatorial, but it works.

More often than not, this occurs without intention. But if you do really want to get into a group of friends, your best bet is approaching one of them while they are away from the group and being invited into the group.

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It is possible, like everything, to approach a group outright and join them. However, this is almost an art and requires another specific post.

Topics Of Conversation

Other than confidence, the next thing people who have trouble initiating conversations lack is conversation! So here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

  • Small talk sucks. It’s boring and a lot of people already begin to zone out when questions like, “What do you do?” or “What’s with this weather?” come up. Just skip it.
  • Everything is fair game. If you are in the company of someone and a thought strikes you, share it. “This drink is garbage! What are you drinking?” “Where did you get that outfit?”
  • Opinions matter. This is any easy way to hit the ground running in conversation. Everyone has one, and when you share yours, another will reveal itself. The great thing about this line of thought is that you are instantly learning about the other person and what they like, dislike etc.
  • Environment. The place you’re in is full of things to comment on. The DJ, band, fashions; start talking about what you see.
  • Current events. Unless it’s something accessible or light-hearted, forget it. Don’t launch into your opinion on the war or politics. If your town has recently hosted a festival, ask what they think about it.

Exiting Conversation

Although I’d like to write a full post on exiting strategies for conversations you don’t want to be in, here are some tips:

  • The first thing is don’t stay in a conversation you’re not interested in. It’ll show and will be no fun for anyone.
  • Be polite and excuse yourself. You’re probably out with friends, go back to them.  Or buy a drink. Most people will probably want to finish the conversation as much as you.

Likewise, you could start another conversation.

If you’d like to learn more tips about starting a conversation, this guide maybe useful for you: How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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