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How to Create Sustainable Friendships

How to Create Sustainable Friendships

You look at your cell phone. No messages. No calls. No voicemails.

You check your Facebook account, and no one is interacting with your posts, and yet other people seem to be having an amazing time, out and about, having discussions online and off.

And you begin to wonder…

“Is There Something Wrong With Me?”

And the answer is quite simply: no.

It’s just that you’ve let your network slip. Yes, you may be private and shy. Yes, you may also not agree with the principles of facebook, but staying in touch and maintaining friendships isn’t something that you should give up on.

Having people you connect with and belong with is one of the very basic human needs. Without it, we can feel outcasted and neurotic. Human contact is one of the most soothing and grounding things you can ever prescribe yourself–and is much better than eating, smoking and working yourself to death.

And that’s just how being lonely affects you on a personal level! Don’t even get me started about how essential other people are to your vocational success!

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And it’s ok. I get it. Life gets in the way. Family stuff happens. Work stuff takes you out of it. But real, lasting friendships can withstand periodic absences.

So if you’ve let your network deteriorate and your little black book is so out-of-date your Christmas cards would be “returned to sender,” (if you were to ever send any!), then don’t worry.

Here’s how to rekindle your friendships and maintain them on an ongoing basis.

(Re)Kindling Existing Friendships

I get it. It can sometimes feel awkward to suddenly reach out to people you haven’t been in touch with for years. The reason it’s awkward is mostly just because you’re hallucinating rejection. The reality is, unless you’d left things on a very bad note, most people are THRILLED to hear from someone who they haven’t been in touch with for a while.

Reach out. Say hi. Take the risk. You’ll feel amazing when you get the message back, “OMG, where have you been? It’s been ages! So glad you got in touch again!!”

What do you say in that first message?

Well, start with hello. Acknowledge you’ve been off-the-radar. Apologize briefly if appropriate, and follow up with something like, “It’s been so long, I thought I’d reach out and just say hi. How is everything with you?”

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If they live or work locally, arrange to meet up. Go for coffee. Get it in the diary, and remember to always, always, always follow up. Don’t get them to respond with a “yes, when is good for you?” and then just let the rekindling lapse again. You laugh, but I see people do this all the time in business stuff.

Ok, so now you’ve rekindled a few friendships, and as you might imagine, this is only half the story. The trick is to never let friendships get to that embarrassing point where you need to drag them back from the brink and re-learn everything you knew about a person.

The thing is, you don’t need to be in constant contact with someone to maintain a relationship. You need to create meaningful connections and creating positive experiences when you do connect so that the other person will always want to connect with you.

Keeping The Flame Going

Ok, so staying in contact is useful, but doesn’t have to be every week. How frequently you need to be in touch with people depends on the relationship, what each person is used to and how many other friends and commitments each has.

All you really need to do is to think of people and just connect over anything, though. It could be something silly on facebook. It could be an email to say hi. It could be a quick coffee between meetings if you’re in the area, or drinks after work. It doesn’t need to be a chore, and even if you’re not very outgoing, elect to do something that you’ll both enjoy.

It’s getting easier and easier to stay in touch with people with modern tech–we have Skype, Face Time, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email. We even have the old fashioned text and phone! The list goes on. That’s not to say that you connect only through these means; far from it, there is no substitute to really connecting with people in person, but technology makes it easier in those in-between times.

Create Rather Than Consume

Here’s the biggest learning I’ve experienced in both business and personal relationships:

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Friendships are more meaningful and profound when they are based on creation rather than consumption. What does that mean?

Friendships based on getting a group of people together for dinners or drinks don’t tend to last long when people show up with the attitude that they want to be entertained. They go to consume, to get something from the experience, to be a passive component where the success of their experience rests on the restaurants, the other people, and the evening’s entertainment. This is why heading down to the same bar each night with the goal of just “consuming” soon meets with boredom.

The most meaningful and profound friendships I’ve ever formed have been with people who I’ve been creating something with, whether it was a video project, a marketing campaign, an event or workshop. Having a common goal to make something happen means that each party is invested emotionally and in terms of effort to show up and be present. Energy and intention is committed to the project outcome and the relationship in the process. Common objectives bring people closer and bind them together. Similarly, it’s no accident that people who survive intense experiences also bond on a level far deeper than in day-to-day experiences.

But it’s not confined to work-like projects.

People who share common activities create lasting friendships. I’ve recently started back at Tae Kwondo in the area I now live, and was invited to the club Christmas dinner. What was fantastic was the family atmosphere and air of cooperation and mutual support between people who train together. Common interests and goals create meaningful friendships.

Sounds like a subtle difference between showing up to create, or showing up to be entertained?

It is, until you start increasing your awareness in this way; then you’ll be able to see who is creating and who is consuming. Yes, that’s right–you can have creators and consumers all at the same event potentially.

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How To Create Meaningful Connections

Noticing this, I started to wonder: how does one apply this to an existing network? Whether they are new acquaintances or old friends, or contacts? In fact, how does this apply in a family?

If it all boils down to creating rather than consuming, a simple shift in attitude can make all the difference. Here are some simple guidelines to follow to create all the meaningful connections your contacts list can handle!

  1. Make the effort to show up to events, parties, and get-togethers. Don’t think, “what is in it for me?” Go with the intention to connect with people and contribute something, whether it is your energy, your assistance, or your own connections. In fact, if you can take someone new along, so much the better. (Obviously this isn’t always appropriate, but people love meeting new people, once they get over the initial awkwardness!)
  2. Meet people for coffee when you’re in the area.
  3. Make a point of dropping a note to a few people a week. Use your contact list on your phone, or your friends list on Facebook or wherever it is that you store contacts.
  4. Don’t know what to say? Just say hi, and ask them what is new in their world. Maybe share something that is new for you.
  5. Don’t be despondent if you don’t get a 100% response rate. People move on, phone numbers change, life is busier than any time in history. Plus, maybe they have not have read this article. ;) Cut them some slack!

Who Would You Love To Be Back In Touch With?

So there we have it.

Creating and maintain sustainable friendships isn’t rocket science, but it takes a bit of effort on your part. If done well, and consistently, you will never be short of friends, connections and people to share your life with.

And all it takes in the first instance is a tiny shift in attitude: create rather than consume!

Who would you like to be in touch with? Reach out to them right now, and just say hi. The holiday season is a particularly good time for this because people are going to be around at home and winding down work activities between now and the end of the year. Send a text, a card, or make a call. You’ll be pleased you made the effort, and so will they!

More by this author

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

More Tips About Making Influence

Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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