Monday, 4 August 2014

Short of chums

It's curious how some people have a natural talent for friendship, making friends effortlessly wherever they go, while others just never get the hang of it and potential friends come and go like ships in the night.

Being one of the latter, I'm always bemused by the friend-makers. I study them carefully, trying to work out what they're doing right and what I'm doing wrong, but I'm none the wiser. They just have an instinctive way of connecting with others that I seem to have been born without.

There's been no shortage of possible friends-to-be, people who on first encounter I seem to hit it off with. But after a few promising chats, the initial spark flickers out and it goes no further. If a friendship lasts six months, it's a miracle. Is it their fault? Is it my fault? Who can say?

It still bothers me that I'm so crap at making friends*. In a society where virtually everyone seems to have an impressive retinue of devoted buddies, my visible lack of them is embarrassing. I could of course fake a gang of bosom pals I'm gossiping away with every night of the week, but I don't think I could keep up the pretence for long. Why would I want to anyway?

I can tell myself a lack of friends has its advantages. Plenty of peace and quiet. Nobody ringing me in a state of hysterical despair at 2 am. Not having to sympathise with some course of action I secretly find idiotic. Not being expected to explain every domestic row to a dozen people.

But it's not very convincing. The fact is I'd quite like to soothe someone's hysterical despair or share my latest marital upset. I'd quite like to be that close to someone. It's not going to happen though.

"There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate" - Linda Grayson.

*With the notable exception of my long-time partner, of course.

41 comments:

susie said...

The only time I had a lot of friends is when I worked for a large company that had tons of people my age. It was before marriage and/or kids for all of us, and we had a good time, a lot of the time.

The older I get, the more introverted I get. I don't need a lot of friends. One or two is fine.

Nick said...

Susie: That's good to know that you don't have a zillion friends either! I'm fairly introverted myself, so maybe that's the simple reason for the chum shortage.

Ursula said...

My dear dear Nick, let me take you to my motherly bosom and hug you. Notwithstanding that you are older than me.

Depends how you define "friend". I am a very, and I mean very, friendly person. Complete strangers kiss me. Can be startling at times. I talk to everyone and smile. It's probably the smile that does it. I bloody can't go to a supermarket without someone asking me which brand of pasta they should go for. Yes, that approachable I am. And it's good.

One of the nicest compliments recently paid to me - by my son- that though we do currently live inner city I managed "to make the immediate area [our street] into something like a village". Sweet, don't you think? I find it amazingly easy to make friends. Always have. However, of more importance: How good a friend are YOU?

U

Z said...

My sister is brilliant at making friends. It's down to being really interested in them, in the best way. Some years ago, we were at a wedding and, after separately circulating and chatting to a number of people we didn't know (I don't find it easy, but I can do it), I went and joined her, where she was speaking to three couples she had just met for the first time. She introduced each of them to me by name and said something about them that she had just been told. There was a stunned silence. Then "I think you're my new best friend," said one of them.

Bijoux said...

I am fortunate in that I've always made friends easily. The minute I walked into a new class at school or college, new job, etc., I would immediately start chatting with anyone around me. It's amazing the connections I can find with complete strangers, but if you ask the right questions, I've found that most people love to talk about themselves. Sooner or later, you will find something you have in common and voila, instant friend.

At least that's how it works for me.

Grannymar said...

I never set out to 'make' friends. I like people and everyone has a story. It is as Z said: It's down to being really interested in them,and I would add throwing in the occasional question to show you are interested.

Sol said...

people with higher IQ's seem to have less friends. Quality over quantity.

I make friends easily, I will let you make of that what you will.

The older you get the harder it is.

A chat with my Nephew turned up that he has 'friends', but only ones into sport and in his street. Not at school which I find odd. I myself only went to school to find out where my friends were going to be that night. Mobile phones were not invented then.

My great Niece is especially good at making friends and like my Mother if she cant get them to tell her what their favourite colour is. She quickly changes to food. as my Mother says, "everybody eats, so they will have an answer".

Nick said...

Ursula: Well, maybe that's part of it, I'm not approachable enough. Maybe I have an air of detachment.

How good a friend am I? Hard to say when I have so few of them. But the friends I do have seem to appreciate my friendship.

Z: I'm very interested in other people, but they seldom open up to me. Perhaps they see my interest as somehow intrusive or over-eager?

Nick said...

Bijoux: I do sometimes chat to complete strangers, but it rarely goes any further. Perhaps I'm not asking the right questions....

Grannymar: Well, like I said, I think my interest is sometimes misinterpreted. Or possibly I'm just trying too hard.

Nick said...

Sol: Supposedly I have a higher-than-average IQ. Could this be my downfall? Clearly my questions are ill-chosen. I should be asking about favourite colours and favourite foods....

John Gray said...

I think that it is incredibly powerful that many people now choose their urbanu family members ( ie friends)
Things just evolve rather than truly change

Helen Devries said...

People interest me...I get into conversations very easily...but I don't see that as friendship.

I have acquaintances, people who drop in or are dropped in on for coffee, but very few real friends - and they are friends indeed through thick and thin.

My husband's long, severe illness winnowed the wheat from the chaff to a great degree.

e said...

Friends are important, particularly if they sub in for family one no longer has. I agree with Helen regarding situations separating wheat from chaff.

CheerfulMonk said...

I don't have many real-life friends, but I do have my family and blogging friends. That works for me.

CheerfulMonk said...

Ursula seems to be fairly extroverted, which is fine. I'm wondering if you're looking for deeper relationships, where you share more of yourself? That's different than interacting with a lot of people.

Nick said...

You see how confused I am about my friend-making ineptitude? I do think it's a knack you either have or don't have.

Nick said...

John: I agree, picking out your own friends rather than focusing on your family is a healthy development. There may be family members we have absolutely nothing in common with, or even detest violently.

Helen: True, off-the-cuff conversations are not the same as friendship. I have loads of acquaintances but no "thick or thin" friends. A severe illness does indeed sort the real friends from the rest.

Nick said...

e: Yes, friends are more important if you've lost your immediate family. Though they can also be important to discuss your tiresome family with!

Jean: Me too, I have plenty of blogging and Facebook friends who mean a lot to me, so the lack of offline friends isn't as disappointing as it could be.

That's right, I would like some really deep, close relationships, rather than endless chatty socialising.

Rummuser said...

This has puzzled me quite a bit. I make friends easily and I have quite a few friends who find it difficult to make frieds, and with who the relationship has lasted decades. While they are good friends with me, they are unable to make such friends with others. I guess it is just that they are comfortable with what they already have in their lives.

Nick said...

Ramana: I think that sometimes, that maybe I'm just comfortable with what I've got and I have no real need to make new friends. So I just don't put in the necessary effort.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Nick,

This is most interesting.For ourselves, we are very curious about people and so we find ourselves involved with them wherever we go. Sometimes this leads to a deepening friendship, but on more occasions, it is a passing phase which is fun whilst it lasts. Indeed, we have friends who have been a part of our lives for thirty or more years and yet others, and we would also call them friends, whom we have known for only so many months. Whatever, we do believe that many friends are a product of time and circumstance and when those conditions change so the friendship does too. This ebbing and flowing of relationships we find entirely usual and not at all concerning.

But, we do find friendships need nurturing. Keeping in touch and arranging meetings, especially when one is physically distant can be hard work but without this, friendship can fade.

And, one's most intimate thoughts, hopes and dreams can often only be shared with one person......that is definitely true for us!

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm one of those who makes friends easily, don't really know why that is. I'm endlessly curious but not nosy, I love to get people talking about themselves and they do reveal a lot.
But I am not needy with them. I tend to avoid needy people as they can suck you dry. I call them vampires. People who never ask questions and only revolve around themselves and petty details of their lives (i.e. endless doctors' appointments and the 4 specialists and their teeth, etc.)
I love hearing about doings and ideas. And history, family history.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Jane and Lance: Indeed, all friendships need nurturing and keeping alive. But I find that after a while there's nothing much to nurture, that the spark has gone out at some point.

You may be right about really intimate sharing only being possible with one person. I'm lucky enough to be that close to Jenny.

Nick said...

www: Over-needy people are a pain in the neck. And people so self-centred they don't even realise how little attention they're giving the other person are bewildering. I wouldn't mind if they had something fascinating to confess, but it's usually non-stop trivia.

Ursula said...

Cheerful Monk's second comment on this thread (with regards to me) and its thrust makes me laugh. Not for the first time. This whole extrovert/introvert controversy is beginning to get on my nerves.

There are many many facets to a person. I am one of the most solitary people I know. Does that make me an introvert? No idea. Neither do I care. We are what we are. And whilst I am so very happy in my own company I am always always always happy and forthcoming, positively gushing, connecting with others. I have been told it's a gift. And so it is. And for the fairy who bestowed me with this gift at my cradle I say "Thank you". To pick up, once more, on the thread: Does my delight in other other people, my ability to so easily connect with others make me an extrovert? I don't know. And I don't care. We are who we are. I hate pigeon holing. With a vengeance. In fact, I am so incensed I had to look up how to spell 'vengeance'.

Hurricane greetings,
U

Ursula said...

Just a quick addendum, Nick, to my last response, having had time to calm down a bit and think about Cheerful Monk's reply a little more:

I think what annoys me more than anything else is that those who perceive themselves as 'introvert' seem to occupy the moral high ground. Just look at CM's patronizing: "Ursula seems to be fairly extroverted, which is fine."

FINE, is it? Thanks. So grateful for the condescending endorsement.

Even worse, and I suppose that's what really raised my hackles: Why are those of us who connect easily deemed to not "look for deeper relationships, sharing ourselves"?

To be fair to Cheerful Monk, and she does have a point which is mute in my recent life but I still do have to qualify: Whilst people pour themselves out to me (and that's great and most welcome and I am always there for anybody) events in the last few years have made me hesitant to do the same. Maybe something CM picked up on. Who knows.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: I guess the terms introvert and extrovert can often confuse things rather than clarify them. But they do have a useful meaning - an introvert gets energy from being alone while an extrovert gets energy from being with others.

You seem to be in the happy position of being energised both ways. I do envy you that gift!

I hope that saying I'm an introvert doesn't imply I have the moral high ground. On the contrary, I think getting on easily with others is a great skill.

And I don't see that connecting easily with others necessarily implies you're incapable of, or not interested in, deeper relationships. Surely the two things can co-exist?

Cheerful Monk said...

I agree that introvert-extrovert are useful concepts. I like Myers-Briggs because they talk in terms of a continuum --- they don't pigeonhole. I'm on the borderline between the two. I've taken MB three times. Twice I was slightly introverted, once slightly extroverted, and, as you say, it depends on the situation.

I'm wondering if U wants the same kind of friendship that you do, though. I have the impression she don't want to talk about the details of her life. She's said she's a private person, but that could just be on the internet, which makes a lot of sense.

I do like details, especially about personal growth, so I taught classes and led groups on the subject. It satisfied a need for me. I was hoping to get into some of that when I had my website Transforming Stress (stresstopower.com), but it didn't work. Cheerful Monk got more responses. That's soul-satisfying too.

Cheerful Monk said...

"doesn't" not "don't", of course.

Cheerful Monk said...

Nick,
I'm pretty making more friends is something you can learn to do if you're willing to put some time into it. NLP, with its emphasis on establishing rapport, is a great place to start. (NLP looks at people who are good at a skill, like connecting to others, and notices how they do it.) You might look at

http://www.the-secret-of-mindpower-and-nlp.com/NLP-techniques-for-Meeting-People.html

http://leadershiptrainingtutorials.com/leadershiptraining/communicating-as-a-leader/building-an-excellent-rapport-with-your-friends-through-nlp/

There's a lot of over-hype in NLP, but it also has some powerful ideas and techniques. I obtained my Master Practitioner certificate, mainly because it gave me some credibility when teaching and leading groups. I've used the material mostly on my inner life. Personal growth used to be my favorite hobby. Now it's pretty much automatic --- down in my bones.

Thanks for the topic!

Nick said...

Jean: You're right that some people just don't want to talk about the details of their life. And there's no reason why they should.

Yes, I daresay a lot of people are a bit of a mixture, in which case the introvert/ extrovert labels don't help very much.

One of my Facebook friends is very keen on NLP, she's been using it for a long time. I should investigate it.

Cheerful Monk said...

I don't think in terms of labels as much as ways of looking at people/ourselves in a way that gives insight. I love MB for that --- it's so nonjudgmental. The Enneagram has also helped me understand the different ways people view and interact with the world.

Jenny Woolf said...

The person I knew who had most friends, was genuinely interested in others, but not dependent on them and, though always willing to help if asked, did not seem to need to help others. She was frank and open about herself, and pretty unshockable, and although cultured and intelligent she was unambitious, unpretentious and easy going, and did not really care if other people were smart or stupid. Most of all she never put on airs and was always glad to see anyone day or night if they happened to call. It seemed like quite a responsibility, being so available, yet this was a very attractive and real element of her personality. She was actually quite self reliant and rather enjoyed being alone. Quite a combination of characteristics and something you probably needed to be born with! Everyone in our family is glad we knew her and although she died some years ago we often think about her.

Nick said...

Jenny: That combination of being self reliant but also genuinely interested in other people is a fascinating one. As you say, I think it's usually something you're born with, though I suppose you could acquire it from a similar parent or parents.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm somewhere in between, I guess. I have a handful (maybe half a dozen or so) very dear friends who I trust completely and can tell anything. I have a number of other more casual friends. I usually find someone to talk to in a group situation, but I don't look for all those interactions to become friends. But maybe it all depends on how you define friendship.

Nick said...

Agent: Half a dozen dear friends are good to have. Friends you can tell anything to are hard to find. I guess by friendship I'm also thinking of both casual and close friends.

kylie said...

i have also noticed that introverts as a group seem to think they have some kind of moral high ground or maybe they think they are misunderstood, i'm not sure but i do get mighty tired of it.

having said that i think myers briggs is an excellent tool towards understanding ones own self or others

Nick said...

Kylie: They do? I must say I've never noticed that. Personally I certainly don't feel I have any moral high ground. In fact I have some quite dubious morals on occasion.

I must try the Myers Briggs test.

Liz Hinds said...

I think I'd just settle for the chocolate.

Like you I'm not good at friend-making. If I talk to anyone about 'stuff' it's Husband and he grumbles that I don't talk to him but bottle it up so I'm trying harder but I'm never going to be one of those 'Friends'.

Liz Hinds said...

Just been reading the other comments and see most people seem to find making friends easy.

Or maybe they're just your typical readership. You attract friendly interested people. Maybe.

Nick said...

Liz: Funny, you always strike me as a talkative, open sort of person who must have loads of friends. I'm surprised that isn't so. Friend-making is a mysterious business....