October 5, 2009

finding friends

In my last post, I talked about being new in a city and the struggle to find friends.
Years ago, I read a research study dealing with social support. It found that the variable most predictive of a friendship developing between any two people was, simply, time spent together. Not common interests, like I guessed. Not same background or religion. Not age. Not level of education.

Greater length of time spent in each other's company was the factor most associated with friendship bonding. Either long periods of time in one space (think weekend workshop or jury duty) or repetitive intervals across time (weekly art class). Time that allows for talking and getting to know each well enough to break down the barriers and move to a point where calling each other for a get together feels acceptable. Safe. And eventually easy.

I wish it were faster. I wish we could attend a party, walk up to someone new and say, "Hi. I overheard your conversation and you seem like someone I could be friends with." But this rarely happens. It might have been this easy in kindergarten. The older we get, though, the longer it usually takes. We grown ups are a leery lot.

Place of employment is a common venue for making friends. We can see the "time spent together" factor at work here. Many of my clients in this friendless predicament report the social scenerio at their jobs is lacking They might have made slight inroads or none. "Everyone is married." Or, "They're all older than me." Or, "They all do the bar hopping scene. I don't like bars." When friends don't arise in the work place, it can lead to looking around and wondering, "Now what?"

Well, here's one idea for the now what. Remember this one goal: Put yourself into situations where you are likely to see the same people again and again.

Visiting a museum one afternoon is not going to cut it. Signing up for a book club where the same people will be meeting week after week might.

What kind of situations? Start with an interest. A hobby. A creative outlet. An athletic pursuit.

What do I like to do? What am I interested in doing that I've never done before? What have I long wanted to try but haven't made the time to do so? Gardening? Creative writing? Volley ball? Woodworking?

Thumb through the newspaper in the local/metro or life section. Check out informal classes or adult education available at nearby colleges. Read over the available class schedules as a way of getting ideas or jogging your memory: photography, landscaping, stained glass, salsa or country western dance, yoga, walking tours, home improvement, bridge, dominoes.

Look for events that meet repeatedly, once/week or every other, where it seems likely you'll see the same faces on a repeat basis. A one-time seminar on a Saturday is better than sitting home and meeting no one. But a class or support group that meets regularly is a better bet for getting in the time needed to develop a friendship.

Some venues encourage interacting, such as team sports, creative writing classes, support groups, walking clubs. Others are more of a solitary pursuit. Avoid the latter. We want to optimize our recreation and volunteer time. Go where the opportunity for getting to know others is made easy.
The beauty of my plan is this: Even if your pursuit doesn't result in friends, let's say you're not interested in anyone who shows up, you are spending time doing something entertaining, challenging, and fun. You might be learning something.

Another benefit? You become more interesting this way. So when you do meet someone who has friendship potential, you're more likely to have something to offer. To be found friendship worthy.

So starting with something you're interested in is one friendship finding avenue. I'll have more to offer in a later post or two.

Grief Resources in Austin and Beyond

When you need more than your loved ones can provide, there is help.            Resources for Grief and Support Groups     Compassionate Frie...