Growing a Friendship: pt 4 in finding community

   October 9, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 Day 9: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 

Once you have found friends with whom you can share your heart, how do you grow a friendship?

In the past year or so, these are some of the things I have learned (and am still learning) about growing a friendship.

This is my sweet friend. Shelley. We met when our sons were in the same class in second grade. For five years we said, "We'll have to go out for coffee sometime." Instead, we would just chat in the school parking lot, or when the kids had sleepovers, or if we saw each other at church. 20 years later, we are still friends.

This is my sweet friend, Shelley (she’s on the left, that’s me on the right). We met when our sons were in the same class in second grade. For five years we said, “We’ll have to go out for coffee sometime.” Instead, we would just chat in the school parking lot, or when the kids had sleepovers, or if we saw each other at church. Twenty years (and two grown children) later, we are still friends.

 

You must be purposeful.

Relationships rarely just happen on their own. You need to be purposeful and plan at times. Set regular times in the calendar. Call when you haven’t heard from someone in a while. Send a text, or better yet, a card or a letter to let them know you are thinking about them. Ask how they’re doing, and really want to know.

You must be present.

In the screen age, I find that this is more challenging. We are used to texting rather than calling (even I prefer a text to a phone call). But there is nothing like face to face, sit down for coffee heart-to-heart chat. And put the screens down. If you can, turn off your ringer so you’re not checking notifications every two minutes. I know it’s hard, because our phones have become an appendage, but try. I read last week that the message you send if you’re looking at your phone while talking to another person is “You are not enough for me right now, at this moment.” Even if that’s not our intention, is that really the message we want to send? Look people in the eye. It can be disconcerting – people don’t look each other in the eye any more. Try active listening – ask open-ended questions, and really listen to their answers instead of planning what you’re going to say next.

You must be vulnerable.

Take down your guard. I’m not saying that you have to do this all at once, but piece by piece, share your story. Share your flaws and your imperfections. As you open up, they just might open up, too. If you’re scared, it’s okay to say it. We are all just garden variety humans trying to get through life together. Don’t pretend that you are something other than that.

You must have grace.

Have grace when your expectations are not met, or when you’re disappointed. It is scary to put yourself out there, and being rejected, or feeling like you’ve been rejected, hurts. If someone is late for a coffee date, or if they don’t return your phone call or text, give them grace. Lives are busy, and we don’t know what is happening in their lives. Maybe they’re just forgetful. Maybe they’re just flaky. Maybe they are trying to scrape together every last bit of patience to deal with their kids. Maybe they just got in a fight with their significant other. Be forgiving and show grace, and don’t take it personally. It’s not all about you. Life happens. Move on and try again.

You must show up.

The most important thing you can do is just show up. Even if it takes you seven coffee dates before you can share your story, show up. Being vulnerable is scary, but just show up. Be there. Be available. Not just physically, but emotionally. Be present. If you know you are both going to be dropping your kids off at school, buy an extra coffee and just talk in the school parking lot for five minutes. If their child is sick, bring over some crackers and ginger ale. I love the phrase that author Bob Goff uses in his book, Love Does. “Be love with skin on”.  Just show up.

What does it mean to JUST SHOW UP?

Shelley just finished her last round of chemo and radiation. When she had her surgery, I came over to help her shower, empty her drains and give her injections in her stomach. Sometimes you just show up. Because LOVE. (She is the silly one on the left.)

Shelley just finished her last round of chemo and radiation. When she had her surgery, I came over to help her shower, empty her drains and give her injections in her stomach. Sometimes you just show up. Because LOVE. (She is the silly one on the left.)

 

* There is one more thing –

You must have FUN.

We’ll talk about the importance of fun in the next post.

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2 comments

  1. This is all such excellent advice! I would only add one more thing: don’t be afraid to be assertive about your feelings and needs in your friendship. Many people assume that assertiveness is equivalent to aggressiveness or rudeness, but it is actually far from it. Assertiveness isn’t about being aggressive, but being honest and clear about our needs and feelings. It’s a hard thing to do because so many of us are taught that to give voice to our needs and feelings means that we’re being rude or not thinking of others and their feelings or needs. It’s one of the four communication types and is the most healthy of the four (the others being aggressive, passive-aggressive, and passive). I have found that when I communicate my feelings and needs in an assertive way, I both help myself avoid stress and I avoid a lot of petty conflicts. I’ve also found it to be a helpful tool for resolving major conflicts in my friendships. It communicates my feelings and needs in a clear and firm way while respecting the other person.

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