KEY TO EMOTIONALLY SATISFYING FRIENDSHIPS
Who would’ve thought that we’d feel the least connected to one another, in an age where everyone is virtually connected 24X7, 365 days a year! Yet, that is the generational truth that we all have come to accept and an extension of that truth is that our friendships are losing depth. We have shallow, meaningless relationships with so many people that, when we pause every now and then to breath- we realize how far behind we’ve left those we call our own.
The Problem At Hand
Back when I was in school I had a clear set of friends. There was ‘my gang’ which was obviously made up of the only sensible bunch of people in the entire school and then there were ‘the others’. I never really had enemies but there was always a clear demarcation between those who were part of ‘Us’ and those who made up the ‘Them’. Then came college, where it seemed like I was friends with everybody- I loved everyone and everyone loved me. That was mostly because I knew almost nobody and almost nobody really knew me. That lifestyle often leads us to harbour an unrealistic expectation of how our friendships and social lives should be. Most of us never really manage to completely come out of that frame of mind and that is no surprise either. Also read: HOW LITTLE THINGS MAKE YOU HAPPY
What Science Says
Studies have shown that a person can only maintain a maximum of roughly 150 healthy relationships. This actual number was around 148 but like the amount on your KFC bill, it was rounded off and oh, it’s called Dunbar’s number. The interesting thing is that the number of close relationships you can maintain is much, much lower. How lower? Depressingly lower!
The number is an amazingly low 5. That’s right... science says you can only have a total of 5 really close friends at any given point of time. This is no mumbo-jumbo either! I’ve actually observed this in my own life and made mental lists of the 4-6 people who were my closest friends at any given time. For the most part you only have 2 or at best 3 close friends, the others come and go in circulation.
Where We Stand
In today’s technologically connected and emotionally disconnected world it is rather easy to feel lonely & left behind. I often find myself staring at my phone’s contact list or even the list of active people on Facebook trying to find someone I wish to meet or speak with. It’s doesn’t really shock you because the fact that, the 5 closest friends you have will often not be available is a given. It is more so once you start working and branch out to different professions and often even cities.
Your inner circle is constantly evolving and in a rather Ship Of Theseus way, the circle isn’t even the same circle anymore. To understand this in detail you must later go through this piece in The New Yorker about TheLimits of Friendships. Not now though, for now stay here and hear me out.
The urge to be more and more social pushes us to meet newer people and many of us realize that we actually like meeting new people. This again is no surprise because we only meet the image these new people project and likewise for them. There is a slight excitement of knowing the unknown but, chances are they meet the cool weekend version of you, who is well dressed, warm and appears like a social butterfly. Now, while that is one facet of you... that is not all of you. Also read: IS IT GOOD TO LIE?
What Needs To Be Done?
The truth is real friendships aren’t formed in loud clubs, dressed in fancy clothes while you’re hammering your body and brain with alcohol. Real relationships are formed over boring everyday conversations, contemplating life and its meaning, in awkward silences, while you ridicule random passersby and the likes. Like any lasting relationship, friendships need to be worked on and while friends allow you to take them for granted (some almost as much as family) everyone draws the line at some point. Now you and your friends don’t know where that line is but, trust me... it’s there.
The ideal world where the whole gang chills together every evening no longer exists in your life because you probably have a job now or have a routine that you can’t escape. But how do you ensure that your friendships don’t fizzle out, turn into a primarily formal interactions and leave you feeling alone and miserable? Also Read: HOW MEN FALL IN LOVE
Make Time: Create routine to meet friends- or even a vague notion of routine. Don’t let your weekends turn into mere drinking & dancing sessions. Even if it is just 15 minutes every other day, spend some quality time with your friends. On the days when you can’t meet face to face, call! Yes... calling is the new texting and texting is like well, the least personal form of communication. It’s still better than nothing though- in case you were wondering.
Experience Life: Watch movies together, go out bowling, share experiences together and talk about them, the more direct the experience the better- a team sport for example can work wonders for your friendship. The more memories you build together, the closer you get to each other and the stronger your bond becomes. Also Read: THE ART OF MOVING ON
Listen Closely: Ask your friends about what the most pressing issue in their lives right now is. It could be a romantic interest, an existential crisis, a fleeting feeling of aimlessness or some issue you’ve heard them crib about a million times but, ask about it anyway. If it’s being said again and again- there is probably something that you aren’t listening to. Listen to each other because, this is your support system. Your friends might be a bunch of dysfunctional junkies (in which case you’re in pretty deep shit) but this is your support system- this is what you’ve got. This is what you must work with and this is more than enough.
Make Small Gestures: I’m not saying you should buy your friend a huge gift out of the blue- although why not! Essentially you must let those you care about know, that you care about them. Offer to eat at a place you know your bud likes, offer to help solve problems in whatever way you can, may be hi-5 them on a bad joke- the point is, what you do isn’t important but it is imperative that you do it. Just make sure the message gets delivered loud and clear: “You’re my friend and I give a shit about you... so here’s some of the shit that I give. Go ahead, take this shit.”
There are tons of other things that I’d like to stuff into this little blog post but, I get nervous when I see the 1000 word mark, because I’m afraid you lazy bums won’t read the whole thing. So keep these things in mind and go ahead, forge more satisfying friendships. Also Read: 10 THOUGHTS YOU CAN RELATE TO