The one thing they don’t teach you in college—ok, they don’t teach you a lot of things, but this is a big one—they don’t teach you how to make friends out in the real world. College, and even high school, are ergonomically designed for you to make friends. They put you in a room with 20 to hundreds of potential friends—you’re all relatively the same age, at a similar stage in life, and depending on the class, may even have similar interests. The friends are there for your choosing.
But out in the real world, you’re on your own. And finding people who are simply in your age range or have similar interests can be hard enough, let alone finding the time, energy, money, and effort to hang out with them to see if you even like them enough to become friends. To me, this is exhausting and sometimes daunting. Nevertheless, it’s what must be done to make those connections and have people in your life.
Personally, the initial invitation to meet for coffee or grab some food isn’t the hardest part. It’s the follow-up and the persistence it takes to build meaningful relationships. Because in a world where people are overly busy, struggling personally, or are lonely but afraid to say so, making friends is no easy feat. But here is a piece of advice, wisdom, encouragement (whatever you want to call it) for when you don’t feel like reaching out because your efforts aren’t matched:
Often the things that hold you back from reaching out to a potential friend or blossoming relationship are holding the other person back as well. So, don’t take it personally. No, I don’t like being the only one putting in the effort to build a friendship—the one who always asks to do something, the one who texts first, the one who makes the plans. I don’t want to seem annoying, desperate, pushy, or needy. But the reality is, I do need friends, and I want them. So, I reach out and I ask how life is going and I offer plans to spend time together. And you know what I realized recently? People’s reasons for not putting in the effort or being persistent are probably not what you think.
Often the things that hold you back from reaching out to a potential friend or blossoming relationship are holding the other person back as well.
I’ve started building a friendship with someone at my job. She showed interest in being my friend, we’ve grabbed lunch together and chat at work, but she doesn’t reach out to me often. The reasoning? Well, in my head it was that she already has plenty of friends and doesn’t need or want my friendship. But after a short conversation I realized that was far from the truth. Although she does have other friends, it was the fact that she is struggling with depression and isolation that she hadn’t reached out—something I completely understand and can relate to. When you’re feeling down, it’s hard to reach out to a friend. When you’re feeling depressed, all you want to do is sit in isolation, even though you know isolation will only make things worse. When you’re sad or tired, it’s hard to think of things you want to do, let alone with another person. When life gets in the way, cultivating friendships is even harder. These things have held me back from relationships as well.
Though this is only one example of many, my point is, if you think that everyone already has close friendships, or is too busy to be your friend, or that you’re being annoying by being persistent in developing a new relationship, you very well might be wrong. It may be that those same hesitations you’re having are holding the other person back as well. So choose to continue pursuing friendships, connection, and community. You may just be the exact friend someone needs, they just don’t know it yet.
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