Loneliness ends when friendship begins, right? So, how do you go from all alone to all the friends you want and need? The solution, though not quick and easy, begins with you, within your own heart and mind. Here are five steps you must take to enter the friendship zone and create and maintain as many real friendships as you desire:
Step 1: Show up. You form relationships most frequently from the people you see most frequently. That means if you want to find a friend you must get out of your shell and show up someplace where people you might like to meet can be found. Get active in a cause you support, go to church, volunteer, or search for clubs or other organizations that interest you. When we moved from San Diego to Colorado we moved to a town where we knew almost no one. When the political season started I went to a caucus meeting and met some of our neighbors. Now we have new friends with common interests because I showed up.
Step 2: Speak up. It is easy to interact with people who like the same things you like. When I went to the political caucus meeting, I was confident I would meet people who agreed with my political ideas. In the process I got to know a couple with whom I shared much more than a common political position. We asked questions, listened politely, shared personal histories, and were drawn together by what we saw and heard. We spoke up!
Step 3: Open up. You move from being buddies into the friendship zone as self-disclosure increases. A few weeks later our political friends dropped by for tea on the patio and our friendship deepened. In the comfort and privacy of our patio, we shared even more of our personal lives. We opened up.
This important step into the friendship zone is usually gradual and must be reciprocal. Here is how it works: one friend takes a risk and reveals something personal followed by the self-disclosure of the friend-to-be. If the reciprocity continues, the entrance into the friendship zone advances. Experience will teach you when to step into the friendship zone and when to hold back. You can be quite certain the friendship zone is open wide when someone says, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” It is an invitation to intimacy (familiarity or closeness). As time passes, the act of self-disclosure and reciprocity become the glue that binds a friendship.
Step 4: Listen up. Good friends know when to talk and when to listen. People who make every conversation about themselves do not stay long in anyone’s friendship zone. Those who know how to listen with skill and empathy have many long-term and meaningful friendships. Good friends listen to each other and by doing so provide emotional support and unconditional acceptance.
Step 5: Shut up. Good friends tell us the truth about us, but those who have too many opinions about our mate, golf game, wardrobe, religious convictions, etc., become tiresome and eventually unwelcome in our friendship zone. Another aspect of the “shut up” principle is confidentiality. Someone who broadcasts to others titillating tidbits of confidential conversations, is not a friend but a gossip.
To enter the friendship zone, take these five steps and will have the exact number of real friends you want and need.