Make a real connection, no matter how busy you are!
What to expect: This article will help you enjoy and benefit from investing in your friendships, even when you’re super busy ─ which you often are.
Here, investment relates to creating wealth for yourself and others from what’s accessible right now.
Instead of increasing bucks, you’ll receive great intangible value from making good human connections that continue contributing to your personal and professional life.
In the process, you’ll have improved health, happiness, and purpose.
Rather than self-promotion or fishing for old connections, suggested actions below open possibilities for calm and meaning in the frenetic whirl of reactions to daily demands.
For a more successful path, you can replace a narrative of busyness with being focused and productive.
At this fiftieth anniversary of the information age, a “friend” can be a click away on Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat. You can be and become followers, into the hundreds and even thousands.
On LinkedIn, your network members are called connections. Ideally, the person is a trusted business contact or at least well-known to you. Yet in so many cases, I wonder if these social media contacts have become just a numbers game when I see someone has hundreds or more of them.
To transcend a “technology suck” and find some time and space in your life for authentic friendship, consider how much you already give to routines, responses, and reactions.
Surely you have some wiggle room there for moving beyond busyness to better self-care and outreach to others that has mutual meaning and appeal.
For example, how much of your waking hours are devoted to smartphone use? What are the trade-offs in attention, distraction, and substitution for intimacy?
As with investments in general, though, there is no assurance that what you put into a friendship will reap the benefits you want; there is no automatic cause and effect.
That’s why I encourage you to replace such expectations with your intuition and attention to realities.
A desired friend may be as short of time and energy as you are. In fact, author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar advises, “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”
Then start with neutral expectations and a small gesture of interest. Perhaps suggest a shared meal since you both need to eat once in a while and could probably find a few times in common.
That’s a two for one: something you’d do anyway that provides a chance for conversation and connecting. The choice need not be expensive nor time consuming either. At minimum, experiment with a cup of tea or coffee, a drink, or snack.
Another two for one is sharing any experience you’d both enjoy.
Here are suggestions to try, adapt, or explore. Identify the following:
- A sport to learn or play together
- A museum exhibit to explore something new or deepen what’s familiar
- A lecture, concert, show, movie, or comedy act that appeals
- A place to walk in nature or sit on a park bench for a chat
- A chore in common, such as a child or animal care that serves both your needs
I’m sure you can think of other possibilities, especially when you discuss ideas together. But if nothing comes immediately to mind or you feel a little shy about initiating this, imagine a conversation.
Maybe start with: “I noticed _____ and wonder if you’d like to _______.” Alternatively, “I’ve been wanting a change of pace and breathing space. Would you be interested taking an hour or so to ______________ with me? If not, what activity would interest you?”
I encourage you to be picky as well as patient about how you identify and choose partners for use of precious time and potential friendship. As Socrates advised: “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.”
Here are questions for making some promising choices:
- Do you look forward to “spending time” with the person?
- Do you feel energized or at least at ease in someone’s company?
- Can you learn from and productively challenge one other?
- Is there potential for mutual trust and respect over time?
- How complementary or stimulating are your senses of humor or interests?
Friendship will take some time, patience, and commitment. So, the previous suggestions are just a start unless you already have seeds germinating or planted.
For example, they could be good connections you have already such as former colleagues and roommates, neighbors and professional contacts.
Avoid expectations of immediate understanding or receptivity in favor of listening and attending to the other person. Do this gently, with humor or playfulness using your natural style. You’ll then be more likely to benefit from your good instincts and common sense as you identify matches that could work well.
If no one comes to mind right now, it’s probably time to expand your activities and make room for the serendipity of chance encounters. Join a club or house of worship, attend new functions or take a class.
Go on your own or with someone from whom you could comfortably detach yourself as you reach out to others. In other words, find someone you’d enjoy being with who’d also benefit.
Alternatively, here’s an example of “cold outreach.”
When I sat next to someone at a play, I had this unlikely experience. I introduced myself and asked her name. It turned out to be my middle name, the one I had planned to use starting in kindergarten if no one else had it according to the deal I made with my mother.
The woman’s name was Mara. She was the kindergarten classmate who kept me from “becoming” Mara! Also turned out we were we both active in the same professional organization.
So, you’ll never know if your encounters will be an adventure with legs, just a pleasant exchange, or a dud when you start a conversation with a stranger.
As you reach out to others, known and unknown, keep testing and clarifying your own commitment and interest by asking yourself what you want in a friendship and what you’re willing to invest to encourage it?
Finally, how “unbusy” are you willing to get?
Will you let go of one or two matters weekly to leave a few hours for starting or deepening a relationship? If not now, when?
Whether you tend to be a sociable extrovert, an introvert who prefers privacy and solitude, or someone in between, attend to the tradeoffs and balances in the close connections you have and will nurture.
Choose people who appreciate, understand, and accept who you are among a range of individuals who complement or strengthen your own potential as well as generous tendencies and nature. They may include curiosity, courage, caring ─ and love.
These words of diarist and author Anais Nin may inspire and advance you further: “Each friend represents a world in us, possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
Ruth Schimel, PhD, is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. Obtain the bonus first chapter of the upcoming, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future on the Books page at her website, where you’ll also find your invitation for a free consultation.