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Glossary of an Epic Friendship Journey N – Z

By Andrew Burgon /
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October 17, 2013


Image credit: billyphoto2008

Friendship Glossary: The Words and Lingo of an Epic Journey


Being an expatriate in Taiwan does have it’s cons. There is a tendency to make friends with other foreigners who come and go all the time. Not only do these friends leave but it’s highly unlikely that they will ever contact you again. I call it the nautilus experience because it reminds me of a scene from Disney’s 20000 Leagues Under The Sea. It’s where three men are on top of a submarine that is submerging. This was the reason I switched to mainly befriending long-term expats.

Let it happen NATURALLY
This sentiment doesn’t take into account many things. It doesn’t take into account that not everybody is hardwired for social success and that a person may need to make changes in his or her life to find the kind of quality friendships he or she seeks. It doesn’t take into account that some people are lackluster and made of social cellophane. Some people lack discernment in their friendships and cling to friends who prefer the company of others. It is possible to make a good effort at befriending people who then vanish the moment you decide to stop taking the lion’s share of the initiative. Letting it happen naturally can be like finding a pearl in the ocean that has naturally formed. Quality friendships have happened this way in my life, no doubt about that. However, a lot of time can pass before they are found. Like the cultivated pearl farmer I prefer to conspire to get the results I seek.

Happens after you have gone to a lot of effort to befriend lots of people only to realize a year or so down the road that many of them are passive friends and that you haven’t reached your goal. You ‘hear’ the deafening sound of a great waterfall and a loud gurgling sound that reminds you of water going down the drain of a bathtub. That sound you understand is your effort and initiative going down the drain.

Short-term friends. Here one day, gone the next.

I have a very strong association with this name because I was reborn out of the ashes of despair. To me, the Phoenix is a bird of transformative inspiration.

I was on my knees and hands charcoal black and weary with depression when it came to me. A great and sudden change came over me and in the following years the social part of me grew by leaps and bounds and took on an identity of it’s own. Sometimes when I’m in a long, quiet phase I get the strange feeling that I can objectively see this part of me as if it was someone else.

When I create videos or images you will see the name Phoenix on it. I play from my strengths and Phoenix is that strength. When I introduce myself on videos or podcasts I always use my real name.

Phoenix is also a character I’m going to create to personify friendship. A loving and caring character noted for his initiative, enthusiasm and warmth. He’ll make an appearance sometime in 2014.

Going through severe depression can really damage your psyche. It made me very sensitive to what we get from positive interactions with other people. I actually felt myself being recharged in an emotional and psychological way when meeting up with my new friends. As a result I bought a bunch of photo frames, put pictures in them of my social events and friends and put them on display so I could see them daily. I found them comforting and reassuring. They also helped to give me a positive charge when I saw them.

There is one caveat though. If you leave the same photos up for too long some of them may become a little depressing or not charge you anywhere near the amount when you first put them up. We live in a temporal world. Friendships have their cycles. Friendships can go from hot to cold. People we were originally excited about may prove unresponsive and disinterested. The amount of people coming in and out of your life when you are earnestly seeking good friends and spending a fair amount of time socializing can make you ‘dizzy.’ If you believe in living in the moment then you’ll probably want your photos to reflect the moment to.

If you are going through depression and decide to do the same thing I did take lots of photos when you’re with friends and put on display the ones that give you a good positive charge and refresh them from time to time. The moment a photo loses it’s charge replace it, too.

This is the name of a project I embarked on in December 2005. Weary of depression and loneliness I set out with gritty determination to find good friends. It is called ‘Fellowship’ because I was inspired by the Lord of the Rings trilogy to have courage in this endeavor.

Someone who only let’s you get up their friendship ladder a quarter of the way. A very limited friendship.

I love raw honesty. Here I’m referring to the ability to read people and know where you stand friendship-wise with them. It is so much better than being ignorant, docile-minded and unable to clearly discern friendships. My journey to seeing with great clarity began with learning to gauge friendships and letting go of indifferent and apathetic friends.

One of the people in this friendship has done something to exasperate his or her friendship with another person. The friendship is strained badly and could be easily be destroyed. I call it rice paper friendship because it reminds me of the scene in Kung Fu starring David Carradine where he has to walk on rice paper without tearing it. Another way to put it is the friendship is hanging by a thread.

There is a section of my site called “The Ruby Tablets: The Tenants of Friendship.” The term ruby tablets comes from a dream I had. Several rectangular tablets made from the precious stone and suspended one-by-one down a long string. The room I saw in the dream had many of them. There is gold writing etched into their surfaces with the tenants of how to draw into your life good friends. It may have partly been inspired by a scene in a movie I saw around then and the Emerald Tablet.

Despite the considerable amount of friendship you have shown these people and the good times you have shared they keep stubbornly sailing off the edge of your world.

This is the practice of scaling down your initiative with someone you’ve been taking a lot of initiative with and who isn’t responding so well. You might do this for a few reasons. Your beginning to doubt the friendship and want to sound out your friend’s level of interest, initiative and reciprocation towards you. You want to give this person the opportunity to take initiative for a change. You might want to lower your level of initiative so that it’s closer to your friends. If you are big on showing initiative you might overwhelm a friend or worse, become a pest. So, instead of contacting a friend once a fortnight you might contact him once a month. Keep in mind that some people aren’t interested in meeting up regularly but will happily do so every now and then. After a few months is your initiative level still way above your friends after that? You might want to wait even longer before you contact them next. You may get to a point where you hit rock bottom and realise this is a friendship kept alive by your initiative alone. You either accept it or move on to another friendship. Keep in mind that if your friend has become very quiet and isn’t taking any initiative with you there could be a reason that you are unaware of. They might be going through a crisis, have found an all consuming desire or are just going through a busy phase.

Being self-confident socially and friendship-wise is a powerful game changer. It helps spur us into the right direction and gets us to make the right decisions. Not possessing it can cause us to be like a rudderless boat whose engine isn’t working. Obtaining it is easy enough. Lots of social experiences including hosting events and continually seeking distinctions on how to draw satisfying and rewarding friendships into your life is a good place to start.

People who have the desire and drive necessary to make a dramatic shift in their life socially. They are adept at social shifting. They have a high social IQ, are good at organizing events and make very conscious and deliberate decisions concerning friendships.

People you would REALLY like to have a close friendship with but are unable to because they are disinterested, too busy, ignorant or distracted by other things in their life. There is often one or two things very special about them. You may find this kind of friendship bothering you due to the other person’s underwhelming passiveness. Even after you have given up on them you feel the temptation to contact them again and invite them out.

There are two different kinds of ‘cords’ that bind a friendship. The silver one represents circumstantial friendships. We are friends because school, work, church or a social group have thrust us together. Naturally, when you take a step outside those worlds comparatively few will follow you and continue the friendship. This is normal and a natural part of friendship.

The gold cord is the one that binds close friends together. There’s a special connection, chemistry and genuine desire for the other person’s company. There’s a good, strong mutual feeling about each others friendship. It’s the kind of friendship that transcends the workplace, classroom, the church or a social group.

It could be argued that there is a third cord and that it has silver and gold stripes. These people can come across as good friends within certain boundaries. It might be your classmate, basketball buddy or drinking buddy. The moment you stop playing basketball though the friendship soon withers despite your efforts.

Very passive people. They tend to only socialize with people in their immediate circle like co-workers. You may hear them talk again and again about hosting an event and having you over but it never happens. Their desire for friendship is very weak.

Some people have difficulty getting onto other people’s friendship radar. They might often find themselves predominantly in group situations because very few people think of inviting them out to see a movie or go out and eat. They may find that nearly all of the people that enter their circle gravitate towards others for closer friendships.

STG Method of Making Friends
This comes from an old video that teaches children how to make friends. It’s nice and simple and worthy of remembrance. “Smile and Talk to people. Find good things in people. Tell them the good things. Do this all the time.”

My stubborn reality was that there seemed to be a natural bias toward friendlessness in my life. The moment I stopped taking the lion’s share (if not all) of the initiative with people they vanished. People often seemed to gravitate towards someone else in a group. I can only assume that I was lackluster. A piece of social cellophane. I may have also been a bit of an odd ball and socially awkward. When depression set in I truly felt like a social leper.

The only way to go is forward. The stubborn reality in my life was like a 3 feet thick barrier of firm jelly. If you are wondering why I write the things I do it’s because of the experience of going through this barrier. Had good friends started to easily manifest themselves in my life this site wouldn’t exit.

We all have a certain amount of social slots in our lives. These slots are limited and precious. We will benefit if we start to think and act like a steward. Rather than sitting idly by lamenting the state of our friendships we ought to be taking pro-active steps about it. Part of that is taking the slots away from people who overlook the value of our friendship or who are indifferent, passive and apathetic and give them to new friends.

The second point I want to make is that some people are way to clingy and docile-minded. It’s as if our social slots have got glue in them and we allow people to have permanent residence in them regardless. This is how I use to be but now I have my social slots teflon coated. I’m clear about what I’m after friendship-wise and what I will no longer tolerate. It does make a difference.

One of the things my best friendships throughout my life have had in common is a spark of attraction. Be mindful of it if you detect it in new friendships and be sure to follow up on it.

People who seem to lack warmth and are not vibrant or expressive in general. They have a wooden quality about them. They wear a face that masks emotion. At times they can be caught laughing or smiling, of course, just like the sun peeping from behind a cloud for a moment. I find them fascinating as I’m their opposite.

A sketchpad you use to make a systematic and determined effort not only to befriend people but help manage your social life. It has a number of benefits. It helps you focus on your social goals and encourages you to be more discerning in your friendships. Having a record of the consistent and sustained effort you’ve made finding friends can be comforting and encouraging if your friendship situation has been bothering you. It also can act as a reality check. You can have a look at what you’ve been doing and ask yourself if your efforts have been sufficient. The book can help you appraise your efforts and determine faster when it is time to take people off your friendship list. It may prompt you to make a greater effort than you otherwise may have done. If you are a docilely minded person it can transform you into a driven, discerning person. It’s called a treasure book due to one of my favorite quotes, “He who finds a friend, finds a treasure.”

A group of people you really enjoy being with and get along with very well. One or two of them will end up being close friends.

We all have anchored people to ourselves using our initiative to stay close and keep in contact. It’s like tieing a very long rope and anchor to their boat and throwing it into the sea next to you. Tugging at the anchor means that a friend shows very little to no initiative to maintain the friendship and keep in touch. Their boat keeps drifting away. Tug. You get the impression he or she wants to go out to the open sea. Tug Tug. They may far prefer the company of other friends. Tug Tug Tug. Eventually, even if it is someone I really like I will cut the rope if they keep tugging on the anchor. I simply stop taking the initiative with them and that is 99% of the time the end of the friendship.

Underscoring and highlighting is when a friend does or says something that makes you question the friendship. For example, Sarah invites her friend Michelle by facebook to join her for a small, intimate birthday party. A few days later she notices that while facebook indicates the message has been read her friend hasn’t responded. No matter, she gives her friend a call and excitedly tells her about the planned party on the weekend. Her friend is non-committal but it sounds like she might go. The day before the party Sarah reminds her with a text and decides to leave it at that. Her friend never shows up. The following week Sarah meets an acquaintance and stumbles across the fact she had gone over to her friend’s place the night of the party for pizza and a movie. Just the two of them. Weeks later her friend is still silent…

I call it verbal tracking because it’s like tracking down potential new friends and new places mentioned by a friend during a conversation. The difference between regular listening and verbal tracking is that verbal tracking highlights the desired information and gets you to decide if you want to act on that information or not. In recent conversations I’ve learned of a group of people playing Twilight Imperium, of two Canadians that play board games with one of my friends and an Aussie that is also interested in finance. I will arrange to have our mutual friend send them invitations to a few of my upcoming events. I also heard about a country club where you can have a dirt cheap pool party and a great barbecue place thoroughly recommended by a friend. I’ll be checking out those places soon. It’s quite easy to turn verbal tracking on provided you have the sufficient desire to learn about new potential friendships and great places to meet up with friends. Simply make two mental notes. First, to listen carefully when friends mention people and places. Second, to ask yourself, “Do I want to meet up with this person or check out this place?” Then practice it when talking to friends and follow up any interesting leads. If making a mental note of it doesn’t do the trick try writing it down several times now and then till you form the habit.

You ask someone if you can read the newspaper in front of them and they say, “Does it look like I’m reading it?” You have gotten to the stage at work where you are fatigued and due to this ask a question that comes across as somewhat odd. Your co-worker says, “Are you okay? You need a holiday badly.” These kind of incidents are often accompanied by a tone of voice and a facial expression that suggests “You’re weird!.” Some people take it a few notches up by deliberately giving you a dig in the ribs and smothering your face in something odd that you have said or done. What is so ludicrous is that they are oblivious to the fact that their behavior is rude, offensive and just plain stupid. Be gracious and sensitive to your friends unless, of course, you want them to avoid you.

By window of time I mean you have told a friend that you will do something by a certain time but fail to do so thus upsetting that friend. It might have been to bring the meat to a barbecue but mysteriously not show up. To help a friend get ready for a big test but you just don’t get around to it. You promised to help a friend with their business but are too sorely distracted to offer aid. These can have repercussions under certain circumstances. Forgetting to bring the meat to the beach barbecue combined with being unreliable in general may result in your friend not trusting you in future and not inviting you to any events that need to start on time. Perhaps your friend was already continually bothered about you constantly fading in and out of his life repeatedly. Your failure to help with his studies combined with your often absences causes him to decide to move on in life without you. Be careful with windows of time.

I’m not sure how unusual this is but my mind has the ability to keep my most positive friendship memories ziploc fresh for decades. Part of the reason I dare say is that I have a very fervent heart and I’m also very nostalgic. Alas, the passage of time and distance between friends can be detrimental to the nature and status of the friendship. For 99% of friendships that would be fine by me but for special friendships it can be troubling. If I had to choose between the wonderful memories of a special friend and the same friend who has become pale, anemic, uncaring and half hearted I would definitely choose the former. If I find a friendship continually bothers me in this way then I will let go but leave the door open. The ghost of a friendship is no friendship at all.
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