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Why Genuine Attempts at Befriending Others May Fall Flat

By Andrew Burgon / phoenix@projectfellowship.com
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August 19, 2014

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Disappointment Friends Project Fellowship

 

You Can Pour Your Heart and Soul into Befriending Others and still come away disappointed

Seldom do I find an article that addresses head on the reasons why a genuine heartfelt attempt at befriending others and creating the circle of friends you desire ends in disappointment. Nobody I know of talks about circle analysis where you have a look at your troubling circle of friends as objectively as possible and try to pinpoint the causes of a problem and what to do about them. I’m going to be using a past attempt at coming up with a circle of friends and coming up short of what I had hoped to achieve as an example and look at some of the root causes.

The Blue Year of 2003

During the year 2003 I made a sincere effort befriending others but ended up becoming disappointed. These friends were nice and really pleasant to be with which are certainly qualities not to be overlooked. However,I had come to a point in life where I really wanted to have a breakthrough friendship-wise and banish the loneliness that lingered in my life.

I was tired of two particular things. The first was feeling like I was taking nearly all the initiative with my friends. The second was friends who fade away or vanish the moment I ceased taking the lion’s share of the initiative with them. It became obvious though that these friends were no different to the ones that had come before. Eventually, I ceased taking the initiative with nearly all of them and they faded away as expected.

When you find yourself continually struggling friendship-wise it’s time for some circle analysis. Try and learn from your disappointments.

Below are some of the reasons why I believe I failed to come up with the group of friends I desired and why I became disappointed.

Expectations

My expectations and hopes were quite high especially given my mindset back then. They had been placed that high because I was weary of the usual friendship scenario of my life. A lot of people are circumstantial friends and a lack of or low reciprocity in regards to the initiative you show them is to be expected from many of them. I learned to downplay the importance of initiative in Project Fellowship and esteem other qualities like warmth, enthusiasm, interest and rapport.

There is, however, absolutely nothing wrong with venturing out with the intent of drawing to yourself the kind of friendships you want. However, as soon as you start thinking about living on a higher strata of satisfying and rewarding friendships and finding good friends it requires a special mindset and approach. Everyone can jump over a one foot high jump bar. When you raise it to 1.5 meters that’s another story. Some mental gymnastics and lots of socializing may be needed to get over the latter bar.

Age & Life Style

I was working for the same school for many years here in Taiwan teaching children between the ages of 3 – 14. It kept me young at heart and I wasn’t really mindful of the age gap between me and the yearly foreign recruits who were usually in their twenties. I continued, however, to befriend people from work.

It’s no secret that people tend to stick around people their own age. This is especially so when you look at the people they do show initiative to. This in part helps explain why my phone was so deathly quiet on the weekends.

With age comes lifestyle. Some of my friends were into clubbing and looking for romance or female companionship. At the age of 33 I was in a serious relationship and no longer in the clubbing scene. Different lifestyles can get in the way of friendship.

While it may seem as though the answer to this particular problem is simply to stick around people my own age I found out during Project Fellowship that it was certainly no guarantee when it comes to finding better friendships. The answer is to be open-minded and alert to who is gravitating towards you as a friend and to continually meet new people till you have the friends you desire. Today some of my best friends are significantly younger than me.

Females

At the school I was working at nearly all the Taiwanese employees were female and some of them were in my circle of friends. They were closer to my age.

I have noticed over the last decade that females are nearly always passive in my circle of friends. That doesn’t mean they can’t bring a lot to the table of friendship. I’ve had great times with female friends and if you are hosting events having a good ratio of male and female friends is very desirable. However, while I always keep an open mind in matters of friendship I know I’m far better off looking for close friends among the guys. I didn’t realize that at the time though.

Now, I’m glad I befriended those female friends. If I had my time over again I would still befriend them. However, this was at a crucial time in my life where I should have been focusing on the critical inch which was finding good friends. Instead of making them my prime focus I would simply have made them a secondary one.

A Lack of Solid Common Ground

In hindsight, a good number of people in my circle at that time had very little in common with me. Common ground can determine how often you meet, how much time you get to spend with a friend and how far the friendship goes. This is one of the problems with befriending people from work. It seems to be a surer bet to recruit friends who share the same interests, hobbies and passions as you do and who you have some rapport with.

Long-term/Short-term expats

Something that had been aggravating my friendship situation over many years were friends who were coming and going. I’m an expatriate living in Asia. Many other foreigners I knew were short-term expats who were here for a year or two max. This got to be very depressing. Also, new expats tend to stick around other new expats. Yet another reason why my phone was so quiet.

During Project Fellowship I made the switch to befriending long-term expats and found myself in a much better situation.

Disability

I read somewhere that people with disabilities may find that it penalizes they’re social skills.

I had a pretty bad stammer right up until my mid-twenties. Throughout my life their were numerous occasions where I chose to remain silent rather than engage in conversation with others. In hindsight, I do feel as though this stunted my growth as a social being. I was somewhat socially clueless and perhaps awkward and lacked discernment in my friendships. I think though at the time it would have only played a minor role at most.

Limited Social Boundaries

The pool of people I knew and was recruiting friends from was very small. I was not actively recruiting new friends from outside my circle. This is not good. You have to position yourself in a stream of humanity and pick those friends that resonate with you and draw them aside.

Moderation

Everything in moderation they say. Certainly this applies in my life to purely circumstantial friendships. Despite everything I’ve said had I of had two good friends in my life at the time everything would have been fine and this article never written. As someone who has experienced severe depression over friendships it’s amazing to note that the distance from the abyss to the heavens is only two good friends.

Should a large circle of friends become alarmingly passive and circumstantial I know that one of the things I must do is devote time to finding one or two close friends if there is to be harmony in my life. Time to set sail, go out there and look for them.

We are Responsible

We are to a certain degree responsible for the friendships we have in our lives. If you find yourself dissatisfied with your circle of friends try to objectively analyze the situation. Consider what adjustments you need to make in your life and then go ahead and do them.

Have you been in a similar situation? What do you believe was causing problems and what did you do to address it?

If you have any ideas, wisdom or questions on this subject I’d love to hear them.

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