Is your friendship earned or lost?

 

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Back in November I became friendly with a lady who, by choice, didn’t have many friends. Let’s call this lady Finoula.

I discovered that Finoula’s approach to friendship was much different to mine. The way she saw it, her friendship had to be earned. Every new person she met was a stranger; unknown, untrustworthy, a potential threat. Each stranger would have to prove themselves worthy of her friendship before she would let herself open up and be comfortable around them.

Finoula seems happy doing this, so more power to her. She has a small handful of close friends, people who she would put her life on the line for, and vice versa.

That approach to friendship doesn’t appeal to me though. I prefer to operate with more of an abundance mindset, and so I try to take the opposite tact. My friendship doesn’t have to be earned. I give it out by default. I try to assume everyone I meet is a potential friend and I act accordingly. That may sound like a dangerous thing to do, but apart from that one time in New Orleans when I woke up with a strange man’s hand down my pants, it’s worked out pretty good for me so far.

No regrets

By assuming rapport with lots of strangers over the past couple of years, I’ve been able to connect with many people in a meaningful way. Sometimes the interactions are brief and fleeting, sometimes they lead to a deeper place.

Now I don’t advocate that you go downtown, make friends with a bunch of homeless folks and invite them back to your house for falafel and hummus. That would be a bit foolish. But you can be friendly towards homeless people and treat them like real human beings, made of the same star stuff that you’re made of.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been thankful that I took a chance and said hi to the person standing in line with me at the checkout or got talking to that stranger on the street. I never have to worry too much about “what if’s” with my approach to friendship. What if I had taken a chance? What if I had given that person the benefit of the doubt? None of that really comes into play when you assume everyone is your friend.

How do you approach friendship?

Do you hold back until you feel someone has earned your trust, or do you just throw it all out there from the beginning, for better or worse? Maybe something in between?

Is one approach better than the other? I don’t know. I’m just one person. I know what feels right for me. You have to test for you.

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25 Comments

  1. I’m with you, Niall. At this point in my life, I approach others or am approached without dread or fear or judgement. I pretty much love everyone unconditionally. Now, after 55 years of life and some 41 years of work dealing with the general public, I’ve refined my instincts and can pretty well detect if someone is not being honest with me or is not trustworthy. I then use my people skills to end whatever interaction going on and move away from them. But, as you relate, how wonderful and interesting complete strangers can be if we only open a door and take a chance on getting to know them. It’s the spice of life, eh? Peace and Love!

  2. Finoula sounds like she might be an introverted personality type.

    And to answer your question, my friendship must be earned. I do not share the deeper aspects of myself with persons who have not earned my trust.

    && yes, my friend circle is small, but as an introverted personality type I prefer it that way.

  3. I disagree that one style of friendship is more ‘abundant’ than another. Finoula’s circle is small but deep, and perhaps that represents abundance to her. For you Niall, you like lots of connections with some deep and some more on the surface. To you, that’s abundance.

    The term ‘abundance’ seems like a value judgment to me, and it’s up to each of us to figure out what works best for us.

    • Interesting point, Clare. That makes me think.

      The way I was looking at it, a scarcity mindset is the belief that most people are untrustworthy and likely to cause you pain, whereas an abundance mindset is the belief that the majority of people have good intentions and are worthy of your friendship.

      But yeah, I can see how abundance can be viewed a different way. Thanks for that.

  4. I used to be like Finoula, choosing only a few people to trust. Most of the time I feared “putting myself out there” and of course found it hard to connect with the people I was interacting with. But in order to make friends – you need to put yourself out there. You NEED to be the REAL you without fear! Without the persona! And most importantly without JUDGING others!!!

    It becomes INCREDIBLY easy to connect with others because you have no agenda – they can sense it. Your vulnerability makes it easy for people to drop their guard and trust you. This is when they will open up and share their beliefs, values, stories, passions, and life lessons with you. They’ll show you their treasured memories – the ones they share with no one else.

    Life Improvement Through Conscious Action

    • Teodore! Thanks for the comment, man.

      That’s been my experience, too. The more I’m willing to put myself out there, the easier I find it to connect with people.

      I think we all grow up falsely believing that we need to project this air of supreme confidence, as if we know everything, but that really does hinder personal connections. It’s much easier to connect with someone when, as you say, we drop that false front and show them our true selves, warts and all.

  5. In response to the friendship post:

    I diagram my friendships using the solar system. People who are passerby’s, where there is no form of engagement are considered my Pluto. If a conversation is sparked but briefly they would then move closer to position of Neptune. A friend who I have known for many years but have limited contact with would remain somewhere in the region of Jupiter. My point here is that everyone has their own solar system of friends and if you refer to yourself as the Sun you have to understand that not everyone can be your planet Mars; and vice versa. To be that close to the Sun on a constant basis can be both rewarding, as Mars does receive the most sunlight, but also very dangerous as there is an eternity of blisters. The positioning of my solar system is determined by the length of time which is given and received by both parties. Also, if I can withstand the intensity of the light from someone else’s solar system.

  6. Hey Niall! I think that as long as someone like Finoula is friendly with the people that she meets, everything is peachy. However, if the introversion turns into lashing out, it could be a problem. Let me give an example from my own experience:

    When I was in high school, I had a good friend who was rather closed off from other people. Whenever I hung out with him, it was only with 1 or 2 others, and I had to earn the right to be his friend. He sometimes came across as rude to other people. After high school we each went our separate ways, but about 2 or 3 years later I caught up with him, and we grabbed a bite to eat. As we talked he didn’t mention lots of parties or friends or new experiences, but he seemed happier, or rather, more content. I asked him about it and he said that he realized that just because he didn’t want to hang out with a lot of people, or do new things, didn’t mean that he had to be a jerk to everyone else. And it made him happy to be friendly.

    Anyway, I think that different people have different ways of relating. Personally, I like to get out and do new things, learn new things, have new experiences, meet new people. Some people don’t. But I think that as long as we can be friendly, and work together, everything will be just fine for us all.

    • I’m definitely with you on that, Andrew. Not everyone wants to be extremely social, going around meeting new people and forming connections all the time. As you say, that’s cool so long as it’s a conscious choice and they’re not mean to anyone who tries to be friendly towards them.

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. I love that! When I meet and connect with new people I immediately want to make them my friend. I’ve meet some really amazing people (yourself included) in the last 60 days and thought to myself Wow I really hope I just made a life long friend. But I never assume someone is my friend until I hear them say it. Maybe I should assume they are my friend and stop fearing rejection so much. I’m totally going to test this and see what happens. :)

    • Different people will have different definitions of friendship. I consider some people friends even if they don’t consider me one. I decided a while ago that it didn’t have to be a mutual agreement :-)

      Thanks for the comment, Tracy.

  8. As you know, I had the same idea having a close group of friends and having them earn your trust.

    I respect that and that used to be me.

    But as you know, I’m now going to be like you. Fleeting moments of exchange as just as powerful if you let it. And it’s the only way to make lifelong friends with you having 100% direct control over it. (when you’re FORCING the door of opportunity to open.)

  9. I tend to be incredibly open, friendly and curious with strangers, and treasure the moments of time during which we connect. Given my very demanding work schedule, though (my choice) I am careful to keep boundaries, and will spend significant amounts of times only with those that I either really care about or (for new friends) those that I think will become very dear friends.

    I like the idea of not holding onto anything too tightly, and allowing people to come in and out of one’s life as events unfold.

    • Definitely with you on not holding on too tightly, Sarah. I think that’s a rare attitude though, and I get the impression that some people in my life aren’t cool with it.

      Thanks for the comment :-)

  10. Can you take a challenge? WHY NOT invite that homeless person over for falafel and hummus, and throw in some tsatsiki while you’re at it? Maybe you can regard Finoula as someone who likes to haggle and banter and challenge, a kind of bazaar merchant who enjoys a fencing of terms, conditions and mutual repudiation.

    While I’m an introvert, and definitely need my alone time, I genuinely LOVE other humans, and accord them more hospitality than they’re used to (my current definition of hospitality = knowing and expecting that every human I encounter has a gift to offer me and everyone else, whether they know it or not), and this regularly leads to misunderstood expectations (no, I’m not going to meet with everyone on a regular basis, or flatter them endlessly, or help them get a job, etc.). So the communication part becomes really fun! I love Stacy’s comparison, above, of herself as the Sun and others as planets. Imagine that everyone is their own Sun, with a completely differently-configured solar system.

    Can you be friends with Finoula, can you be an unpredictable orbiting body in her solar system, by appreciating and accepting her gifts, making yours available to her, even if she doesn’t understand why you might want to share them with her (probably because you really just love to share who you are?) She will be infuriated, perhaps, but eventually enriched, and so will you.

  11. Hi Niall!

    I have a lot of people I communicate with ;) very good, interesting and different! But they are not my friends. I call them buddies or just nice guys ) friends – it’s a part of me, I give them big part of my heart! I prefer have small but deep circle around me and lots of buddies.

    For me friend – it’s not just welcome home or house party or CS meeting ))) friend – it’s like love, I have maybe 3 in Russia and 2 in Cork. They are friends, I’m ready to give them a lot and they are ready too, they are part of my life. And I’m happy I have them )

    • I’m happy you have them too, Tatiana :-)

      I think for a lot of us, the only issue is one of terminology. I consider lots of people as my friends, but some are definitely closer than others, more like what you describe as a friend.