How to Make New and Better Friends

Research shows that as we get older it becomes more difficult to “find” new friends. At least real friends. The kind who you can support and who will support you in return. “Real” friends are defined as those people who you speak to frequently outside of formal settings such as your workplace. People who you have to make in effort to see and talk with are real friends. 

That research shows that the average adult hasn’t made one new real friend in the last 5 years. 

But there are a lot of friendly people in the world so let’s work on that. The first thing we need to do is decide to make the effort required to find new friends. Then we need to decide that WE will be a great friend. There should be no waiting for the other person to be a better friend first. As the saying goes… if you want a friend then be a friend.

Being a better friend involves a combination of empathy, communication, trust, and mutual support. Here are some key principles to keep in mind in your goal is to have more friends and better friends too. 

  • Pay attention when your friend is speaking. Show that you’re engaged by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and responding appropriately. Avoid interrupting and truly try to understand their feelings and thoughts. If your Smartphone was really smart it would tell you to put the damn thing down and pay full attention to the human being standing in front of you. 
  • Put yourself in your friend’s shoes and try to understand their emotions and perspectives. Show that you care about their experiences and feelings by offering comfort, validation, and understanding.
  • Foster an environment where your friend feels comfortable sharing their thoughts, concerns, and joys with you. Be honest, express yourself clearly, and encourage them to do the same.
  • Respect your friend’s boundaries and personal space. Understand when they need space or time alone, and be supportive without being overly intrusive. Just like you, sometimes people just want to be left alone. 
  • Be there for your friend in both good times and bad. Celebrate their achievements and offer a shoulder to lean on during tough times. Your support can include kind words, actions, and gestures.
  • Make an effort to keep your promises and commitments. Be dependable and show that your friend can count on you when they need you.
  • Refrain from being judgmental or critical. Create a safe space where your friend feels free to share without fear of harsh judgment.
  • Disagreements and conflicts are normal in any relationship. Approach conflicts with a willingness to understand and find a solution together. Remember that compromise is key, and always strive for a positive resolution.
  • Embrace your friend’s uniqueness and differences. These diversities can enrich your friendship and provide opportunities for personal growth.
  • Show your appreciation through small gestures like remembering important dates, sending a thoughtful message, or offering help when needed.
  • Spend quality time together. Engage in activities you both enjoy, whether it’s going out, watching movies, or simply having a heart-to-heart conversation. This is where it sometimes requires real effort. You have all the time you need to build real friendships…if it is a priority in your life. 
  • Respect and Trust: Respect your friend’s opinions and decisions, even if they differ from your own. Trust is the foundation of a strong friendship, so be honest and trustworthy.
  • Be willing to apologize when you’re wrong and forgive your friend when they make mistakes. Holding onto grudges can damage a friendship. And sometimes you may need to accept an apology from a friend…even when they didn’t actually give one. 

Being a better friend is an ongoing process. It’s about continually showing care, understanding, and support as you both navigate life’s ups and downs together. Try to remember, money can only make you wealthy. It’s true friends who actually make you rich.

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Five Choices that Change Everything

People who know more than me about the human body could tell you exactly what it’s made of. The chemical compositions, the percentages of muscle vs fat, (or at least what it should be) and all sorts of other cool stuff. 

But all that “stuff” makes you alive. It does not make your life. 

Your life is made from the choices you make. Every big choice and every small choice determines the quality and even the length of your life. 

If you’re like most people you don’t realize how many choices you make each day. You choose what time to wake up. You choose your attitude, and if you don’t choose your attitude then you choose to allow other people and other things to choose it for you. You choose what to wear, what to eat, where to go, what to say, what to listen to. Who to listen to. What to watch on TV. When to go to bed and hundreds of other decisions wedged between those. 

One thing most us seldom think about is the fact that our minds take in everything we see, everything we hear and everything we read. It all influences what we think and those thoughts determine our actions. 

All, yes all, as in every single one, of those choices are influenced by the people you spend the most time with. Your life is basically a compilation of the lives of the five people you’re around the most. 

If you believe that you are influencing them and that they are not influencing you then I’m guessing you may also be excited about an upcoming visit from the Easter Bunny. 

There are some choices in life that only you control and five of those choices are the people you allow to be closest to you. Those are the five choices that can change every other choice you make in life. These are the people considered to be your “inner circle.” 

Are you allowing unmotivated people to be a big part of your life? If you are then I can also guarantee you that you have motivational issues. You likely can’t seem to get started on the things you say that you want to accomplish. That’s because your natural motivation is being negatively impacted by unmotivated people close to you. 

If you’re allowing negative people into your inner circle then I can be fairly certain that other people around you see you as a negative person, even if you don’t. Pandemics have been in the news a bit lately but nobody talks about the Pandemic of negativity all around us. Negative attitudes are as contagious as any virus that has ever existed and masks do nothing to stop it. The only way to avoid catching negativity is to stay away from it. 

It is a worthy effort to try and infect a negative person who a strong dose of positivity. Understand the contagion you’re dealing with however and make certain you keep some space between yourself and the person you’re trying to help. 

Invest some serious time right now to consider the people who you are closest to. Are they helping you and supporting your efforts to have a better more meaningful life? Are they a good influence on you or do they overpower your good intentions? Be honest!

If you want a better life you may need to make some tough choices. You may need to say goodbye to some of your friends. Even though some of your friends may mean you no harm they may be harming you with their choices…because you are influenced and impacted by them. 

The number of people you allow into your personal inner circle may also be less then five. If you determine you currently know only 3 people capable of being “builders of you” then 3 people is the perfect number. Don’t let a couple of nattering nabobs of negativity into your inner circle just so you have a circle of 5. 

Surround yourself with as many positive, caring and supportive people as you can find. Make sure the five people closest to you fully match the positive, caring and supportive criteria. The quality of your life depends on it. 

Five Years is Too Long

Five years is a long time. Think about all that has changed in your life over the last five years. It’s kind of amazing for most people. 


But here’s one thing that new research shows likely hasn’t changed for you over the last five years…you haven’t made any new friends. At least if you live in the United States. 


The research shows that the vast majority of Americans have not made even one new friend in the last five years. The study was also specific about what qualifies as actual friendship. For instance, you can spend hundreds and hundreds of hours with a co-worker and still not develop a friendship. The study called those “relationships in a closed system wherein members have little influence on who else is included in the group.” 


The study suggests that you must move that relationship out of the workplace in order for it to have a chance to become a true friendship. They said on average it takes about 50 hours of time with someone before we consider them a casual friend, 90 hours to become real friends and over 200 hours to become close friends. All of those hours are outside of the workplace environment. 


The average adult American has 16 friends. Three friends for life, five people they like enough to hang out with one-on-one and eight people they like but don’t spend time with one-on-one or seek out. 


So what about you? When did you last make a new friend? Not somebody at work, not the barista at the coffee shop you stop at each morning. When was the last time you made a new real friend? I’ve asked this question of 20 people in the two hours before I wrote this post and not one, not even one, could remember making a new friend in the last 5 years. 


Neither can I.


The study provided several reasons why people have so much trouble making friends but it seems to me it’s harder the older you get. You’re not exposed to as many new acquaintances unless you make that happen. Most people don’t really make that happen.


We tend to stay close to the 16 friends we have and seldom reach out to new groups or try new activities where we might meet new people. We prefer the company of people who think like us and act like us. People like me would call that “cocooning in your comfort zone.” 


The thing is you don’t grow much when you are in your comfort zone. If you aren’t growing and learning and experiencing new things then nothing ever changes in your life. You become kind of stuck.


If that sounds like you then make a commitment right now to make a new friend by the end of this year. Not a new acquaintance. Not a new lunch buddy at work. A true new friend. 


Don’t expect someone to be your friend on their own. You be the one who gets the ball rolling. You be the one that risks that kind of weird and uncomfortable conversation. You be the one who makes a friend by being a friend. 


Five years is too long to go without a new friend. Whether you have more or less than the average of 16 friends adding one more could open you up to a whole new world. 

I’m sure it’s going to seem awkward to me at first but I’m going to do my best to start conversations with a few people who I could know better. Who knows, they just might be a friend in waiting.