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Friendship

The Secrets to Being (and Making) a Friend

Doug Bender

July 31, 2020 | 2 minute read

The world is a lonely place, at least that’s what a recent study shows in which 61% of Americans said they were lonely last year and 47% say that their relationships are not meaningful. Yikes. So what’s it take to be and make a friend that brings meaningful joy to your life? Well, as I’ve talked about many times before here, here, and here, loneliness has been a longtime nemesis of my own. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Be the Friend You are Looking for

Long ago, Jesus spoke about how you should do to others what you would want them to do to you. In terms of making meaningful friendships, I’ve learned nothing makes a bigger difference than this principle right here. Many years ago I learned that my constant worrying about what others think, failure to introduce myself and be friendly with new people, and my entire suite of social anxieties were actually quite selfish. If I stepped into a room full of people I didn’t know, I would want someone to reach out and be friendly. Why was I denying to others what I so desperately wanted to receive myself? Yup, it can be awkward introducing yourself to new people or being friendly to a stranger, but if you’re reading an article about how to make friends, obviously you are hoping someone does exactly that for you.

Decide to Be Curious

Questions can be your greatest asset in terms of sparking friend-making conversations. People love to talk about themselves, even really shy people (I would know). The trick is people worry that other people don’t care to listen. If you can prove yourself a curious listener, you’ll have a friend in no time. Again, I think of how Jesus lived his life. He literally knew every answer to every question the universe could possibly ask. And yet, Jesus asked 307 questions in the Bible and answered only 183. Jesus knew every one of those answers. He didn’t need to ask the questions. But he chose to be curious, even when he knew the answer. He had an interest in watching how people react, respond, explain, and express themselves. Really this point is the first point said in a different way. You want people to listen to you, be curious about you, so give the gift of curiosity to another person and watch how it makes friendship blossom.

Exercise your Socialness

There’s a rumor out there that you are either born shy or born out-going, and there is nothing you can do to alter it. I’m here to tell you that’s not true. While some may seem to have some natural born intuition for making friends or interacting in social situations, relationships come mostly from a set of skills that can be learned and cultivated. Consider approaching making friends like signing up for the gym. When you first show up, you’ll be tempted to think the room is full of naturally fit people. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can find fit people at the gym, because there you find people dedicated to being fit. They knew it was a skill and a habit they had to work on and they decided to work on it, hence you finding them at the gym. So look for ways to build your social muscles. Go to that work party, even if you don’t always feel like it. Study up on the topic (I’ve always found the book of Proverbs incredibly practical in this regard). And to speak spiritually for a moment, I found working on my relationship with God gave me grounding for people-to-people type relationships.

 

I have not yet arrived at a complete win with my own struggle with loneliness, but I am miles away from where I once was. I can honestly say that these principles have transformed me from someone who was nearly always lonely to someone who is rarely lonely. Give them a try and comment below to let me know how it goes.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out a few of our films on love and relationships.

 
Doug Bender

Doug Bender

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer and small groups coach. He developed many of the small group tools found at iamsecond.com and has coached churches, organizations, and individuals to use I Am Second groups to share the message of Jesus with their friends and family. He also works with I Am Second's parent organization, e3 Partners, as a church planter and pastor in countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, and the US. Doug and his wife, Catherine, have four children: Bethany, Samuel, Isabella, and Jesse.

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