Friendships are a large part of what shapes the quality of our lives, especially as we become older. Some of us have been blessed with a few long-time friendships, but often those friends are no longer nearby or the friendships may slowly have changed and become less intimate over time. Sometimes existing friendships are disrupted by one friend moving to another town or state, perhaps to be closer to other family members. Other friends may be lost due to illness or death. Many people feel these losses acutely and struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Many of us find it more difficult to make new friends as we get older. It seems that there are fewer opportunities to meet and get to know others in natural ways or other people seem to be busy with work, activities and family ties. We assume they don’t have time for new friendships even though this is often not true. Even when we participate in groups or take classes with others, it can be hard to know how to get the friendship ball rolling. Shyness, low self-esteem and fear of rejection often get in the way of reaching out to connect with new potential friends. These are not permanent barriers but issues that can be addressed and overcome at least to a significant degree.
Within the realm of friendship formation, some people see themselves more as initiators of connection and others see themselves as responders. Most women seem to be more comfortable in the role of a responder than an initiator. Of course, if we are all responders how can friendships ever get off the ground? Initiators are not “better than” responders, but they may have more success making connections. Responders can also be more or less passive—hiding from contact with others, inviting initiators to reach out or perhaps taking the risk of initiating from time to time. Forming connections and starting friendships is a skill that every one of us can improve.
1) How difficult or easy has it been for you to develop friendships at various stages of life?
2) Are you more of an initiator or more of a responder? What insights about yourself (not advice!) would you like to offer those different from you?
3) What do you want and expect from your friends? Are some of your expectations either too low or too high?
4) How might you go about creating new connections (and nurturing old ones) in the here-and-now of your life?
5) What do you cherish about your friends and how do you let them know?