I’ve had my fair share of rough patches in life. Almost all of them were caused by people — all of whom were blood relatives, in-laws, and a few rogue exes. When it comes to friends, however, I have lucked out immensely. I have rarely been in need of a good friend and been left wanting. Whether I need a place to crash, a reference for a loan, or even a bank account to use, my friends have always stepped up to the plate.
My best friend has often joked that she has no idea how I attract and keep so many friends, as anti-social as I am. That said, she is exaggerating just a tad. I wouldn’t say I’m anti-social, but you won’t find me complaining about social distancing and isolating, anytime soon.
Even so, recently, a few of my friends banded together to help me out of a difficult spot. I am so grateful and strongly believe that you should all have friends as wonderful as mine have been. So, I’m finally answering a question I get often: How do you meet these people?!
1. Be Sociable
There’s a good reason I don’t consider myself anti-social. I actually do get along with people just fine, once you manage to get me to agree to a social gathering. I will talk to just about anyone, anywhere — and so should you. You’d be amazed at the friendships you strike up this way. Here’s a good example:
In 2013, I was at a Western Union in Montego Bay, waiting in line for money my mom had wired. The girl beside me looked as frustrated and impatient as I was, so I started talking to her. We exchanged numbers before we left and became very close. So close, in fact, that when I left Jamaica in 2015, she took all my books and adopted my dog.
2. Be a Good Friend
I would love to tell you that nice people have the best friends, but you probably already learned this is not true. Nice people often get taken advantage of. Subsequently, the first person you need to be a good friend to is yourself. Be kind to yourself. That means knowing when to withdraw from situations that are bad for you and not blaming yourself for the ill-will of others.
Naturally, you should also be a good friend to your good friends. When people are good to you, return the favour whenever you can. I recently had the pleasure of helping two friends out of a difficult situation, who had previously helped me in a time of need. Being able to return that feels so rewarding.
3. Be Interesting
Boring is not a word anyone has ever associated with me. However, I learned from the best. I met some very interesting people along my journey through life and picked up many of the hobbies and interests we shared together, at the time: from learning to cook Thai food to snorkelling to kayaking to travelling solo.
Are you an interesting person to be around? Interesting people can enjoy their own company because they already have the passions, interests, and hobbies to keep themselves entertained. These same interests make conversations more fruitful. They also provide stronger bonding points, such as travelling or working out together versus just “hanging out”.
4. Keep Your Word
I’m not gonna lie, these days, I’ve been struggling with keeping my word when it comes to social gatherings. Even before the pandemic, I just find that I much prefer to be alone. I’d love to tell you it’s because I’m so wonderfully interesting, but I am an only child who spent too much time on her own and has no strong desire to change that.
When it really matters, however, I do keep my word, not just for others but for myself. People gravitate towards others who follow through, because they know that when it counts, we can follow through for them too. Note that, sometimes, following through is as simple as picking up the phone when you say you’re free to let someone vent.
5. Choose Your Friends
I attended Mount Alvernia High School in Montego Bay, Jamaica. On the first day of school, the teachers delivered a speech on the importance of choosing your friends and not letting them choose you. For the first week of school, I reflected on this advice and told myself time and time again that it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. So, why am I giving you the same advice?
Well, it turns out they were right. Choose your friends; don’t let circumstances choose them for you. Be civil with the people in your life, but you don’t have to be friends with someone just because they are your housemate, sit next to you at work, or like the same band. Be more deliberate with your choices; set clear standards.
I am a strong believer in independence and self-reliance. But having good people in your life who volunteer to be your fail-safe for when things don’t go as planned is an A1 experience. If you have good friends, cherish them. Life is short, and in a pandemic, it can be even shorter.
As for your bad friends, don’t be afraid to show them the door. Someone has to, or they will never find a good enough incentive change.