Friendship: A Handbook, Part 1

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” – C.S. Lewis

I love this C.S. Lewis quote because it implies an aspect of the “friendship formula” many people take for granted: it is easier to find potential friends when you start with a bit of common ground. Little children do this organically. On the playground, they may begin talking to the other kids playing on the same climbing structure.  In preschool, they may strike up a conversation with the child who likes the same toys or dress-up clothes they like. School-age children and teens find clues about potential friends through common extra-curricular activities.

Many people “know” that it gets harder to make new friends as we get older, but they don’t really think about why. It is quite simple: we have little time and opportunity to experience what C.S. Lewis describes! You might be wondering why I am writing about friendship. Great question. The answer is that deep social connections are an important pillar of happiness. I’m not talking about the kind of social connections and “friends” we get through our social media accounts. I’m talking about the kind friends we can connect with “offline”. The ones we can call for advice at 2am or who will listen when we need to vent.

So how do you find friends? Put yourself in situations where you can have the kind of experience C.S. Lewis describes. Think about the activities you enjoy or the causes you feel passionate about and take steps to get involved. Join a sports or gaming league or a group exercise class. Sign up for an adult education class or volunteer with a local organization. The website can be a great resource for finding local opportunities if you need a little help.

Finding a good source of friends is the first step on the road to friendship. Once you find your sources, you need to cultivate them by showing up and participating in the activities you selected. This may not always be easy, but it is important. It is only through repeated interactions with the same people that you will be able to identify those people you would like to get to know better.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series on friendship. We’ll talk about how acquaintances can form deeper friendships by trading information.