This is not my first article on the importance of friendship. This one adds a lot more information about that and suggestions for finding friends. Most of you have friends. For the many who do not or who have few, it is important to understand why friendships in the third act are indeed valuable and how you might achieve them comfortably.
Some health risks associated with the lack of friends are not compensated for with family relationships. A few explanations for this are because family members, rather than enjoying each other
- see each other out of obligation.
- want something, like money.
- need “temporary” room and board.
- promote drama to keep their own life going in their own way.
You get the picture. Don’t get the idea I am putting down all family relationships. There are some very good ones out there, but maintaining friendships enhances your life in general.
You have heard the saying that goes similar to this: You can pick your friends, but not your family. That is not totally true, because with good reason you can detach yourself from family members that are toxic. Many people are just not able to accomplish this. It takes a lot of courage. Abandoning toxic family members is sometimes necessary for your own personal health and well-being. It reduces the stress in your life and prompts you to be more independent.
Many find that having no friends leads to loneliness which has been shown to lead to serious problems, e.g. depression. According to researcher and psychologist Steve Cole at the University of California, loneliness can be toxic, causing fears that impact your immune systems. This can initiate a host of physical and mental problems.
Loneliness is a leading factor in alcoholism which is increasing in older women. If you find yourself hiding liquor and the fact that you drink it at all, or drinking more than two drinks a day, you need to consider taking action now. Talk to your doctor. He or she will know who in your community can help you with this. Please don’t worry about stigma. Concentrate on the benefits of moving forward.
What Does it Take to Make Friends?
Having friends requires that we reach out. Don’t wait for someone to reach out for you, but when it happens, consider it carefully and see each other a few times before you decide you would really like this person in your life. First, let’s make sure everything is okay with you.
Great friendships are investments because they are much like marriages. They require continuing investment. They meld the abilities of
- tolerance of others’ mistakes,
- having a sense of give and take,
- forgiving when there is misunderstanding, and
- being accepting without being judgmental.
These are just a few of many characteristics of friendships.
It’s far easier to make friends with people we see more often, but when you don’t see people you have a problem. If you live in a small community, try to make friends with neighbors. Try having a block party or a building party. Asking people to bring a dish will reduce the work burden and the costs and increase the variety. Find out what you have in common and also learn your differences. Other ways to meet people:
- Visit neighborhood parks.
- If you are caring for grandchildren, have a summer party, asking for contributions of food or drinks.
- Find out what volunteer activities are available nearby. Always check with schools, and the police and fire departments.
- Host meetings to resolve neighborhood problems. You might have to take these to a higher level, but at least you will have the support of each other and possible solutions.
- Attend local events, like art shows, plays, fund-raising cookouts, etc.
- Become more involved in your church’s missions.
What Are a Few Things Friends Might be Better Off Not Doing?
- Friendship does not imply that one can expect to borrow money. Yes, friends want to help out when they can, but there should never be a feeling of expectancy on your part or a feeling of obligation on their part and vice versa. Learn to say the word “no” and to hear it as well.
- Divulging each other’s secrets can be dangerous and result in no friends. If you can’t talk to a friend, who can you talk to?
- Try to avoid people who always feel the need to argue or who don’t respect your right to have an opinion. Learn to offer your opinion in such a way that you don’t offend the other person.
- Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Sometimes, friends just need someone to listen.
- Manipulation has no place in friendships. No one likes to be “had” or “used” or even tempted to be taken advantage of.
- Don’t speak ill of other neighbors. Gossip travels fast, and community life will become difficult. If someone mentions a problem with a neighbor, just say “I’m sorry. I hope you can work it out.”
Putting up walls around us does not make it easier. Let people really get to know you by being authentic. I’m talking about the way you think about things, the things you like to do, the mistakes you have made and what you learned from them, things you would like to learn but need help with, etc. I am talking about being down to earth—being someone with humility and not always talking about your good points or best achievements. Are you the real thing? Don’t know?
Are You Being Your Authentic Self?
According to an article in the Huffington Post your authentic self is “who you are at your absolute core. It is the part of you not defined by your job, function or role. It is the composite of all your skills, talents and wisdom.” It is what makes you the person you are. It is not what you think you should be.
If you are waiting to be the person you think you should be or to be like everyone else, you are always going to be disappointed in yourself. On the other hand, if you are willing to take a chance and be the person you are, you might be pleasantly surprised.
If you don’t have skills you believe to be important, rethink them. Perhaps you are good at singing, typing, gardening, computer programs, writing, painting, organizing, etc. If you still don’t feel impressed with yourself, find a way to learn something that you are interested in. There are all sorts of things available on the Internet, in adult education classes through your local school system, or even in college universities for free if you are over a certain age.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche is saying that the real you wants to be out there, but even when you move with courage, you might be disappointed with the results. There are still those who would oppress people, look down on them, and cause them to feel very uncomfortable if they disagree. Learn to identify them and don’t allow yourself to feel intimidated.
Now, I am not suggesting that you should disagree for the sake of doing so. I am saying that you need to speak up when you disagree.
Remember, there are too many people who want you to be like them, so they will feel comfortable and powerful. You give them power when you reluctantly agree, and if you are always agreeing, who are you? Where is the real you? Do you want to belong to an organization that always follows the lead of those who appear to dominate the others?
My suggestions include learning how to say “I disagree” in different ways:
- “I have a different way of looking at it.”
- “Would you like to hear my thoughts on that?”
- “I am not sure I understand what you mean by that. Please help me out.”
A Landmark Study
How powerful is our need to conform to others’ wishes and opinions even when we know what they want is wrong or when we have a different opinion? As early as 1955, a study was published on “Opinions and social pressure” by Asch in the Scientific American. Interestingly, seven participants were “planted” and told to state identical wrong answers. Almost 75% of the remaining participants went along with the seven, knowing they were wrong.
Later, in a follow-up study, Asch wrote that when one of the seven “planted” participants was told to disagree with the other six, only 5% of the actual participants went along with the other six.
So remember to feel free to disagree. You never know who in your group might be right there with you or even have a different opinion from the rest. You are probably saying at this point that you can’t do this one on one. Yes, you can. Just practice it. And if someone is talking about something that really makes you uncomfortable, just say so.
Renewing Old Friendships Can Be Rewarding
Writing this article was difficult because I realized I had not been doing what I needed to do to make friends. Many of my friends from recent years have died. Unfortunately, I got busy and didn’t take the time to try connecting with new or older friends, except for two, whom I visit on Facebook occasionally and see less frequently. But, I did rejoin an organization I had belonged to.
Recently, I contacted someone I had not seen in over 40 years and arranged to go visit her–two hours away, I had thought of her often because she was the one friend who accepted me for me. We had the most fun I’ve had in a long time. We laughed and talked about things we knew we could discuss without fear of being judged. Trust me, being able to relax with others is such a great feeling. She has already done many of the things I would like to do, such as traveling in an RV all over the country or just kayaking. I hope to learn from her and see her again soon.
From Fifty is the New Fifty Some pertinent steps to renewing old friendships:
- Find them. Google their name. Sometimes you will find they have remarried.
- Contact them. Facebook was the obvious first contact for me and it worked.
- Call them. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers.
- Remember old times. Ours were sad and happy, and talking about them was cathartic. We have a lot more to discuss.
- Ask about current activities. We both have things going on and have mutual interests.
- Agree to see each other again. We did this.
- Don’t be too disappointed if the friendship fades. Some things you can’t control. Just hope for the best.
Yes, it has been shown that having friendships after you get older is definitely valuable. Be willing to give up any incorrect notions you have had about friendships and entertain new ones. There is a wealth of information out there on establishing and maintaining friendships, but the main points to consider are to be honest, genuine (authentic), and helpful. Honesty requires that you be able to present your own opinion. Learning how to disagree properly will give you a new sense of freedom.
The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares. Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when. Simon Sinek in Brainy Quotes
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please let me have your thoughts in the Comments section below.