How to Make Lasting Friends

Downtown Detroit
I wanted to begin by addressing the ever-present sentiment on social media that "people are not to be trusted" and that "you find out who your real friends are when things go bad." While the second has some weight to it, I think they are both gross oversimplifications. There may actually be a case revolving around intelligence. Let's take a peek, shall we?

Dumb People Trust the Wrong People

Don't trust a cat that sits there,
staring at you.

According to research, intelligent people tend to think people are, in general, trustworthy. The explanation around this seems to be that less intelligent people tend to place their trust in the wrong people because they misread the recipient's character. I would argue this is probably a case of EQ or social intelligence rather than overall intelligence.

A second interpretation could be that less intelligent people tend to sway more toward the "taker" mentality of "get while the getting's good." This is strategy works in the short term, as you'll get what you want, but you won't end up making any lasting friends or loyalty. My version of karma is one based around reputation: the more you are nice, helpful, and trustworthy to people, the more people will find out and be willing to help you out of the blue. The opposite would also be true: Would you help someone who has the reputation as an arrogant dickhead? Me neither.

Probably the best book on this issue would be Dale Carnegie's masterpiece: How to Make Friends and Influence People. The key piece I would like to pick out with regards to trust is as follows:
The only way to get someone to be trustworthy is to treat them as if they already are. 
This is often misinterpreted as meaning "putting your trust in people causes them to be trustworthy," which is entirely untrue. Instead, the only way to get a trustworthy person to act in good faith is by giving them the room to do so. If someone treated you suspiciously, constantly guarding themselves from potential harm, you'd probably think they were shady and act likewise in response.

What is Rapport?

I don't have an easy, personal definition for rapport, so I'll defer to all-knowing Google's interpretation:
In other words, having a good rapport is that feeling of social ease you have with someone you like. Sometimes you get it with someone from their first sentence, while other times it never seems to show up.

What is the common advice for making friends? Well, if the advice you received was anything like mine, it was along the lines of "find something in common and talk about that." This is a decent starting place, but nowhere near the end of practical advice. Focusing on something you have in common leads us to...

This isn't related, I just liked it.

Deep Rapport

You know that friend of yours that you only talk about one thing with? Let's say it's sports. You talk about new players and recent games, equipment, your favourite team - everything sports. There's a big game coming up, so you talk to them about this thing, and maybe even have them over for the event. You and this guy are "function friends" as I call it: someone you can turn to for one subject or activity - and one thing only. The exclusive reason you'd ever hang out would be something related to that thing. Would you ever talk to this friend about relationship problems, your stalling career, or invite them to watch a movie? Probably not.

You're both locked into that role with each other. Imagine being in highschool. You're in the grocery store when you run into your favourite teacher. Awkward, isn't it? Why is it that you normally have such good banter during school hours, but not now? Because you've mined your rapport deep as hell, but this context definitely isn't part of your established relationship. Instead, we should aim to obtain...

I'm a fan of the Old-Timey. How about you?

Versatile Rapport

This is the goal* here, fellas: the Holy Grail of friendship where best friends and lifelong friends tend to spring from. You can talk about anything under the sun and know that they won't judge you for it. You can invite them to anything from a concert to the movies to comic con. How do we achieve this?

We begin with the standard advice of "find something in common," though that's required - it's just an easy beginning. Instead of continuing on that topic forever, you jump topics to something else you have as an interest. Talk about that, see how it goes, and jump to another topic.

Your conversation partner will come to view you as someone they can bring up any topic with. You are approachable, open, and trustworthy. There are a few more general tips I would throw in on top to really drive this home:

  1. If your partner is really lighting up, stay on the topic for a while until it stalls. Be brave enough to let silence hang for a second, allowing your partner to take the lead.
  2. After a topic change, watch for if they're comfortable with the new topic. Did they stop talking? Are they still engaged? If they seem uncomfortable, finish up what you were saying and move on.
  3. Once a topic has passed, don't dredge it back up. This can be difficult when you find you're grasping at straws. Move forward to cover more ground, not back. How do you bring up a topic that's not very related? "That reminds me of X" or "I don't know why, but this makes me think of Y"
  4. Meet in as many different environments you can. This is the physical version of covering a lot of topics. It will feel more natural seeing you in new environments.
  5. Reserve judgment on anything - whether it be on your conversation partner or random people. Nothing clams people up more than the fear of being judged.
  6. Tell stories that you heard or from your past; avoid constant interviewing.
  7. Reciprocity; Share something personal, and give them the opportunity to share something back.
  8. Fractionation; 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Follow this with your sharing and it will be difficult to overshare. Be aware that a step should be something a little smaller, like a pleasant story from your childhood. Nothing traumatic.
  9. Throw out opinions on things. "I'm not a fan of the blazer and V-neck combination." Sure, it's random, but it will usually drive the conversation with them offering their opinion.
  10. Related to the last one: Nothing is embarrassing unless you allow it to be. Bad things happen to all of us. Learn to laugh at it and you'll lead a much happier life.
  11. Accept their opinions and perspectives as their truth. It may not mesh with yours, but it's equally valid.
  12. Gotta say, not a fan.
  13. Give them your attention instead of waiting for your turn to talk. By keeping your phone in your pocket, you'll already be leaps and bounds ahead of most people today.
  14. Say Yes to as many social offers as you can. This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as you'll get more offers to do things the more times you say yes. If you can't make an invitation, counter offer with either a reschedule or another activity altogether.
Follow these points and you'll be making friends all over the place. It should also be pointed out that this is more for the beginning of the friendship. If you've covered various topics and want to go deeper, feel free - they're guidelines more than steadfast rules. I'd be happy to expand on any of these points, but this post is getting unwieldy as it is. If you enjoyed it or want to know more, please comment and I would be happy to expand on whichever points you like!

One final point I'd like to make: The number one thing that matters for any relationship is the amount of time you dedicate toward it. As obvious as it should be: People spend time on what - and whom - they care about.

Editing Music: Weathered by Jack Garratt

*That's if you aren't looking for a purely functional friend. There's nothing wrong with deep rapport so long as that's what you want to get.

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