A Year of Spring

16. Befriend someone you don’t know

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to get them sometimes.” (A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh)

Depending on your personality, interests, communication style, appearance, and previous experiences, making friends is either incredibly fun or extremely daunting. Every season of life poses fresh challenges to making new friends.

Some people are amazing at keeping friends throughout the years and in every season. They understand how to remain connected in the midst of transition. My wise and friendly husband says, “There should always be an open spot on your friend list.”

I listened to an interview on the Ted Radio Hour where Robin Dunbar talks about how many friends a person can have at one time. His research finds that number to be 150 with about five in the innermost circle and then rippling out from there.

Last week’s episode of On Being challenged me as I thought about our interaction with social media and friendship. Anil Dash talks about how technology isn’t a separate and unrelated segment of our lives but an integral part and that includes our connectedness with people.

There’s power in self-knowledge. Once you know yourself you embrace your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. This is so powerful especially when it comes to building relationships with people. Personality and communication tests are wonderful tools for pinpointing individual quirks. They shouldn’t box you in, rather they should teach you about what makes you sing and what makes you tick.

As I thought about how to befriend someone I don’t know I reflected on a few things:

  • Personality: I’m a INTJ on the Meyer-Briggs test – it’s an intense sounding one; a Type 1, Reformer on the Enneagram; Input/Intellection/Strategic on StrengthsFinder
  • Current interests: reading, writing, mothering, making delicious food (half are definitely solitary activities)
  • Communication style: a shaper, producer, contemplator (from Life Languages) – basically I love to plan, manage/create, and think (these aren’t super social communication styles)
  • Appearance: mom look through and through (neutral colors, semi-frazzled when out in public, almost always a ponytail)
  • Previous experiences: for many years I worked intensely hard at becoming warm and approachable because experience proved I repelled rather than attracted

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” (Aristotle)

I’m not an expert by any means. But, here are a few things I’ve learned as someone who struggles to connect that work for building new friendships. If you’re a natural these probably sound basic and intuitive so feel free to skip to the next section:

  • Smile and ask sincere questions
  • Be authentic to your own interests as well as interested in other people’s interests even if you don’t share them
  • When talking in person, focus on them like they’re the only one in the room (this is tough if you have kids, but it’s the effort that counts)
  • Give yourself a pass if there’s not an instant connection – some things take time and some things aren’t meant to be
  • If you’re an extrovert try to listen more
  • If you’re an introvert try to speak more
  • Know yourself and love yourself. If you are comfortable in your own skin, it does wonders to help others to feel comfortable to be themselves around you

And some thoughts on maintaining old ones:

  • Take the initiative to stay connected: whether it’s a coffee date, a Skype call, a text message, an email, or good old snail mail
  • Remember birthdays: sounds silly but a card in the mail or a phone call or text message is far more meaningful than a public post on Facebook.
  • Be quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness: don’t let little things build up and create an unsurpassable chasm
  • Be honest and vulnerable: say what you think but don’t force your opinions on them and be open with what’s actually going on in your life, not just the headlines

“Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.” (Socrates)

It’s never to late to add a new friend to your life. Wishing you all the best as you grow in your current friendships and develop new ones.

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A Year of Spring

15. Learn about something completely unfamiliar to you

Real listening can’t happen unless we have a sincere desire to understand what we’re hearing. And that’s not an easy thing to manage because it requires us to suspend judgment. (Ann Cuddy)

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One thing became so clear to me before, during, and after this election: we had stopped listening to each other. Rather than taking time to learn and listen, we found ourselves in an echo chamber, only reading and hearing things that confirm or reinforce our entrenched beliefs. And then talking over anyone who came from an echo chamber different from our own.

Amidst the flurry of tweets, posts, comments, and reactions surrounding the election, I had to pause and listen. Listen to my own heart and then figure out how to step out of myself and my own deeply held beliefs to learn. I want to learn and hear the stories and thoughts and feelings held by those that are outside of the echo chamber where I currently reside.

This means I have to ask questions without an underlying tone of judgment or persuasion. I want to learn about the ways people think and live life that are entirely different to mine. I want to sit and drink coffee with people from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences, but in order to do that I have to be willing to learn and understand the heart of what I’m hearing instead of filtering it through my own experiences.

My prayer for us all is that we become better listeners. And that our goal becomes understanding and empathy rather than convincing and judgment. That we aim to learn and love instead of criticize and tear down.

May we make the most of this holiday season with friends and family through a demonstration of love and truth and grace all wrapped up in hope. Perhaps if we’re all willing to learn something completely unfamiliar to us some of the gaps will be united, some bridges will be built, and relationships deepened.

A Year of Spring

14. Grow something new from seed

image1But the sower

going forth to sow sets foot

into time to come, the seeds falling

on his own place. He has prepared a way

for his life to come to him, if it will.

Like a tree, he has given roots

to the earth, and stands free.

(Wendell Berry)

There are moments in every season where we have the opportunity to sow seeds for the future. It could be seeds of friendship, seeds of finance, seeds of faithfulness, seeds of faith, seeds of grace.

Whatever fruit we desire to see spring up in our lives originates from a seed somewhere. If we desire deep relationships with people, we must sow seeds of connection and love. Some people are natural savers who continually and regularly plant seeds of finance for a prosperous future.

One thing that God set out at the beginning of time was seedtime and harvest. The thing is, there isn’t just one seedtime a year. There are times in every season we can sow. This time of year is preparation for spring. I spent the weekend planting bulbs for a spring harvest. It takes faith to sow something in one season not knowing when or how it will spring up.

There are seeds of faithfulness sown during seasons of working a job or doing something that’s difficult that do more in our hearts and character. Longterm diligence and perseverance produce a beautiful harvest in its due season.

Terry Virgo describes grace using a plant metaphor: “like a modern weedkiller grace can go to the root and destroy it’s power. But you must deliberately obtain grace. You must make a specific choice to refuse bitterness, not once but many times. Bitterness will repeatedly knock at your door and you must always send grace to answer it.”

Whatever we seek to see in our lives originates from a seed, and we always have the choice and right to sow whatever types of seeds we want. We should not be surprised by the fruit and flowers when they bloom because we were aware of the future life we were planting in a previous season.

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