I recently asked my friend Karl, who is quite the social butterfly, what he thought was the most important principle to remember when socializing. I asked him because he’s the kind of person who when you meet him makes you feel like the most important person in the room.
At first he chuckled, because that’s an odd question.
But then he answered: “A positive attitude.”
He asked me why I’d ask him that? I told him that I was trying to figure out what the most important truths were in various fields like exercise, nutrition, communication etc. I agreed. It’s a great answer. Continuing with the aurelian metaphores: it’s true if you have a general positive disposition people will feel that, appreciate it and be drawn to you like moths to the flame.
However, that advice would only work for people like him. What to you do if you’re not an outwardly positive person? What if you find it difficult to feel and display positive emotions? My own answer to the question “What is the most important thing to remember when making friends?” is:
“It’s a numbers game”.
Here’s why. As people we have a tendency either to blame ourselves for our failures or take no responsibility at all and blame everything but ourselves. Of course there’s a mix of that too. But the reality is trying to understand ourselves and our flaws or the flaws and circumstances of other people is very complicated if not impossible.
An extreme example is that you want to become friends with a person named Sam. But Sam already has a full time job, a small family, a couple of friends and regularly goes bowling with his bowling club. He simply does not have more room in his life for more people. But you are not aware of that. The only information you register is that he does not want to be friends with you and so you decide that either he’s stuck up, rude or that there’s something wrong with you.
It doesn’t matter if you are the greatest thing since sliced bread because Sam is simply unavailable. Relationships are complex and trying to make sense of it, although useful, can also be misleading and frustrating.
Therefor, a good idea is to simply practice and put yourself out there a lot. Until you meet people, just like yourself, who in this moment of time are looking for someone to fill that friend shaped void in their life.
Of course there are skills and we can use those skills to get better but honing your skills still requires you to practice. Social interactions, just like life, don’t follow textbook examples.