Season of Hope. New Friends

WHAT A PERFECT TIME OF YEAR TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS!

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One of the most important and yet least understood areas of psychology concerns the role of friends in our lives. It is often awkward when you are at your spouse, partner or GF/BF holiday party. They know everyone, they are in on all the jokes. Find another awkward looking person at the party at strike up a conversation. You already have something in common, you would rather be somewhere else.

As I was finishing up school in NY I was invited to a Christmas party at a friends house. He gave me his address and I headed over there. I pulled onto the street saw cars were lined up down the street. I parked my car and followed a couple up the street into to the house. I walked in was welcomed, my jacket taken, a drink put in my hand and directed to the food. I made small talk and joined in some humorous talk. Looking around the party I realized I didn’t know anyone. I searched for friends and a wave of dread came over me when I realized, I AM AT THE WRONG HOUSE!

The host came in and asked if I needed anything,

Me, “No thank you, what a great party!”

Host, “You are at the wrong place aren’t you?”

Me, “ummm, yeah- but this party seems pretty great!”

Host, “I’ll get your jacket and you can sneak out the back door. I think the party you are looking for is 2 houses down.”

Me, “Thank you so much!”

I snuck out the back door (drink in hand) and went to the party that I was invited to. It was an equally fun party.

The next week I was getting a coffee and the guy in front of me looked familiar. Yep- The host of the party I crashed. We laughed, had a coffee together and had dinner and drinks a few times before I left for New Hampshire.

I have been pretty lucky to have made some great friends recently. I look forward to dinner and drinks with them. We always laugh and each night, no matter how casual, is memorable.

I am thankful for these friendships and look forward to sharing this holiday season with them.

When it comes to happiness, your friends are the key.

I’ve tried to distill Friendfluence into what I believe are its most important lessons.

Here are 15 reasons to appreciate your friends:

Friendfluence is the powerful and often unappreciated role that friends—past and present—play in determining our sense of self and the direction of our lives. Whether you realize it or not, your friends have shaped who you are today. You are even the product of the friends who are no longer your friends.

Friends can give you vital life skills.  There are many perks of friendship include sharpening your mind, making you generally happier, knowing yourself better, becoming inspired to reach your goals, advancing your career, helping you meet romantic partners, and living a longer and healthier life.

Childhood friendships start your learning process. Early friendships play a vital role because they occur while key developmental changes are taking place. They help teach us some of those important life skills but also shape our life “narrative.”

Teen friendships shape your later romantic bonds. Though parents spend much of their time worrying about who their teenage kids are with, these relationships are a training ground for the later long-term bonds that will evolve through adulthood.

Friends can help you define your priorities. People tend to pick friends who are similar to them. This fact falls under the general proximity rule of close relationships, in that like tends to attract like. Because we fall prey so easily into this similarity trap, it is important to try to stretch yourself to learn from some of those opposites.

Having friends can help you get more friends. People tend to like others who have a reputation for being nice and helpful, and they like people who like them. If you want to be the type of person who attracts new friends, these qualities will help get you on your way toward building your social group. Once you have more friends, you’ll be able to enjoy some of those perks of friendship.

Close friends support you through thick and thin. To take the most advantage of friendfluence, put effort into your closest friendships. Although being friendly can get you more friends, you don’t need hundreds to help you through life. You may have to prune your friendship tree as you get older to be sure that you give enough attention to the ones who will really matter for your well-being.

You’re less lonely when you have friends.  Loneliness is painful, especially when you are living with loneliness for a prolonged period of time. This is yet another reason to put time, energy, and attention into finding and cultivating a close circle of friends.

Your online friends can steer your thoughts and behaviors. Although online friends are qualitatively different than your in-person friends, they shape you nevertheless. They can also be your source of life support.  Of course, your online friends can also make you miserable too, especially if you get caught in the “friendship paradox” (the fact that most people on Facebook have fewer friends than the average number). If you can avoid having Facebook envy dominate your life, you’ll have more rewarding connections with your extended friendship community.

Friends matter to you, regardless of gender. Although much is made of the difference between male friends, female friends, and male-female friend pairs, all share the qualities of having the potential to influence your life. If you restrict yourself to one certain type of friendship, you may be missing out on bonds that transcend gender boundaries.

Couple friendships can help your own relationship. People experiencing similar life events can often provide the most valuable support to each other. Unfortunately, some couples withdraw from their friendships when their relationship turns serious. You can benefit both from maintaining your separate friendships, but also from sharing with the couples who are experiencing transitions such as becoming parents, raising teenagers, and helping older family members.

Friends can also help you alleviate your work-related stress. Even though you may be stretched to the limit time-wise, the investment you make in these friendships will be worth the psychological benefits.

Friends can give you a reality check. Who but your closest friends will tell you that your new purchase is ridiculous? What person you meet on the street will let you know that your latest romantic interest is going to bring you heartbreak? Because friends know us so well, they are able to see things that we can’t, and aren’t afraid to share their dose of reality with you.

Banding together with friends can help you effect social change. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to fight for a cause, raise money for charity, or even just make a few small improvements in your community on your own. Friends are the first step to building successful social movements. Facebook provides one way to enlist the support of thousands of people. At a less grandiose level, people are more likely to engage in helping and altruistic behavior at the urging of their close friends.

Being a friend helps your friends. Friendfluence works in two directions. Not only do you benefit from its many perks, but by being a good friend you are helping those closest to you.  If you are aware of how you’re affecting your friends, you’ll work harder to stay close to them which, in turn, will benefit you as well. Being a good friend also includes asking them for help when you need it.

Giving someone the gift of being influential can be one of the greatest joys you pass on to your friends.

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