Friday, November 02, 2012

How to Win Friends and Be Influenced by People

Yesterday's post seems to have touched a chord for a reader who commented about how hard it can be to make new friends and form a community. Friendship for us humans is a very powerful and fundamental concept. It is not simply a matter of having someone to hang out with on a Friday night. Close friendships and social interactions are downright essential for health.

Making friends is not a trivial task. I read a post a couple of months ago that generated a lot of discussion in the comments. In real life too, this comes up often in conversation, about how we made friends quickly in school and college but now it seems to be harder for some reason.


The post title is written in humor; I'm certainly no expert at the art of making friends. But I have a good track record or perhaps a very lucky streak and have ended up with the loveliest friends you can imagine, and some of these friendships have lasted for decades across continents. Like falling in love, finding a best friend is not something you can really plan or predict, but you can certainly create conditions that attract good people into your life. For what it's worth, here are some things I've noticed about forming friendships. Some of these lessons came the hard way, by making mistakes and losing some friends along the way. You live and learn, right? 

How strangers and acquaintances become friends:

1. Be interested in people. Not in a nosy way, but in a way where you want to hear their story and know what their life is like. Some people have such a talent for this. I remember a former neighbor (50-something woman in St. Louis) telling me that she was on the phone with a computer tech person in a call center in India. While they were on the phone waiting for her computer to reboot, she starts chatting with this guy, asking him about how he likes his job and about his life and what he dreams of doing. Instead of fretting and fuming about her computer problem and about having to be on the phone with tech support for an hour, she ended up with a very friendly cross-cultural conversation! The guy told her about the job he really wanted and the girl he liked. And he successfully fixed her computer too.

2. Be a good listener: My BFF Neighbor Girl is the best listener I know. Because, you know, she actually listens instead of using that time to think of the next thing to say (which is what I'm guilty of doing). We can have an hour long chat where I casually mention that I have a meeting with my boss on Wednesday, and the following week, you can bet she'll ask me, so how did your meeting go?

3. Be a cheerleader: To make a friend, you have to be a friend. This means cheering on your friends, celebrating their big and small achievements, supporting their dreams. Competition and jealousy kills friendships instantly. You have to be genuinely happy for your friends' joys, and genuinely sad when things go wrong. Success is not a zero sum game.

4. Know yourself: Once I realized that I get uncomfortable and uncharacteristically shy in large groups, I sought out smaller gatherings. Putting myself in an environment that brings out the best in me is more conducive to forming friendships. Personally, I'm at my very best in one-on-one conversations.

5. Be a good person: I don't know how else to say this but the world likes people who are kind and genial and who have a big heart. That's why my husband makes friends easily- because people like him.

6. Open your home: V and I have always kept an open door policy. We don't care that our home often has dog hair everywhere, we never got around to decorating and the furniture doesn't match. People know they can knock on the door and be invited in and offered tea or a hot meal. There's always room at our table and we always have time to sit and talk with a friend. I remember V had a new colleague joining his workplace years ago. The colleague and his wife and baby were coming to St. Louis to look for an apartment- he asked them to stay with us. We had no guest room, just a couch with a very uncomfortable pull out bed. But they came and stayed and we became the best of friends. When Lila came along a few years later, we did not have to buy any baby clothes or toys or even a bassinet- these kind people handed down tons of great stuff from their daughter. My last night in St. Louis, Lila and I stayed at their home. How things come full circle.
      With Neighbor Girl too, she was my downstairs neighbor and we ran into each other walking our dogs and in the elevator etc. But one day we were having a conversation in the elevator, and instead of saying "bye now" when the elevator reached her floor, I said, "want to come in for a cup of tea?". Imagine what I would have missed if I had ended the conversation and gone on to my very important (and completely forgettable) chores for the day.

7. Be responsive: Choose a mode of communication- e-mail, phone, texts- and make sure your friends can reach you and communicate easily with you. When you communicate, mean what you say and say what you mean.

8. Connect through common interests: Some of my closest friends I've met through blogging and knitting and community gardening. Join a group, take classes, start a club, show up at a community event and you'll find like-minded people and friendships will blossom. Also, these are often friendships with people who are of very different backgrounds or ages than yourself, which is such an enriching experience. Of course, pets and kids are the common thread for forming deep friendships that go beyond doing stuff with the kids or the dogs. So get a dog! From a shelter for extra good karma! Walk it around the neighborhood and make some friends. No, seriously, we've made so many friends through Dale.

9. Volunteer: Again, choose a cause that you love. While you're stuffing envelopes for a political cause, or grooming shelter animals or cooking in a community kitchen (as I was when I met my friend Bek), you'll meet nice people that are worth knowing.

10. Don't put up with bullshit: You have to be your own best friend. If ever you find a friendship getting toxic, sucking more out of you than you put in, walk away. You should know how to set down boundaries and no one will ever be able to mess with you. 

11. Don't be a drama llama: Forget the gossip and back-biting. Drama is for books and TV. There's usually enough drama through relatives (whom you don't get to choose, alas) and in the workplace. Friendships should be about support and joy. These are people you get to choose, for crying out loud.

12. Cook! Forget what I said above, THIS is the real secret to making friends. Learn to cook and they will adore you for life. They'll put with all your personality faults. And then you can distribute love in the form of soup, chana masala and pans of brownies. 

Now, your turn: tell me your best stories about making friends.

46 comments:

  1. Loved this post. And the one that this followed. Thank you :)

    Simi

    ReplyDelete
  2. Points, 2,(U have read my mind), 6 and 11, deserve a big clap. I am loving it. Everymorning, iam enjoying ur style of putting thoughts in the correct form of words, Mostly reflecting what i think and wonna share with someone. Good job, Nupur. 3 things which i adopt with friends, One appreciating anything that deserves a mention,two not feeling jelous, 3 to understand the boundaries, which will always vary from person to person.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I'm typing my heart out all right :) I love that you appreciate everything that deserves a mention. Heartfelt compliments can do much for a friend's self-esteem.

      Delete
  3. I love your post Nupur. I so totally agree with the good listener, open your home and cook policies :) These are the things that have helped me when I moved too, about 5 years back. I was a little prejudiced about the people here and was wondering how I'd fit in. It took some time, but it has all worked out fine. Wish you had put this up 5 years back, would have made my life so much easier ! Looking forward to these daily posts from you...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can imagine- you too have moved to a different state with a different culture. But these life lessons can't be learned from a blog post, right? We have to live and learn the hard way :)

      Delete
  4. Simple and straight write-up, Nupur! I'm just like you in some area and good at one-on-one conversations rather than talk in a huge group.

    And my lots of love to Lila! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. That was excellent read Nupur!! U seemR to be a great person to hang around with. Too bad, i live in Australia, few continents away!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm probably easier to hang out with online than in real life LOL!

      Delete
  6. Hi Nupur,
    Long time and good to hear about all the interesting things happening in your life. Baby Lila seems to have grown and super adorable!!Good luck with everything. Coming back to the post, I think it is very thought provoking; not in a very intellectual sort of way, but something that touches your heart. Simple things which we all know but perhaps dont put to practise or simply becos we hold back ourselves on a number of occassions. I feel it is so very important to let our heart open and allow people in your lives, it does make a lot of difference!! I personally am a very shy and reserved person and friendship to me goes beyong the usual parameters of socializing. For me if I am in grief I should be able to call up my friend at 1 in the night and able to share. But after reading your post, i do realize that probably I must have missed upon other interesting people in life just becos I am so "closed". I am certainly going to take a step in the right direction!!

    Cheers
    Raakhee

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Raakhee! Well, you're one of my oldest friends! I'm so glad we've stayed in touch. It is definitely harder for shy people to make friends but when it does happen, the friendship runs deep. I hope all is well with you!

      Delete
  7. i loved your post... i found myself becoming cynical and not being able to make friends a few years ago... i changed a lot of that and now its so different...i found myself nodding at so many places here... also cooking and open house is a big big plus! loving the marathon so far!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm loving the delightful recipes you're posting every day! But we're only on day 4 :) whew!

      Delete
  8. I am having trouble making friends at this stage of my life too. I am a very friendly person and had tons of friends in grad school. Now having moved to Chicago, some of my friends live In different suburbs that slowly I have lost touch with them at least in person...there's always FB! In my community I really have no friends that I can reach to. I feel shallow saying this but we have a modest home in a rich neighborhood that I feel a little ashamed to invite people over as my neighbors have impeccable well maintained lawns while we are doing it ourselves! Ha! There's my existential angst! Well I think j know what I need to d but I really need to take a step toward opening up mu home irrespective of how small it is ! Nice heart warming post, Nupur.
    Sangeetha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup, social media and skype have been incredible in keeping relationships and friendships alive. But it is sad to not have close friends within reach. But please set aside your anxieties and open your home; the people who come in and appreciate it are the type you'll want to be friends with anyway.

      Delete
  9. Nupur, I am silent and ardent reader of your blog from years!!
    This post moved me so much and I just loved it. Each and Every word you out in your post is so true...
    Its because of all nice people like you, I am inspired to start my own blog. I will let you know when its up and running. Please do stop by my blog when you get a chance..
    Can I list your blog in my blog list please?

    Regards
    Sireesha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sireesha- I'm so glad you enjoyed this post. It was certainly written from the heart.
      Good luck with your blog! I will be honored to be included in your blog roll.

      Delete
  10. what an adorable, warm post Nupur!

    It also made me teary for a reason. How do you manage friends of yours who are irresponsible parents? I am not a parent yet, and I understand kids are mischief all the time; but isn't it a little too unfair of parents to trash my home; let them break my dolls and other things and not utter a single word asking them to stop? They infact laugh and enjoy their kid's "activities". Sometimes they say, oh it's your job to stop him from breaking it. (!!) of course, those kids are not going to listen to what I say. Originally I thought these are exceptions and if I don't know to deal with them, then let me not call them over. There are other friends to call anyway! But now it looks like a large majority is this kind! My husband and I are dumb stuck with these people, because we know being frank and open is not going to work with these folks. On the one side, I don't want to find fault but on the other hand I expect some level of responsbility too.. :-|

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh dear, I'm so sad you're facing this situation. I'm blown away that your friends would say it is your job to protect your stuff. No- take it from me- it is a parent's job to supervise their child. You shouldn't have to put up with such people at all. Either meet them in a neutral location like a park or restaurant if you want to hang out with them, or find other friends!! I know LOTS of people with young kids and they all watch their kids like a hawk, and teach them good manners at an early age.

      Delete
  11. You really know how to strike a chord with your readers! What a wonderful post. I was nodding my head to almost every line you wrote. I've made most of my friends through two of my most favorite activities - cooking and dancing. Cooking for people is an instant friend-making recipe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cooking and dancing- two of my favorite activities also! And yes, both are wonderful for finding good buddies.

      Delete
  12. Wonderful post and everything you have said is so true. I agree with all esp the last one, learn to cook. You can make friends by changing your personality a bit by being better listener etc etc but only way to keep them forever (esp in this country) is invite them over often and that means cook! I am not a good cook and inviting people over stresses me out. Maybe that's why I have lot of friends in this new place , but none very close. Thanks for the lovely post! - SK

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NOOOO don't have notions about not being a good enough cook! It takes time for casual friends to grow into being close friends. Let them cook for you once in a while!

      Delete
  13. Nupur, I loved this post. as I read, my BFF came to my mind. She and I are 'connected' in a strange manner, well, every pair of BFFs day that, I'm sure!
    But this is one friendship where we never have to explain, defend, apologize, there is no jealousy, no comparison, no competition. There was a time we did not speak for a few months and then one day we started and it felt like there was never a gap. I can start a sentence and she can complete it. I can say something funny on the phone, here, and wink and she will know that I winked! We can just sit next to each other for ages, without a single word exchanged and yet know what the other wanted to say.

    I feel I should really work point wise from this post, I have very few close friends, but I do like meeting new ones, just feel unaccountably shy and zip up. This post is a wonderful, gentle reminder to take a step forward! and the last point, I always start with that :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you have someone like that in your life! Sometimes it feels like making friends is too much work with everything else we have going on. But it is worthwhile in the end.

      Delete
  14. Hi nupur

    Great post. I love all the recipes you put up and I have tried quite a few. I love the simple weeknight dinner recipes you post. I tried the quick curry using coconut milk and adding trader joes meatless meatballs. My husband loved it. Just wanted to request you to post more of such quick , tasty and creative recipes where you can just whiff up a great meal in a jiffy

    Jui

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jui- I'll definitely try and post a few quick and tasty weeknight recipes. Check out the tofu and noodles I posted today.

      Delete
  15. Lovely post. Love your blog and all the recipes especially the quick weeknight curries. Can you please post more such recepes of everyday cooking. Simple, fast, delicious and creative- those are the recepes I end up trying :)

    Thank you

    Jui

    ReplyDelete
  16. Very beautiful post Nupur. I can learn so many things from this.
    So glad to know you are settled in the new place and Lila looks so cute (from previous post).
    We will miss you and your lovely family when we visit St.Louis next time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shilpa- I'm so glad we got two chances to meet in STL! Now you have to do a road trip and come see us in GA.

      Delete
  17. Everything you say is right in this post. And yet, this is the hardest thing to do, make new friends. Especially when someone tends to be quiet and shy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, Sharmila- for a quiet person, all this is much more easily said than done. But my friends who are more quiet and shy are often the ones who I can have the deepest relationships with. So your name Sharmila really fits your personality? :)

      Delete
    2. I get that a lot :) Thanks for your insight Nupur. By the way, I think your name is a very pretty one. Very musical, as is the piece of jewellery it signifies.

      Delete
  18. I am so glad I took the time to read this. Awesome post that touched my heart.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am so glad & thankful that you took up this challenge of posting everyday. This post will be helpful for so many of us. I agree with everything you've posted and plan to try volunteering or joining communities that interest me as you have suggested to meet more interesting people.

    One thing that has been greatly helpful for me is to do things for friends solely because I love doing those things and it gives me immense happiness doing it for them, not because I expect the same in return. Expecting that is a classic formula for disaster because people have different ways of expressing love and care, some do it with food, some with being there for you, others with gifts and surprises and some angels do it all! But piling up friendship with lots of expectations spoils it or shortens its life in the longer run. Friendship is a two way road but it is important to remember that every friend's vehicle is different! :)

    - Priti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree 1000%. Everyone shows love in a different way, and those ways are impossible to quantify.

      Delete
  20. It was an honor to cook with you and to get to know you and V and Dale. Glad your move went well and we'll see you in Atlanta some time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've yet to venture into the big bad city of Atlanta :) the traffic terrifies me.

      Delete
  21. very thought provoking post Nupur and well written too :-)
    I understand and have been through some issues that others have mentioned here...but, eventually I've learned finding your inetrest groups in your community is a sure way to meet with friends and be open-minded to meet and make friends. For me, gym has been an excellent way to meet friends and connect with like minded friends. It works great ..motivates you to stay healthy and also great for building solid frienships :-)
    Cooking, as you have metnioned, is the SURE way to win friends :-)
    take care
    Mina.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mina- that's awesome to find friends in the gym- more motivation to stay fit together.

      Delete
  22. I totally agree with pt.#1. You should be genuinely interested in people. I am also like what you have mentioned in pt.#2. I sometimes find myself wondering the next thing to say in a conversation.
    One thing I have learn is never be too judgemental about people. If you are, you may miss out on someone who may become your best friend. Also, you shouldn't expect your friends to be like you. I sometimes get irked when the other person is not as talkative as I am:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, when the other person is not talkative, then the conversation quickly becomes one-sided and hard to sustain!

      Delete
  23. Nupur -

    This is such an awesome post. I truly believe what you have penned here. A few tenets to follow, an open mind and a belief to make things work always results in good things. I think what you've concluded in the points mentioned finitely captures the difficulties faced by any NRI/ Expat/ New Resident joining a new community and calling it a home.

    Point #8 and #12 echo my thoughts. Nothing like bonding over common interests like food, hobbies and pets. It opens a different world and offers a new perspective. When everything is down, a lick from a furry friend is all that you need. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Nupur,

    Thanks for such a sweet and touching post. Thought provoking indeed, like someone already pointed out.

    Its really interesting how being kind, compassionate, and nonjudgmental makes you a better friend with others and most of all with yourself.

    Regards,
    Bhavna

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to say hello!