Why Making Friends Matters To Your Success

Make FriendsAh, networking and relationships! How well they fit together into a larger framework of success. And while it’s easy to complain about having to network, most of us want success. So, we work at becoming better networkers. I get it.

Still, I often feel an obsession with becoming better networkers can blind us to what it takes to build longer and stronger relationships. That is, the kinds of relationships that enrich our lives – even when a there’s no business or career advantage. Okay. Yes. I’m talking about friendship.

What Networking Often Lacks

If you’re like me, and a lot of other people, you know that having the right connections is critical to success. You also know that those relationships often come your way via networking. At a most pragmatic level, you realize that growing and tapping into networks opens doors. You may also be starting to see that the broader your network, coupled with your ability to navigate it, the more valuable you become.

Of course, while giving a passing acknowledgement that “relationships matter,” many people keep their eye on the prize. That is, they pursue specific new opportunities, such as qualified prospects and sales or job leads. In short, networking often becomes transactional.

This networking approach too often leads to shallow connections. What’s more, it’s typically transparent and off-putting. Nor is it a sustainable approach to achieving continued success. After all, there’s little long-term benefit in linking with people with whom you have only passing acquaintance. Most often, the people who think of you, when they see a relevant opportunity, know you well, and like and trust you. [Tweet this] Those kinds of relationships take time to build.

 Genuine Sharing, Genuine Caring

Perhaps one of the biggest drivers of the transactional mindset has been the common advice that networking is about “giving to get.” It’s not. So, approaching it that way is a turn off. Overall, I believe the sounder approach is to focus more on creating and nurturing bonds with others.

Traditionally, people have developed and strengthened their bonds via meeting up for coffee, meals, and other shared activities. Clearly, meeting in-person is a key part of cultivating relationships. These days, however, you also can take advantage of technology tools to support bonding. Used well, social media increases your ambient awareness and supports brief interactions over time. [Tweet this] As a result, you can interact more regularly, adding depth to your relationships.

Yet, however we connect, basic social niceties matter. When you begin to pay attention to the little things in other people’s lives, you not only get to know them better, but also may discover more areas of shared interest. And the more you do, the stronger your bonds can become.

A Lot Like Making Friends

Over time, as bonds become stronger, you may find you have the basis for true friendship. If so, it’s worth investing more in those relationships. For as Shasta Nelson points out in her excellent book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen!  Although making friends seems like it ought to be automatic, it’s not. In fact, she says, if you’re simply waiting for friendships to develop, chances are you may be well networked but lonely. [Tweet this]

So what’s it take to develop friendships?

Well, genuine sharing and genuine caring. And time. In Shasta’s words,

“The strength of our friendship isn’t as dependent on how much we like each other, but more on how much time we spend together developing our friendship in broader and deeper ways.  …two primary factors that create friendship…[are]… consistency and intimacy.  …consistency is regular time spent together, and intimacy is sharing that extends to a broad range of subjects and increases in vulnerability.”

Since these factors can change with time and circumstances, there are different categories of friendship. Yet, a key point to grasp is this: Making, keeping, and even changing friends is perhaps one of the most important skill sets you need to have. [Tweet this]  Especially if you want to enhance the overall quality of your life.

Friends Are Key To Life Success

An old saying reminds us that on their deathbed no one says, “I wished I’d spent more time in the office.” It’s a sad reminder that in the pursuit of success, people can miss out on life. Yet, if we measure success based on a better quality of life, then friendship is surely a critical element. In reimagining success, it’s clear that while networking is driven by self-interest, making friends is about enlightened self-interest. [Tweet this]

Cultivating friendships requires, among other things, a spirit of generosity. Friends and SuccessBeing a friend often means that we act in the interest of others. Yet, in the long run, we also serve our own interests. For what we create for our friends, as well as ourselves, is a brighter and more promising future with a greater sense of belonging, more happiness, and even enhanced longevity.

I will have more to say about friendships in future posts. Meanwhile, even if you already have friends, you could probably make more. Look for opportunities to make new ones both in-person and online.

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What are your perspectives on friendship? How are you making friends?  What are some of the shared interests or activities that are at the basis of your friendships? Just leave a comment. I’d love to know.

Comments

  1. says

    I always find posts about networking interesting as I am not that good at it and I am intrigued as to how other people are! I want to know what drives people to spend hours on social networks.

    I do enjoy +Google, but I just don’t get Facebook or Twitter. For me I find interacting on +Google easier than on Twitter and Facebook. I do have a Twitter account, though I really don’t know why as I am one of these people who if and when I do text, I won’t shorten words, it just doesn’t come natural to me. So using Twitter and Twitter language is really beyond me.

    I have to be honest and say that I don’t make friends quickly, a quality friendship does take time to grow. Trust doesn’t develop overnight and getting to understand another person doesn’t happen over night either. I much prefer quality friendships over quantity. Unfortunately youngsters are growing up thinking they are popular and have lots of friends because of social networking. Put them in a room full of people and most of them wouldn’t know what to do or what to say. I am sure that he art of conversation will one day be obsolete, which will be such a shame!

    • says

      Thanks for your comment, Debbie! You’ve made some great observations on friendships. In particular, the fact that friendships take time to grow; and that having lots of “friends” in a social media sense is really an illusion.

      I do think you are overlapping making friends, networking, and social media in ways that can be a bit confusing. First of all, I think that when it comes to friends, it’s important to forget the term “networking” in favor of simply “meeting and spending time” with people. Frankly, if you have an active life or are involved in community groups you will meet people. Generally, if you’re friendly, people will be friendly back – and you’re on your way to new friendships!!

      As for social media, friendships can develop, but it takes more time than it does when you see people in person! I’ve developed lots of great friendships via social media. However, these friendships are always based on shared interests and conversation. It also takes regular interaction – including in person! One of my best friends ever is someone I met on Facebook. We were online friends for nearly four years, before moving on to regular phone chats and meeting in person for lunches and dinners.

      As for the art of conversation, I think it’s a skill lots of us can improve on – and at every age!!

  2. says

    Walter – I like your point that developing friendships is enlightened self-interest. So different than selfish self interest where we’re just out to get something. We do ‘get’ something with enlightened self interest – but what we’re looking for with that kind of interest are things that make us better people – we hopefully learn to give, to listen and to accept graciously.

    • says

      Thanks for your great comment, Yolanda!

      I’m a big fan of enlightened self-interest!! In fact, I think it ought to drive all of our relationship building. Unfortunately, “networking” has become almost synonymous with selfishness. It actually shouldn’t be…but so many people approach it that way that it gets mired. Maybe that’s why so many people resist it!

      Of course, people have some resistance to making friends too, even if less so. Perhaps it’s the risk of vulnerability. But I think that risk is worth it. Because we build relationships that have mutual benefit just because they exist. Even more, as you so rightly point out:

      We become “….better people …[as]… we hopefully learn to give, to listen and to accept graciously. Love that!!

  3. says

    When I was working in the corporate world, I felt I was the worst at networking. From the moment I got into one of the big bank’s graduate program and went to places with all the other grads, I used to dread the event dinners. I am still uncomfortable in a big group – I don’t even feel comfortable talking to a group of mums in the park!

    And when it comes to friendship, I find myself losing on this, too. It may be a cultural relocation thing. I used to have closed friends where I grew up and went to school, in China, then I moved to Australia at 16. It wasn’t easy to find real closed friends. And when finally a few real friendships were developed, they moved overseas, or I moved overseas (back to China for 4 years). Now I’m back in Sydney, it’s like starting all over again…

    These friends, we still talk, but most on social media. It’s nothing like someone you can meet for coffee, a night out, or just call and chat about silly things…

    • says

      Thanks for your frank comment, Lucy!!

      Actually, I think networking can be very challenging. In part, that relates to the expectations that get established for it. Yet, our comfort in meeting people, generally, can be influenced by our confidence and tendency toward introversion. So, I can see how it would even be uncomfortable for you in a small group of mums!

      Still, I think it’s important to cultivate new relationships. It’s also important to hold onto the relationships we’ve built over the years. Clearly you’re doing that by keeping up with friends even if it’s over social media…. Though, yes, I agree it’s really important to have those friends you can “meet for coffee, a night out, or just call and chat about silly things…”

      Actually, Shasta Nelson makes exactly this point in her great book, and I recommend it! Before you buy it, though, it’s worth seeing how her book begins. You can find that here:

      http://www.girlfriendcircles.com/shastaN/book.aspx

      Also, take a look at the resources on her great website. Even before you ever read her book, Lucy, I think you’ll be inspired to find ways to make new friends locally, even as you maintain those life long friendships that mean a lot to you!!

  4. says

    Walter, it’s refreshing to see someone point out that networking is ultimately just a variation on making friends. The best networking is targeted, and you certainly have in mind what people can do for you, but once you’ve picked who to network with, the friend-making mentality is so much better than the s”hake hands and exchange business cards” mentality. I’ve gotten more benefit from forming one deep relationship with someone who could help me than from all the strangers I’ve ever hurriedly exchanged contact info with.

    • says

      Thanks, John!! I’m happy you enjoyed his post, and also that you appreciate my point of view here.

      While I think that “networking” is an important activity, I’m with you on being oriented to establishing the kinds of relationships that lead to longer-term friends. And yes, the “shake hands and exchange business cards” mentality is very limiting – and lacking!

      What’s even better about developing friendships is there’s a mutual “well-being” benefit, that can last well beyond the immediate “networking” benefit. In the end, it’s not the big LinkedIn contact list that brings happiness. Rather it’s the joy that springs from consistent and intimate relationships.

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