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How to Make and Keep Friends

Why am I unable to make friends and am having social problems?


Q. I have actually never tried to make friends after high school and now I just feel I can not even attempt to make friends. I live in a constant delusion of thinking people are evil and going to hurt me. I’m fairly intelligent and so forth but I think I have gone insane or something.

A. You obviously have some emotional fears which only a therapist might be able to dislodge, but it isn’t surprising that you find it hard to make friends with such thoughts. First of all, if you go round believing people are evil, you will act like it, which then give off negative vibes that people can feel and they will stay away from you. After all, those pessimistic thoughts do nothing to uplift them so why should they hang around you?

Secondly, not everyone can be evil because you are part of the world you inhabit, and it would mean that you are evil too, which I am sure is not right. Those kind of universal thoughts tend to come from people with high rates of pessimism, low confidence, little trust in others and who feel impotent to act upon their experiences. But we are not all clones of each other. Above all, Nature has given us a BALANCE in everything: good and bad, pleasure and pain, summer and winter. You won’t ever find totally one thing or the other in the world.

Third, it is TRUST and SHARING that give us friends. When we do no not trust others, they won’t trust us either, which means there will be no connection and nothing to share. You are approaching people with an accusatory perspective instead of a friendly, embracing one. There is nothing nice and wholesome to share with you and so they would avoid you. Everything begins with out thoughts and if we are thinking only awful things, and awful life is all we will have.

It sounds like you were hurt at some point and are using that hurt to judge everyone. But you are unique and so is everyone else. If you do not treat others as individuals but lump them all altogether to feed your fears, you are denying them their individuality. No two people are the same, so ditch the pain and hurt you are feeling, accept that both good and bad things happen in our lives each day and put it behind you. That’s how we all develop, by learning to accept and deal with the good and bad in life. When we are stuck back there in negativity we completely miss the present and the good things that life has to offer. Learn to take an interest in others, to get to know them before you judge them, and people will be drawn to you too.

Remember, you can only attract love with love, not love with evil. The two just don’t go together. So you are not insane, you are just nursing some hurtful past which you are blaming on everyone else you meet. Stop the blame and the evil thoughts because you cannot get positive things from negativity. Stop the self focus too and start noticing the people in your world. Give them the chance to get to know you and you might be surprised what happens next.

You need to work on your confidence and perhaps Confidence-Guide might be of some value.

How our words actually affect others


On the face of it, it can seem that some words, especially negative ones, have a superficial affect because they are not as damaging as physical hurt. But words can often be far more powerful in their impact. They can actually make or break life with their effect. Any physical damage can heal with time but words usually have emotional consequences that actually affect our present and our future in two major ways:

1. Words can boost self-belief, self confidence and self esteem.
Those three states lie at the heart of success. When they are reinforced, they become much more effective and they are validated through words. If we hear words that are affirming, reinforcing of who we are and desire to be, we are likely to accept them as an accurate description of who we are, which then increases our motivation to fulfil and enhance that description even more.

Positive words uplift us and empower us. They remind us of our worth and value and inspire us to find our true potential. That is why quotes and sayings by other famous and successful people are so powerful in themselves. They come from sources who have benefitted from such words, who know their true value; and they motivate us to use them in ways that can benefit us too.

Words of praise, a compliment, a thank you and words of agreement are all aspects of words being very effective in changing our behaviour and perceptions; in motivating us to rise above ourselves and in giving timely reminders of our worth and value. Positive words become the armoury that protects us from the brickbats of life and reinforce the path we seek for our own fulfilment.

2. Words that damage self-perception and esteem.
If we hear nothing but constant criticisms, put downs and negative reinforcement, words that can do long-term damage to our psyche, they will affect our perception of ourselves in a very corrosive manner to the effect that we gradually come to reject ourselves. If a child from an early age keeps hearing how useless he is, how ugly she is, how he is and how stupid she seems, they will eventually internalise such negative descriptions of themselves, they will come to believe it and actually act like it.

Words that are negative have long lasting emotional consequences in our development. They have the power to erode our confidence and self esteem by making us believe that we are not who we think we are; that we lack the capabilities we think we have and that we'll never achieve what we expect. In effect, negative words kill the spirit, especially from an early age, or in a work situation. They have the power to destroy ambition, potential and even a life.

The reason why words have the power to affect others so much is related to personal identity. We are validated by the people around us. They confirm who we are, our part in society and encourage us in what we wish to be. When we hear words which negate that identity and perception, it sets up a dissonance within us which is difficult to cope with, unless we have other positive words to the contrary that disprove the negative ones.

Words are very powerful and will always affect others in either affirming or critical ways. That is why it is very important to be quick with that praise and affirmation, while being careful about the negative things we say to others we value, especially if we don't really mean it! With some very simple words we could be having a profound effect on the lives of others, one way or another, without even realising it.

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Is there something wrong with me?
Why can't I have a meaningful friendship with someone?


Q. I honestly can't recollect a time in life in which I have had a meaningful friendship. All my interpersonal interactions are shallow. I simply can't seem to relate to my peers. It seems as though the average 14 year old isn't interested in intellectual discussion. Though I try my hardest, I simply can't discuss shoes and cars for more than five minutes without drifting off into my own world. I think most of the problem lies with me. I'm shy. I don't really reach out to anyone. I have been told by multiple people that I appear to be emotionless. I also don't read most people well. I never know if they actually want to talk or not. This is why I wait for others to initiate conversation. Is there something wrong with me?

A. There is nothing wrong with you but two things might apply to you which would keep you isolated. 

First, you appear to be very mature and intellectual for a 14 year old. You cannot 'relate' to your peers because you are too mature and knowledgeable for them. You sound like an adult already inside your young body. Of course, not many people would be like you, which you would need to accept. Just as how small talk about 'shoes and cars' would bore you to death, discussing the heavy subjects would bore them mightily too. You perhaps need a compromise where you begin by taking an active interest in others, instead of just caring about your needs. Get to know that person through sharing activities or information and you will seem even more attractive yourself, because others will want to know about you too and even want to discuss your subjects. But, if it is all about you, others will just keep away from you.

Second, if you appear 'emotionless' to others it could be that you are masking some hurt in your life that you have gone through, protecting yourself from future hurt by being detached and guarded. That would not endear you to anyone because TRUST is at the heart of relationships. Unless you can trust others, make friends with them in an expressive and open way, without guarding yourself too much, or being too detached in your interaction, you won't have many friends. They would always be suspicious of your motives. people can't react to coldness. It is warmth and interest that draws them near.

Perhaps if you start sharing your feelings with others, to talk about what has affected you, and to empathise with them as well, people might come to see that you are human too and come to trust you. Most important, you won't appear too 'robotic' and 'emotionless'. Don't wait for others to talk first either. Start off the process with simple questions about them when it feels okay. That is the only way you'll know if they wish to talk because they will either answer eagerly, reluctantly or not at all.

It sounds as though you need intellectual stimulation from other bright people of your own age or older. If you take interest in others and trust much more, you will gradually find the type of people who matches you and the friends you seek.

How good a friend are you?


Q. If I called and asked you to pick me up because something happened, Would you come? If I needed a shoulder to cry on, would you give me yours? If I called you at 3 o'clock in the morning to say my little child is sick, would you rush over to help, or just tell me to call 911?

A. I would like to believe that I am an excellent friend to others, according to my values and efforts, but friendship is not dictated by expectations of what should constitute 'good' friendship. The best friendships are unconditional, no expectations, except what the moment or context dictates. It means that each person gets the chance to play to their strengths rather than being expected to do what the other person wants just because they define friendship according to their singular or selfish way.

The best friends accept their friends as they are, warts and all. They do not wish them to be clones or behave in similar ways. For example, there was a lady who I was close to for many years whose friendship broadly consisted of a few calls on the phone and the odd meet-ups to go to the club. One would question what kind of a superficial friendship that might be. But one day, in an emergency trip involving my daughter, she was right there for me. She immediately took the day off, without me saying anything, and travelled the 12 hours round trip with me, always supportive, always encouraging. Yet 'closer' friends were nowhere to be seen at a time when I really needed someone in my corner. That action was such a surprise to me.

It also taught me a valuable lesson: that we must never judge our friends just by our standards and expectations otherwise we rob them of their individuality as we tie their friendship to our needs instead of just letting it flow. When we take people as they are, instead of imposing our expectations, we actually allow them to blossom and help us in their own way, not ours. Friendship is not a competition to see who can do the most as a 'friend'. Friendship is about value and when we truly value someone we don't expect them to show why they deserve that value. They just automatically merit it as people. It also means that the friendship isn't burdened by assumptions that person cannot fulfil.

I am a writer and motivator. I would be there to motivate and encourage you in my own way, and perhaps do it much better than someone who doesn't have my skills. Whereas another person who is good in a crisis will probably not think anything of being there at 3 am to help. Everyone is different, and by allowing people to be the kind of friend they want, not what we want, we will find some fantastic gems in people. A friend shouldn't have to 'prove' anything to us about friendship except simply to be there for us when they feel it is right.

The Gift of Interaction


Back in my other life of ignorance and low awareness, someone would pay me a compliment and I would feel terribly embarrassed about it; as though I did not deserve it. They might say how wonderful I looked in that smashing dress, etc. My only reply would be an awkward, lame "You mean this thing I'm wearing? It's ages old and not that great." Throwing their honest admiration back in their face.

Someone else might offer to do something for me but I was too 'independent' to accept. I wanted to keep that independence intact and, though I got real pleasure from doing things for others, I was either too great, or undeserving, to accept anything from anyone. My sense of independence and not wishing to be obliged, or be a 'burden', would stop their efforts in their tracks!

Someone else might just wish for my company, but I was too busy for them. They were not that important in the scheme of all the other occupational, social and domestic routine things that took priority. The result? I grew increasingly deficient in the joys of human interaction.

Ram Dass, the spiritual writer, describes human interaction as the 'greatest gift' between people. We are on this earth not to live sad, lonely lives of isolation, he said, but to interact as 'kindred Souls in a spirit of reinforcement and encouragement'. Nothing matters except through another human being. Our love, our affection, our reinforcement, our promotion, our encouragement, our hugs, our victories are all achieved through others. Without another human being, life as we know it is not possible. We would simply go insane without that essential interaction to affirm our existence and value. Yet we take people (especially loved ones, children, parents, relatives, friends) so much for granted in our exalted journey of life. Travelling alone and sad becomes more important to us than sharing the journey in greater happiness and fulfilment. People gradually come second place to every other inanimate priority in our lives.

Grateful Acceptance

But that compliment or affirmation should be returned calmly with a reciprocating compliment of acknowledgement and thanks. The act someone wishes to do for us should be accepted without a murmur and with thankfulness that someone really cares enough to want to do it. We do not have to prove our independence at all in any selfish way. By living our lives our own way, without dependence on anyone, we are already giving loud signals as to who we are and wish to be.

Finding time to call, to chat, to arrange a visit for someone could be the last wonderful thing you do for them in their lifetime. We do not know how long we each have left, so every day should be lived as though it could be the last, to be savoured and shared. Finally, forgiving someone - or ourself - a negative action is crucial if we are to let the past go, to savour the moment and to anticipate all the other wonderful moments coming up in our journey of life.

All those actions are extremely important because every time we deny someone the opportunity to interact with us through a compliment, an action or forgiveness, we negate their efforts to reach out to us, we belittle their humble offering, we diminish their admiration for us and we exclude them from the process of living to THEIR fulfillment. In short, we deny them the opportunity of feeling good about themselves through joyful positive actions and association with what is good within us.

Interaction is a gift between two human beings. They both feel special, valued and significant from the exchange. Don't withhold that compliment today, give it freely and joyously. You don't know what it could mean for that person. It could be like an oasis of water in a parched desert. Don't refuse that kind deed, welcome it warmly and reciprocate where possible. It helps to make someone else feel special, while giving us a warm glow of usefulness. Don't withhold that forgiveness. It shows your ability to be divine rather than just human, to move on rather than hang back in an emotional rut.

I feel very special sharing this with you today and I hope you feel special for receiving it. That's the essence of life - to share with love, and being enriched by it, while we each continue on our individual journey.

8 Simple but amazing GIFTS you have in your power to give


1) THE GIFT OF LISTENING... But, you must REALLY listen.

No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Just listening. It demonstrates true personal value.

2) THE GIFT OF AFFECTION... Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds.
Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends. It could encourage them to great heights. CHILDREN, in particular need this gift.

3) THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER... Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories. Your gift will say, "I love to laugh with you."

4) THE GIFT OF A WRITTEN NOTE/EMAIL... It can be a simple "Thanks for the help" note or a full sonnet.
A brief, handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime, and may even change a life, especially if it appreciates the person.

5) THE GIFT OF A COMPLIMENT... A simple and sincere, "You look great in red," "You did a super job" or "That was a wonderful meal" can really make someone's day, can boost their esteem and dramatically improve their confidence. CHILDREN, in particular need this gift.

6) THE GIFT OF A FAVOUR... Go out of your way to do something kind as often as you can.
Regular actions count more than a once-in-a-while present.

7) THE GIFT OF SOLITUDE... There are times when we want nothing better than to be left alone.
Be sensitive to those times and give the gift of solitude to others.

8) THE GIFT OF A CHEERFUL DISPOSITION... The easiest way to feel good is to extend a kind word to someone, really it's not that hard to say, "Hello" or "Thank You". Moaning, whingeing and whining put others off but a smile and good cheer are the most welcoming.

How many gifts will you be giving away today? Tomorrow? The next day?
Which ones do you find it easiest to give away?

Today I send you Gift 4, with love.

Thanks for reading this, and thanks for simply being there! :o)

The best way to appreciate our friends


Imagine someone who has been in your life for a while as a 'friend', especially someone on a social networking site, but they do hardly anything for you, are never there when you need them, and seem pretty detached in many ways. Yet are often telling people that you're friends and seem to be proud of the association. It might seem a little odd and selfish on their part, yet it could be the greatest friendship to them.

Friendship is not just about what comes back to us. It's what others receive from our presence too. Often we might be the whole world to someone who might seem indifferent, simply because they haven't got our confidence, security or assurance. Just because they are silent and unsupportive doesn't mean they don't care or appreciate you being there. One can always spot the self-absorbed and the person just seeking a market. The others who really need us and benefit from us, or who might secretly admire us, are more difficult to spot. So I allow people to be who they are, and accept them as they wish to be, so long as they are not expecting too much from me or being offensive to me.

For example, I have lost track of the many times people I have never heard of after that first 'friendship' acknowledgement on MySpace or Facebook, suddenly write and say "Thanks for your bulletins, they really make my day or made me smile, though I have never told you".

I never make assumptions when it comes to people because the best friend is one who can be him/herself without trying to fit into our little aspirational boxes. Our disappointment in such 'friends' stem from our own unfulfilled expectations of them and those expectations do kill friendships. When I am asked for a friendship 'add', I simply read a person's words on their site and make up my own mind whether I want to be friends or not. I bear in mind that MySpace is a site for making friends, and I either like the sound of a person or I don't. They do not have to 'qualify' in any way to be my friend.

As to terrestrial friends, because of my outgoing and caring personality I do attract many friends, but I have lost a good few over the years because I don't like to judge or be judged. For example, I don't think anything of spending tons of money, sometimes hundreds of pounds, to ring my favourite friends. Yet one fried whom I rang continuously, and who loved the conversations, stopped talking to me because I forgot her birthday. She was so busy focusing on what I hadn't done, she completely ignored and undermined what I normally did. Yet she hardly ever rang me. I offered to ring to save her the expense and, for a long time, we had some wonderful connections. I don't care whether a friend remembers my birthday or not, so long as whatever THEY choose to do shows me that they care about me.

It is easy to jettison your 'friends', especially on social networking sites, because they are not conforming to how you expect a friend to behave. But to have real friends we have to be a friend to them first, not just wait for them to act! We have to say hello too, make contact and affirm them. We cannot rule them out and delete them for doing the very thing we do not do. We really have to be that friend we are seeking before we begin to judge.

So just enjoy your friends, whoever they may be. Be thankful that you're fortunate to have friends, when many people do not, and enjoy their unique individuality.

Help! I need to change my friend's behaviour


Q. Recently I have a friend that has been in trouble with the police and her partner of 7 months is now also in trouble with the police for minor things. However she is about to start college and her behaviour is awful. Her family have pointed that out and the doctor told her to go to a counselor, she told me she was unsure. What advice could I offer this young lady on changing her behaviour? Thank you.

A. Your friend's behaviour is 'awful' because there is a lot happening in her life just now which she probably feels powerless to change. Her boyfriend is in trouble with the police at the same time as she is accepted for college. She wouldn't feel too happy. On the one hand she probably fears what will happen to her boyfriend and, on the other, she is probably dreading college: wondering how she would do there; whether she will be able to cope - but perhaps needing that challenge to change her life round. 

She seems fearful of what happens next and, as she feels powerless to control it, she is actually acting up and behaving badly, perhaps with the hope that she won't have to go after all. Your friend just needs some reassurance that she is loved, wanted and have relatives and friends who will be there for there, no matter what, and that college will be great and she will do even better. She also needs to be reassured as to what will happen to her boyfriend, whether he will still care about her when she leaves for college.

This lady could do with boosting her confidence and self esteem, to have a new perspective on her world, especially with all the negatives that have been happening in her life. You cannot change anyone but yourself. However, you can show her that she is valued and hope that she can come to see that value in herself, sooner rather than later.

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