• Making Friends

Reader Wisdom: On learning how to connect

Published: November 21, 2014 | By | 12 Replies Continue Reading
A reader writes about how she learned to connect with other people and find friendships.

Many times, posters write comments especially worth reading because their experience and suggestions can be helpful to others. Below are recent comments from Darlene (edited very lightly) who commented on the old but still popular post, “Why do women have such a hard time making friends? Nature or nurture?

Darlene writes:

I’m glad to have found this website, there are a lot of insights here. After reading these posts, I thought that I should give back to those here and share my journey.

I was moved from place to place a lot as a child; my family life was full of stress, chaos and strife. Most of my energy was used up in coping with my family and trying to survive. I had few friends and no resources left over to learn how to make friends. Over the years, I had a few friends here and there, but struggled with loneliness and isolation. I am happily married, but felt like I needed more connections in my life.

So….in my early 30’s I began trying to learn how to talk to people, by putting myself in positions at work and other places to be with other people, to observe what works for others, to try new things to get along. I’m not talking about being someone I am not, I’m talking about learning about how to connect and give myself a chance to become part of things.

I chose people I felt were decent people. That’s critical and tried to open up a bit and to trust (very hard for me, as I can’t even trust my own parents). Slowly, with some therapy, gentle self evalutation (what works, what doesn’t) I discovered the person I should have always been. I am actually quite funny and likeable! Who knew?!? People like me, after all these years. Still a bit of a shock to realize that.

Basically, I learned to like myself and to realize that I deserve good friends, then I learned how to communicate that to people. It isn’t about being someone you aren’t, or being fake, or anything of the sort. It’s about being yourself and having the tools and skills to connect with others. As hard as this journey has been, I wouldn’t go back for anything.

Do you have any strategies that have helped you connect with friends?

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Comments (12)

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  1. Dj says:

    I agree fully with all Sandra wrote. I get tired of always initiating plans & asking new friends if they want to get together & waiting to hear from them or until they have time to get together with me. It makes me feel like I’m too pushy or do they really want to be friends or are they just being polite since I keep trying to inititate meeting? I have friends I’m close to & have known for many years but I’d like to enlarge my circle of friends. I joined a club for active adults that has exercise groups, events, classes, etc. I believe this may be the best way to make new friends. I can go to classes & events & meet people with the same interests as me. I don’t have to initiate getting together & if I start to feel comfortable with people in the group I can suggest we go for coffee & get to know each other better. I’m very social & enjoy being with groups of new people & meeting new people that I may become friends with in time. Making new friends is a hard journey & everyone has to learn what situations works best for them in making friends. There are many clubs, classes, fitness groups, book clubs etc. for making new friends. Getting to know someone in a group can be a good begining for starting new friendships. I enjoyed hearing the comments from others on making friends & will take the suggestions with me when meeting new people. Thank you to all.

  2. Pam says:

    Hi, Darlene, how wonderful to have your comment featured! When I was younger, I had no problem with making or keeping friends. I thought life was great until, in my 40s, my daughter developed a serious mental illness that caused me to have to stop working to care for her. I’m not one to reach out for help. I was raised to take care of problems on my own, and consequently, during my daughter’s illness I isolated myself in her care. Additionally, some of my “friends”, who I assume were uncomfortable with my situation, faded out of the picture. By 48, with my daughter well (with meds) and nearly a college graduate, I found myself being friends with only my immediate family. As an extrovert this was lonely for me. I’ve since joined a wonderful fitness center where I’ve made several nice friends. I’ve also done some volunteer work that has allowed me to meet new people. I’m an artist, by hobby, and have done several craft shows where I’ve made some connections, too. I think keeping busy and finding activities and causes that interest you, really aids in putting you in situations where you can find friends. I understand the trust issue with opening up to people, and am rather choosy about the people that I open up to about my personal life.

    • Yissel says:

      Hi Darlene!

      Is very encouraging to hear that someone wt the same challenges I have managed to overcome obstacles & succesed. I’m 32 yrs old & ready to do anything to improve my social life. I can relate to you in so many ways as I grew up in a very dysfunctional home & without a mother. I’ was beginning to think that I was the only one. I had many friendships but someohow they have either threated me bad, terminated the friendship or unable to continue it. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong & I’m feeling frustrated, & alone. I’m thinking about doing a course in Toastmasters & retake therapy & take salsa lessons to meet new people. But it will be great if I can hear tips from someone who got to the finish line.

  3. Janet says:

    I too, am married and have a teenage son who I rely on almost exclusivity for social interaction as I have no friends outside of them. I can relate to having a husband who doesn’t believe in therapy. He does not take it seriously and believes that it is only for people who have major problems such as couples headed for divorce. Indeed we once sought out marital therapy and he thought it was a big joke. I also can relate to being the black sheep of the family. My older sister was the good and successful one and I was subtly labeled the problem child. it is difficult because, even in middle age, there is always the sense that my relatives still see me in that light. My mother was a psychologist and I wouldn’t
    put it past her to have gossiped about me to the relatives. I recently asked my sister if she thinks our mother talks about my issues to the relatives and she insists that our mother would not do that. However, at a family reunion one year ago, a cousin asked me about the problems in my marriage. This was somebody that I had not seen in a couple of years and I really don’t talk to. How would this relative know this about me? Hence, my sister does not see the family interactions the way that I do and wonders why I don’t trust in and confide in our mother.

    • wow says:

      I’m younger and in a different place in life, but what you’ve described is exactly what I’m going through. Exactly.

  4. tanja says:

    Darlene, I think it is a very hard task to learn to like yourself and choose decent friends. It is like the saying that you feel lonelier with people that are not very nice to you than if you were just by yourself in the first place. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. In fact I am still learning. I am 36 yrs old and I still feel like a child when it comes to friendships. I am married and have two beautiful children. I am a stay at home mom and as much as I have had the best time of my life not working and doing activities with my children and their friends, making sure my husband as what he needs and that my family is taken care of. I have felt still lonely. To a certain degree I have always felt lonely. I was bullied rather badly as a child in elementary school. I also had a very critical mother. She now lives in Germany, we talk and I am glad, but part of me is glad she lives far from me and my kids, that way we get the best of her when we do see her. Now, while I feel restricted with my inlaws and the relationship is stagnant, I can’t think of better grandparents for my kids than my husband’s family.

    I have found connecting as been difficult, partially because I am a twin and we had a very critical mom who preferred her over me and used us against each other, she is the good twin and I am the bad one, that type of thing, so I have felt lonely because around my twin, I can not express my true feelings of our upbringing. She talks about her upbringing and I can’t believe we came from the same family because I don’t see it in that glorified light at all. But, she compares to her husband’s family and perhaps in that regard our family was more open and loving than his. But, we all have different experiences. So, my question to you is what made you decide to go to counselling? did you tell your husband about it? With me, I feel I need counselling, but to tell my husband I have to get away, I would be embarrassed and would not know what to say. I don’t think he sees that connections are that important. He is a bit of a closed book, so I don’t know how he sees my communication skills. I also don’t know if he puts a lot of trust into counsellors, he thinks they are people like everyone else that has their own shit to deal with, yet they get paid to deal with other people’s shit and most of the time, we could have figured it out for ourselves anyway and didn’t don’t need them. So, how diid you come to that realization you needed help and how did you have the confidence to get help?

    • Darlene says:

      Hi Tanja,
      I had one of those moments one day, I had dropped my daughter off at her karate class and I just sat by myself in the car. I knew I needed help because in that moment I felt deep in my soul that my life was not what it should be, what it could be. I was incredibly unhappy. I needed things to change, no two ways about it.
      I started basically looking around for help, in self help books, therapy and (gentle and non-judgmental) self evaluation. Very important to be kind to yourself in this journey, it’s not as if you are a bad person. I was also pretty objective about this, I looked at it as I looked at learning any skill, there were going to be some times where I was not going to succeed, but I had to keep trying if I was going to learn in the end.
      Because of my childhood, I needed to resolve some of my feelings, so for me, therapy made sense. I refused to see this as a failure, needing help, rather as one of the many tools I would be happy to use to get where I very much wanted to be. Nothing to be embarrassed about, in my opinion.
      It takes liking yourself enough to have the confidence to get help, believing that you deserve help and you do, for yourself mainly, but your family will also benefit if you are happy and connected with your world the way you sound like you’d like to be.
      Like I said, it was a very hard journey but one of the most worthwhile things I have ever done.
      All the best,

  5. Darlene says:

    Thanks for your kind words Sandra, I wasn’t expecting to have my comments featured 🙂

    I am glad that this blog exists. When I started this journey years ago, it would have been very comforting to know I wasn’t alone and very helpful to have the guidance of the people posting here.


    • Amy F says:

      I agree completely with what you wrote, Darlene. All that hard pays off and is so worth the effort. So glad you’re in great place now.

    • Fiona says:

      Hi Darlene, your experience sounds similar to mine, except I think you might be further on in the journey than me. I am 50 and i have a very good and loving and loyal friend that sticks by me no matter how many times I screw up. But I feel I am having to learn basic trust and how to relate with people in ways that perhaps have been learned naturally with some people. I feel I have so much to learn about me and people, but I have made a start by deciding to trust this friend that I have. Not easy!

      • Darlene says:

        It’s not easy, Fiona, that’s for sure. But I think that what seems natural for some may just have been learned very young. Relating to people is a just a skill like any other, I’ve become convinced of that.
        Looking at it that way made it easier for me to be patient with myself, I am a skier and would not have expected to ski a black run in the beginning 🙂 It takes time, practice, patience and sometimes an expert instructor. But, like anything you put the effort into, it pays dividends over time. It sounds to me like you have achieved a very important step, self awareness. All the best in your journey!

  6. Sandra says:

    Your story touches my heart! It also struck me that you made real efforts to reach out to others with the hope of making friends. Reaching out to new people isn’t easy and it takes courage from the start — so I admire you for that too.

    I think the hardest part of making new friends, especially as we get older, is initiating plans and overcoming our fear of rejection. Again, it takes courage to keep asking new friends if they want to get together, make plans, etc. So many drop the ball and don’t realize that new friendships need a little extra nurturing — and lots of communication. You figured this out and I appreciate your reminding us!

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