Making Friends vs. Becoming Friends

We often see those terms as being interchangeable. Indeed when I am speaking casually I often use them as such. But they are not.

According to Merriam-Webster, the first listed current definition of “make” is;

“to cause to happen”

The first current definition for “become” given by the same dictionary is;

“to come into existence”.

Despite there being some overlap in the secondary meanings of both words, these two initial definitions are quite distinct. They are the definitions I am using pertaining to friendship.

It could be truly said that I almost never truly make friends.

This doesn’t mean I have social anxiety, per se. I walk in crowds all the time. I order food, give directions and such. Nor am I anti-social. I respond to small talk that is initiated by someone else. A little bit. But I am just not in the business of “making” things like that happen. It isn’t me.

I do not go to bars or clubs with the express purpose of making new friends or even acquaintances. When invited to a party I converse almost exclusively with those I already know, unless introduced to someone else. If I know only a few people at a very large party, I usually will not attend at all. I don’t strike up conversations in elevators, and I do not start chats with people in check out lines.

Again, in short, I do not make friends.

They do, however, often “make me” as I say. But when I want to write in the active voice, (as we are supposed to), I say “Jane and I became friends.”

This is usually due to me and “Jane” engaging in the same activity. It is no coincidence that 90% of my current friends are people I met through theatre. Theatre is one of the only social activities I engage in on a regular basis that involves large numbers of people who are initially strangers. Also, being in the trenches of rehearsing and performing a live show can bring people together quite efficiently. Friendships “come into existence” on and behind the stage due to mutual struggle and passion.

I engage in no other activities that consistently bring friendships into existence. (One of the cons of freelancing.)

My relationships are always built on mutual activity. They form as a result of pursuing something else with others because the inner natures of both me and the other people are more accessible that way.

Now, I can practically hear all of my new Twitter and Brazen Careerist acquaintances choking on their coffee as they read this one. I can hear word for word what they would say both as individuals,and collectively as some sort of Gen-Y Borg Cube:

You need to acquire the ability to make friends. How can you not be out there, exchanging your business card, talking up your freelance skills, shaking hands, exchanging phone numbers, going to tweet-ups? You may not like it, but you are doomed to failure in this day and age if you can’t go into bars, group activities, even libraries and just start introducing yourself to people around you. The world turns because of extroverts. Be one of them.”

My new contacts are good people. I like them. I have learned much from them in the six months or so I have been engaged with them via various new social media. They mean well in most cases, and I appreciate it. And in many cases they are correct.

But not in all, and probably not in this one.

For I am Too XYZ to be like that. I fully realize that being that way does make things happen faster in many cases. And as has been the case with many people, I am doing more “virtual friend making” thanks to the internet. It allows me to behave more like the hand shaking conversation starting extrovert at Starbucks. But I will never be him.

I am sure I will attend a Tweet-up one of these days. But even if I do it will not be like it is for most people, because I just do not posses those skills or that personality. I think those that have it really don’t understand that people like us that are Too XYZ can no more evolve out of some of our traits than we could suddenly turn into another race or gender. It just isn’t there.

I am not ashamed of this. Too often we are asked to rewrite our DNA because we are told “that’s just the way it is, like it or not.” Those words are often spoke, with ease, by people who were born to be the way they are asking me to become. I long to improve, but I do not long to change, and there is a difference.

So my goal is to seek out, learn about, and if needs must, personally create new means by which people like me can make the connections that need to be made, while not feeling like we are wasting our time trying to be something we are not. I have spent a lifetime doing this in small degrees, so now it is simply a matter of enlarging the scale of it. My “tweeps” have already helped me do this in some regard. But I know in large degree it is up to me to dig that unorthodox path myself. Or at least with the help and advice of fellow Too XYZers out there.

Is this you? I want to hear how you maneuver in the world of friends if it is. Comment me.

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5 Comments

  1. Hi Ty,

    I am much like you too. Although the activities which I share with friends are different, they are still friends with me because we share a commonality in what we like to do.

    I used to be really bad at networking. Even going up to talk to family I don't know or my husband's family caused near panic attacks at one point. I'm a lot better now, mainly because of forced practice. I am still far from great & I still get the jitters when I know I'll be in a networking situation.

    I've been a bit more bold about it since I decided to expand my network before I graduate, but it's definitely not my favourite thing to do.

    Alison

  2. My dear friend Ty :),

    I hear what you are saying here and I agree that you have to be you no matter what. We have previously discussed the problem of who the real you might be in a changing world over on my blog. The problem for me is that friendships take a lot of time and energy to maintain, so I am not often in the business of making new ones when opportunities for friendship present themselves. However when I have an instant sympatico with someone I meet then I will sometimes pursue the friendship. I have a handful of very good friends ( some who I have known for 20-35 years!) and many more casual acquaintances who have the potential to become very good friends, but I keep my relationships with them at more superficial level. I believe you only need one or two good friends to stay mentally healthy. I love my friends because they know the real me. I can just be me and they love me anyway. With my acquaintances I have a lot of fun as well, but if they moved away or dropped out of sight I could more easily just let them go. They often share one of my interests and that is what brings us together. So I am saying that I don't think you need to have lots of friends, or become friends with everyone you meet. You can be choosy. Good friends love you for who you are. They become good friends because you share who you are with them.

  3. Hi Ty,

    I think I get what you're trying to say.

    I am only too happy to meet people – sometimes I initiate the meeting, sometimes I don't. When I meet new people, I let them talk and try to find out what makes them tick. If it feels right, I exchange cards. So that's the networking/ making contacts section.

    Are these people friends? No. But I treat them as if they could become my friends at any moment. I am open to the idea. But you are right that friendships come out of shared experiences. Two days ago I had to share a chartered bus to a country town with some scientists to cover an event. I had only met those people that day but because I shared that 5 hour bus ride down there and back and had some really awesome conversations with them, I can't quite consider those people to be the usual “contacts”. My usual “contacts” I would have made that day would have been all the other people I bumped into at the event itself to whom I only got to speak for about five minutes at the most.

    The 12 people on the bus aren't my friends … yet. But they are a lot closer to being friends than the other people I met on Tuesday. Who knows? Maybe another couple of shared experiences would do the trick. I think it changes with the person.

    One of the people organising the event was a guy called Greg. He and I had met before at a conference. This was the second time that we had met but because of who Greg is and who I am we seem to hit it off well enough that he and I are friends. It probably doesn't hurt that we have a few other people and past experiences in common (such as working at the same place).

  4. you couldn't have said it any better. this was such a great read!!! i just moved in to the US and i miss my friends terribly. making friends in a foreign land is always harder than it is back home, wherever home is.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Alison: Congratulations on improving your network skills somewhat. I know that it can be like asking someone like us to fly into the air or something. Hopefully it will get easier, for both of us, as time goes on.

    Heather: Excellent points, as usual. I think one thing about my whole friendship thing is that I didn't really bring the distinction between acquaintance and friend into focus as early as some do. Like I had to give myself permission to have those two separate groups, instead of the all or nothing approach.

    Marisa: Your bus example is exactly what I mean! Now I often require a more sustained consistent shared experience, like a play, but like Heather said, if I am simpatico with someone right off, a lot can happen. (And this occasionally occurs even for me.) It's just that the more often I am experiencing something with new people, the more likely it is to happen quickly.

    I.D.- I can't even begin to imagine the struggle for someone like me if I were to move to the other side of my own country, let alone a foreign country! Good luck with all of that, and if you would like to talk sometimes, feel free to drop by the blog here anytime to comment, or to email me.

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