Friends are like food

by Paul Goodchild on October 12, 2009

Attribution: process of developing friendship is a tricky one.

Early friendships are a delicate balance of give and take.

Here I’ll go into describing a bit about my take on friendships and how I approach them.

It works for me, because that’s my style – I know it doesn’t for everyone since we each fall at varying places along the introversion – extroversion scale.

Choose friendships like you choose your food

A while ago I had what was probably my most vivid re-realization of a very important principle – choose your friends with discernment.

Depending on your style, meeting new people can be a highly invigorating experience.  Everyone is obviously different with a whole new set of experiences and values to bring to each personal encounter.

Meeting many new people increases scope for exposure to new ideas and ways of approaching life and engaging the world.  It’s easy to be swept up into that constant stream of engagement. And I was.  Several times.  It’s fun and exciting, though ultimately for me exhausting as I tend towards introversion.

The more people you meet over a given period of time, the less time you can spend with each person.  The less time you spend with each person, the less time available to get to know them, unless they are fairly real from the outset.

Since any strong bond is formed when both parties open up and let down their guard, a process that can take some time, the chances are high that you’re not actually spending enough quality time with anyone, when you spend it with everyone.

In my experience, this leaves me drained and feeling ultimately quite lonely.  I remember the feelings clearly and it forced me to take stock and figure out where I was going wrong.

After repeatedly going in and out of these phases of meet-and-greet, then hibernating after I’d burnt myself out, I realised finally (hopefully) that, for me, focusing on many friendships leaves me with a feeling of reduced connectedness.

Somehow, the more connections I had, the far more lonely I felt.  Less is definitely more in this case.

As with many things in life, friendship are about balance and you have to discover the point you pass whereupon you experience diminishing returns.

Too many friendships are like fast food

I made the analogy with fast/junk food – I was gorging on low-sustenance relationships to the point I was almost dependent on them. For me, they don’t feed my soul as much as closer relationships do, and you need more of them and more often in order to maintain the illusion that you’re fulfilled and satisfied.

The problem that comes with these “junk-food relationships” is that those people don’t know you and don’t make the efforts with you that you can expect from a deeper friendship.  Only by allowing in those relationships that show mutual respect and commitment can you hope to feel properly connected.

I’m not saying those people are “bad”. Rather, your connection with them isn’t as deep as it could be and that if you spread yourself too thin, you come away with little that is permanent in the end.  By focusing on fewer relationships and giving more time and more room to grow, you are rewarded with healthy and nutritious friendships.

I’m not sure how far the junk-food analogy can be taken here… but it made sense in my head at the time. 🙂

Friendship are yet another balancing act

It seems to be a recurring theme, but it’s all a balancing act in the end.

Places like Tokyo have a relatively high turnover of people coming into and out of your life, and in order to maintain a circle of friends there, you need to work to discover and build news relationships.

At the same time you must work on and nourish the existing ones.

I have never quite mastered it, but once I had the realisation described earlier, I haven’t gone too far the wrong way.

Perhaps I’ve gone too far the other way by focusing excessively on what was there without forging many new friendships, but the downside that comes from that never really developed because I ended up leaving Japan.

At the moment I have the problem that since I’m constantly in a state of transition, I need to decide how much effort I put into new encounters given that I’ll be in a place only a day or two at a time.

Forcing myself to engage new and unknown people is a new skill for me to learn.

This post is a little random, but I guess perhaps it shows a bit of insight into how I view friendships…  I’ll basicallyconcentrate most of my efforts with those people who are happy, open, honest, sincere and that put the same or more efforts in as me.

If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them below.  Or if you’d like to share this post, please use the links provided below also.

Thank you…

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