Making Friends

Making Friends The process of making a friend is a very unique one. It depends on the person one is trying to become friends with, it depends on one’s gender, it depends on one’s age, but most importantly it depends one’s personality. Every individual is different and how they make friends differs just as greatly. The way I make friends depends heavily on my personality. As an introverted person, I tend to first meet potential friends through what I call forced association. After the initial meeting, I evaluate them and determine whether or not I think they should be my friend.

Bonding, specifically male bonding, follows and acceptance is the final stage. Before I can delve into the sometimes mysterious process of becoming friends with someone, I have to divulge some personal information. I am a great believer in personality typing: the theory that a great majority of people fall into one personality type or another. A complete analysis of my personality is not within the scope of this essay, but suffice it to say that I am very introverted. This does not mean I am anti-social, it merely means that new and non-routine interaction with others taxes my energy. The process of making a new friend is by definition a new and non-routine interaction, therefore it is quite difficult for me to initiate the process.

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This is where the concept of forced interaction comes in. By forced interaction, I mean a situation where another person and I are placed in an environment where we have no choice but to interact with each other. The largest and most important type of forced interaction for me is school, and more specifically, classes. It is impossible to be completely separate from other students in a class. Consequently, I met all my best friends in school (of course, it was a place that I spent most of my time so it is not a big surprise). Another type of forced interaction comes when you meet a friend of one of your friends. It would be extremely rude to not interact with someone that your friend considered to be friend.

That is the way that I met a very close friend of mine and one who I will use as an example of my friend-making process throughout this essay. His name is Andres and I originally met him through another friend of mine, Josh. We were all going to the same high school next year (more forced association), so it was only natural for Josh to try to have us all become friends. But I was not friends with Andres when I first met him. I had to figure out who he was before that could happen.

Evaluation has always been very important to me. I constantly evaluate and re-evaluate myself, my friends, my schoolwork, and so forth, almost to the point of obsession. I am ruthlessly self- critical and it is only natural that this same criticism would extend to those I consider my friends. Before I can become friends with someone, I have to determine whether or not I want to be friends with them. I have been told that this is an extremely arrogant way of conducting relationships, but I find any other way to be lacking.

If one’s own needs in a relationship are not met then it is impossible for them to fulfill other’s. The first step in evaluation is the establishment of common ground. It is very unlikely that I will become even casual friends with someone who I have nothing in common with. The more important to me the commonality is, the more likely I will desire to become close friends with someone. One of the first things I look for is intelligence.

Part of my personality is the love of intelligence, which means: doing things well in varying circumstances. A very important part of a friendship for me is intellectual stimulation. If it is missing, the friendship will invariably begin to wane. So intelligence and knowledge are two things I look for almost immediately in a new acquaintance. Andres possesses both of these qualities and he possesses them in areas that we both find interesting. Both of us have an aptitude for the sciences. This contributed greatly to me finding him worthy to be my friend.

But knowledge and skills alone make a person boring, so I also look for common personality traits. A love of humor is also necessary, as is a low degree of self-monitoring: the degree to which people change to match their surroundings. I am extremely low in that area as I tend to act the same in any situation. An actor would have an extremely high degree of self-monitoring. I also look for a certain callousness in potential friends.

Someone who cannot take or give criticism will not likely last long in a friendship with me. Andres had all of these things to some degree or another, so it was only inevitable that we spent more and more time together. After I get to know someone and I think we should become friends, I try to spend as much time with them as possible. Mostly for the purpose of bonding (the sharing of experiences) but also for continued evaluation. The evaluation never really ends, it just becomes easier as I get to know them better and better.

But if at any time, they fail to meet my standards for friendship, I make it clear to them, either by direct confrontation or by spending time with them less frequently. If change is not affected then the friendship will fade away into either casual familiarity or outright rejection. But the main purpose of bonding is to get to know them as well as possible, and for them to get to know me as well as possible. To this end, we will frequently go out to movies, participate in after-school groups together, and basically spend time together. This not only leads to a closer relationship, it provides a set of common experiences we can both draw upon.

Andres and I (along with another very close friend) ate lunch together at his house every day, went out to movies on the weekend frequently and we all joined the Auditorium Tech group (responsible for lights and sound for all school shows) at our school. Along with being in the same magnet program (and consequently, many of the same classes), these experiences enabled us to spend an extremely large amount of time with each other. This getting to know each other, or bonding, allowed us to cement our relationship. Once that was accomplished, acceptance naturally followed. Acceptance is always the goal for me when I start a friendship. True acceptance for me only exists with my closest friends, the friends who I think know me better than anyone else (with the exception of my immediate family). Acceptance is the time when I can truly be myself.

It is when I can say what I mean without having to worry about hurting people’s feelings or having them think less of me. This is possible because after acceptance, I know that most anything I say will not hurt my close friends and vice versa. Acceptance is a nice break from the process of becoming friends because it is where the evaluation is almost non- existent. Unless something extraordinary changes, I will be friends with that person for a very long time. But acceptance is by no means easy to come by. It is unlikely that I will reach that stage with more than a handful of friends in my lifetime. This is in part due to my introversion.

I concentrate more on depth in a relationship than breadth. I prefer to have a small group of friends that I have lengthy contact with as opposed to a large group of friends who I do not know as well. Also, once I have reached acceptance with a couple or a few friends, it is almost impossible for me to reach it with any other friends. I only have so much time to spend with people (less than other people because I always provide ample opportunity for solitary activities) and I do not want to split it up in too many ways. Therefore I prefer to keep a few very close friends with whom I can share a deep and meaningful relationship with.

Friends are one of the things that make life worth living. Along with my family, they provide a support structure and a group that I can share happiness with. Making friends has never been, and never will be, an easy process for me. My personality could be described as arrogant, abrasive, callous and territorial. These attributes are usually not conducive to making friends. But I could also be described as intelligent, genial, humorous, insightful and supportive and hopefully that is how my close friends would describe me.

Although my process of making friends is a long and arduous one, the end result far outweighs any risks of rejection I may take.