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I came across an impressive study of over 15,000 people. Nearly eighty-eight percent of those surveyed believed they had more and more acquaintances and fewer and fewer real friends. Sociologists believe that it’s our busy urban lifestyle and development of the Internet that have changed the quality of our interpersonal relationships. In our ability to raise our social efficiency, we risk not really being known. We’ve turned to sending short text messages instead of making long-distance (or across the street) phone calls; and we make long-distance phone calls instead of making the effort to have heart-to-heart, face-to-face, in-person conversations. That requires sacrifice and inconvenience.
<>One of the main ingredients for contributing to this flattened friendship curve seems to be that we have the freedom to float more freely around the world, not being committed to blood-ties or geography. But distance is not necessarily the culprit to fading friendships.
I’m a researcher at heart, and another study that came out of Purdue caught my attention recently. They studied 50 friendships; 100 people, over a 20-year period. The question I have for you, is to quickly list how many friends have “refrigerator rights” in your home?
“Refrigerator Rights”Whoever is listed is a true-bluerÃ¢â?¬Â¦.we don’t just let anybody rummage through our refrigerator. It can feel rather personal; especially if you haven’t had a chance to go through and discard of some spoiled goods that happen in every refrigerator at least sometime. These “refrigerator rights” were a measure of intimacy that proved key in studying who among college friends would be these BFF’s! (Best Friends Forever)
Like Attitudes and ValuesAccording to the Purdue study, it is our similarities, not in personality, but in attitudes and values that tipped the scales in friendships withstanding the test of time. Distance didn’t seem to matter to friends in the study; they always found a way to maintain a close association. Their e-mails and phone calls were not for social efficiency, but for friendship enhancement. There’s a large difference in outcome!
Share Past History
There’s something to be said for those long-term friendships; people who have known us through the years. Friendships that provide a sense of shared history are a rarity today. But, it’s the friends from our childhood and youth that really anchors us amidst this race of constant mobility. It’s never too late to reach out to these friends and breathe new life into these relationships; remember it’s only been time and distance that have kept you apart. Just recently, in the middle of about two weeks of feeling less than my happy self, I recalled waking up one morning finally feeling joy, again. And, I had to think what was different and all of a sudden it struck me: I talked to my childhood friend, Dori, the night before. Dori and I laugh about anything and nothing. Once upon a time we were two kindergartners who got on the wrong bus their very first day of schoolÃ¢â?¬Â¦but at least we had each other to hang on to. And, even through the miles, we both continue to have crazy things happen to us and we still turn to each other for comfort and a good laugh when we need it most.
Deepen Understanding & KnowledgeWhat we know is that it doesn’t matter HOW you communicate just as long as you communicate. And when you do so, try to really “get” how the other person sees the world; investing time in truly understanding someone builds strengths in a friendship. It’s an investment – and it’s never too early or too late to start! Decide today to find that long-lost friend or choose to deepen a newer friendship. There’s an old proverb that says: “Hold a true friend with both your hands!”
Expose Vulnerabilities & HumannessDR. LIZ: The best way to deepen those newer relationships is to get another person to trust and be intimate with you is to first be trusting and intimate with them. Open up yourself; share something about you that is real and shows vulnerability. You can even do so with humor: “It’s a lot of work to be so high-maintenance!”
My favorite story from my childhood is The Velveteen Rabbit. The rabbit asks the Skin Horse, “What is REAL?” He answers, “By the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, your whiskers fall out, and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But, once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” And then the next line of Skin Horse is the best, “Once you’ve become Real, you can’t become unreal, again. It lasts for always.” While it might be uncomfortable having all our “hair loved off,” it’s worth it to be Real.
Model Without Pushing Friendship
So, in addition to developing our own friendships, how can we help our children develop their own friendships? Well, this is where it all begins: we learn “friend shipping” from our parents. Role model for them true-blue friends; invite friends over for lunch or dinner. Set up play-dates only instead of choosing another child for your little one to play with, pay attention to their cues. Keep play-dates short; one to two hours for preschoolers; and get involved. Don’t just expect kids to play by themselves and hope for a great end result. Make yourself available in their run into a conflict, stop playing together, or need to new activity to keep their attention. We never want to push young children to play together. There is a fine line in helping them establish friendships. You don’t want to push friendships; just set the groundwork for them to develop on their own.