John Sean Doyle

Luminous Things

Building Nurturant Friendships

Finding a friend may be the most important thing you do.

Posted Mar 20, 2019

Last month I wrote about taking steps to create at least one close, new friend. I am going to stay on this theme because it is important. Very important. Our relationships with others have a substantial effect on our psychological well-being, our physical health, and our joy and satisfaction with life.

Every one of us is either working toward something or through something. Maybe we want to lose weight or are trying to find customers for a new business. Or it could be we are so tied up with work and kids and life we are just trying to make it through the day.  Or maybe the world has leaned a lifetime of worries and stresses upon us; loved ones falling ill or unbearable financial burdens.  Regardless of whether you are swimming vigorously toward the other shore, or just trying to hold your head above water, dealing with these things takes energy, stamina, and persistence. With so much pulling at our attention, how can we possibly make the time to cultivate friendships?

marie stien by Pillippe Put/Flickr made available via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Source: marie stien by Pillippe Put/Flickr made available via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The people around you are craving this sort of contact too. We are living through an epidemic of loneliness, levels of depression are rising, and all of the data suggest we have fewer people with whom we can share important and essential things.   

Of course, it is easy enough to go out and grab a beer or invite another couple over for a meal and easy small talk. The harder thing is to create both the frequent contact and an environment that encourages people to confide in one another.

The thing is, as busy and stressed as we are, it is our friends who will help us through it all. Friends confirm that we are not alone and bring out our best. They offer support and solutions and remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. And of course, with friends come those moments of laughter and joy and play that give a richness to life.

Laughter by David Bergin/Flickr made available via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Source: Laughter by David Bergin/Flickr made available via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

You know this. Many of you are reading these words and nodding your head and saying, “Yes, Sean is exactly right. I should make more time for my friends.” But what is essential is that that we move this knowledge from the dove-cooed spaces of our minds, and out into the daylight.

For 30 years, I have worked with companies on strategic initiatives. Every day, businesses that offer a remarkably good product or service fail because they were so busy taking care of the everyday important things that they did not take action toward the longer-term plans that would sustain them over a lifetime. 

It is our deep, true friends that sustain us over our lifetimes. They are important individually. They are important to the health and strength of our communities.

So now is the time to roll up your sleeves and take action:

  1. Make a list of a few people you would like to get closer too. (Spend five minutes. Do not overthink it.)
  2. Reach out. A call. A text. An email. It is that simple.
  3. Put a definitive time and date on the calendar to get together. Treat it with as much importance as you would any other essential obligation.
  4. Here is where the fun begins. When you are with them, ask what keeps them up at night, or what fills them with joy. What is it that they do that makes them feel the most alive and at home with who they are? Don’t worry about what your answers are going to be.  Listen for what makes this other person special, unique and who they are in the world.  
  5. Finally, Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Pick a definitive time to do it all again.

These are just a few of the things you can do to start building nurturant friendships. Most importantly, have fun as you fold more richness, joy, and meaning into your life.