In our school days we are consistently surrounded by people our own age and exposed to others who signed up for activities for similar special interests (sports, drama, dance, etc...). As we get older we become much more set in our ways and the things we do to fill our time. Add to that the responsibilities of a job and family and there is not much time to spend with those who are not already part of our inner circle.
While I meet many people, there seems to be less time in this busy world to share experiences with others and cultivate friendships. This is especially true with new acquaintances. The idea of investing time with others is difficult as it means making choices not to do other things that may seem more pressing. Without spending time together, however, it is hard to get from the superficial to a real friendship. When we share experiences we build bonds.
In discussion with others, there is not agreement on if it is easier to make friends in our 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. Some have agreed with my point of view, others claim it is better now than in their youth. Maybe it is an introvert / extrovert thing?
Here are five tips to help you establish new friendships at any age:
Five tips to establishing better relationships as you get older:
1. Make people a priority. It is easy to decide that you are too busy or that you have enough friends, but if you make getting to know others important then you will encounter some very interesting people.
(Side note: We are all busy, and it is too easy to use that as an excuse)
2. Join a group. Those who find they continually make friends are often active in causes that get them engaged over the long haul. Hobbies, sports, volunteer opportunities and faith communities are some of the ways people become better connected within their communities.
(Side note: Being part of associations and other communities bring you into contact with incredible people).
3. Don't jump to conclusions. It is natural to leap to broad generalizations about others based on their looks, job title, or other first impression. We make decisions that people are not worthy of our time based on a quick overview of what they may bring to us. The "what's in it for me" attitude can drift into how we judge others, and that can limit our chances to establish exciting long-term friendships.
(Side note: This was the most valuable lesson I learned. People are not their car, clothes, zip code or job title).
4. Give a second chance. While sometimes our first impressions are correct, often they are limited. As long as someone has not done something illegal or immoral it is a good idea to give them more time before you make permanent judgments. Spend time with people more often and take the additional opportunities to get to know them beyond what is on their business card. Some people are nervous when they meet new people and are too quiet (or talk too much) as a defense mechanism. Turns out once you get to know them they are much more interesting than on first impression
(Side note: The more I follow this piece of advice, the more people I discover the amazing soul inside. Throughout my life I wrote off some very cool people too fast, and that was bad judgement on my part)
5. Ask questions. Get people talking about their lives, don't just talk about yours. The more the other person talks the better you will come to understand their life and what interests they have.
(Side note: I struggle with number five. I am a storyteller by nature, but continuously am learning to listen more attentively. This is teaching me that others are much more interesting than I am!!! Plus I learn better ways to be a friends, father, husband and business person from the people I have come to know)
Have A Great Day
PS - A meeting organizer asked me (after reading this) if I thought it was easier for younger attendees or older attendees to connect at conferences and other live events??? Hmmmm... that is a good question.. What you you think??