Waiting on Friendship

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR. Her guest was Joseph Epstein and he was discussing his most recent book, “Friendship: An Expose”. There was one part of the interview that was very interesting. Joseph described the difference between people who initiate the work needed to maintain friendships and those that. Keep reading to find out what description best describes you and other thoughts I have on the often misunderstood notion of friendship.

Joe described “initiators” as people who make a point to keep in touch with their friends. Whether it’s calling, email, or making plans to go out, these people don’t wait for their friends to get in touch with them. That sounds like you right?

Sure it does. But listen to how Joe describes waiters; these people may have many friends but they are often time in a state of anticipating being interrupted by a call or email. Rarely do waiters take the time/energy to interrupt their own lives to contact their friends. I would interpret waiters as people who get really excited when they see emails from other people with subjects like, “Where have you been?” or “Long time, no see.” However, when it comes to heartfelt emails like these, waiters click “open” and not “send.”

More specifically, Joe briefly discussed that many more people describe themselves as lonely and feel like there is no one they can talk to. He went on to point out that research shows that the majority of people who are married, only talk to their spouses about sensitive issues whereas past research shows men and women used to cite neighbors, church members, etc. as other people they confided in addition to their spouses. (I apologize for not citing the research but you can listen to this show by visiting this site.)

I think this sense of loneliness is one of the most underrated issues facing our society. And for people not involved in romantic relationships, I believe this sense of loneliness is compounded. Let me know how you feel about this sentiment.

Though Epstein didn’t touch on this issue directly, I don’t think we can talk about friendship without discussing how technology has enhanced or hindered the modern-day friendship. I think members of my generation generally lack the necessary tools/knowledge to maintain healthy friendships. On one hand, I think that cell phones, email, and social networks do a wonderful job of helping us keep in contact with people that we would otherwise probably never speak. However, the massive amounts of connections we make are frequently maintained by generic discussion points/questions that are easily transferable.

And for the people we call our friends, there is a tendency to use technology as a barrier for allowing people to really probe into our lives. We can see this all the time like when you have bad news or you don’t necessarily want to talk, you send an email. When you don’t want to continue having a probing conversation over the phone, we pretend we have to go or just not answer the phone. And argue?!? Rarely do you see healthy arguments anymore so everywhere you go, there is a permanent sense of fakeness due to the fact that too many of us are not honest enough to ask tough questions or say something as simple as, “I don’t like that you did X because of Y.”

There are numbers on your cell phone that you scroll through everyday knowing good and well you are never going to call them, that is unless, they are calling you. And if and when these people do call, we make fake promises to keep in touch or promise to talk at least once a month. But we don’t follow up.

But do we have to tolerate such high levels of charades? I don’t think so. However, I think all of us have some waiter and initiator qualities. Unfortunately, because the notion of sacrifice is virtually non-existent, it so much easier to blame our lack of friendship building on how busy we are. You are not that busy!

But if you think you are that busy, here are some tips to help maintain healthy friendships.

Call people after 9 and even if they don’t pick up, leave a message. Too many of us call people hoping they don’t answer the phone. So why are you calling them in the first place?

If your friends are local, finding time to see them will not put the biggest wrinkle in your schedule. Think about how much time we watch TV, surf the internet, and other mindless activities. Like I said, you are not that busy. However, I suggest finding a way to weave friends in your life. For example, my friend Dumi had plans to see Tavis Smiley’s Covenant Tour at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. He dropped me a quick email asking me if I was going. I was thinking about going any, but because of his email, we are able to kill two birds with one stone. Now had he not called me, I probably would have seen him after it was over and we would have said hi and that would be it. But that is just one example of how seeing someone in person doesn’t require such extensive planning.

Use email to supplement conversations, not replace them.

Don’t waste time focusing on mind numbing questions like, “How is the job going?” “It’s cool.” Ask meaningful questions whose responses are not automatic or anticipated. Here’s a good rule for people you don’t talk to all the time, ask and answer a meaningful question. And if the other person can’t think of a question, answer your own.

Find ways to bless your friends. It takes less than you think. I have friends who I know might be fans of a certain team so if I see an article on espn.com, I’ll forward them that article. Or if you know someone who is preparing for something bigger and better (which appears to be most everybody) don’t just ask them how its going, but find out if there is someone you know that can help them or send them resources that will be helpful in their life path.

Pray for your friends. Not just when they ask you to but for as much as family is the default prayer request, try staying in your prayer closet a little while long to make sure that your friends are covered.

Like I said, I think all of us have waiter tendencies, I just hope this post encouraged you to be more of an initiator. I know I am guilty of not being a good friend on many fronts. So just know that I write for myself first. But after all is said and done, I hope this blog and this post will help us build stronger and healthier friendships.

Don’t wait, initiate

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

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9 responses to “Waiting on Friendship”

  1. The Juggernaut says :

    B,

    You dont know how timely this was. It isn’t even funny. You been dead on the last few posts. I am goin to keep it short and just say thanks for this one though.

  2. l. renaissance says :

    I think this sense of loneliness is one of the most underrated issues facing out society. And for people not involved in romantic relationships, I believe this sense of loneliness is compounded. Let me know how you feel about this sentiment.

    Before I keep reading, I’m gonna respond directly to this statement. I’m a waiter, by definition. Since I’ve been out of my 6-year relationship and likely to make myself more independent, I’ve been more interested and apt to hanging out with my friends and making arrangements to go out. I may not be an outgoing person when it comes to contacting my friends first, however, just the act of being available to my friends is a challenge for me.

    I am typically very private about my emotions and not keeping close contact with my friends often makes me feel more isolated. But I find that being more of an initiator type helped me overcome boundaries. This past Sunday, I was invited to do my first gogo dancing gig at a lesbian night club. Before I decided to tell my friends to come, I waited for others to pry it out of me, or felt I could go through it on my own. However, on Sunday evening, I had an “epiphany” or moment of “weakness” (depending on the view), where I called each friend (5 ladies), to explain to them my work that night, then let them know sincerely that I wanted them to support me. It was a difficult task for me to initiate, but rewarding and unforgettable. From the calls, 2 of my friends showed up while I danced nervously—wanting to smoosh my brains and melt into the stage—they accompanied me at the foot of the stage, smiled aloofly at me, and even tipped me in the spirit of me sexy-dancing-on-stage. I couldn’t thank them enough. Though I was so embarassed during, after, between, and the day after my sets, their literal presence and encouragement, made the night so much easier to get through. The best part about it all was that I made it through the entire challenge with my own perseverence—first by inviting them, then by getting them in, and finally, by persevering through stage appearance that was abhorring to go through for at least half the time.

    I’ve been on a journey to be more independent, mature, less sensitive, and more generous to those around me as a single woman. The situation which brought me greater appreciation of friendship not only eased the pain of the single night, it helped me to value the significance of friendships, which I think are very important in life, less than second to nurturing family relations.

  3. Bobby Owens says :

    I got to admit the last two post have hit the spot. Throughout life we all should strive to become better people. I can say through this website I have found one or two small things that I can do that would make me a better person, and this was one of those articles.

    Thanks

  4. Dumi says :

    L Ren,
    Nice comment. Keep stepping it up sis. I hope that as Brandon continues this conversation on friendships we can continue to delve further into the ways that friendship is affected by romantic relationships and sexuality, they’re rather governing!!!

  5. Brandon Q. says :

    L Ren,

    I can’t tell you how much I was moved by your comment. Your frankness is a breath of fresh air as we all try to make our lives better.

    I have two questions for you, were you generally available to your friends while you were in a relationship? And two, who do you talk to when you really vent?

    Also, I was cheesing as I read your gogo dancing story. I know others who read that were encouraged to see the fruits of you overcoming that hurdle and reaping the fruits thereof.

    I hope that beyond your stage fright, you will continue to grow in your friendships, and being comfortable to initiate even when things don’t work out your way. I look forward to hearing more about your growth. I can’t thank you enough for your honesty. With all the ignorance we come across, it is deeply gratifying to experience the empowerment that dialogue can create.

    Stay up L Ren,

    Brandon

  6. Brandon Q. says :

    And Dumi,

    we are not playing chess, stop anticipating my every move, :)

    And Bobby, your comment, along with others are what drive this site. I mean how often do we engage in conversation that peels back the layers of our masks to reveal the gears that truly govern our lives. I am extremely happy you took something that will help your life.

    And Juggernaut,

    Thanks for your encouragement brother. I think the more we move in the Lord, the more we will see His Glory manifest itself through the medium of the Superspade. I am glad you are a part of that.

    Stay up fam,

    Brandon

  7. BJ says :

    This was such an important post that really hits home on a lot of different fronts concerning friendship. I really felt what you said about asking and answering a meaningful question to someone you don’t really talk to, because there’s always so much distance between someone you either haven’t talked to in ages, and someone you feel obligated to speak to for the sake of being friendly. So hopefully these tools you highlighted will have a positive influence on my current and future friendships.

    Thanks

  8. Anonymous says :

    Dear Brandon Q,

    It is interesting that you should post this writing because just the other day I was telling a long time friend of mine’s that you are never too busy for friends. The most highly successful people that I know find the time to spend some time with their friends, family, and business associates. When people contact them with issues/concerns they immediately touch bases with that person.

    So I am with you on being more of an initiator because I find that this is what makes successful people successful and I am not just speaking on the professional front. You will find this person in your family, among your friends, and at your churches, and among community groups.

    True friendship is the willingness to take risks and share yourself with others. When you get passed the “what will they think about the real me” then you will begin to truly see what real friendship is all about. There is a reason that God puts true friends in our lives. Let’s start trusting and see just how good true friendship can be.

    Thanks for share.

    Love Lady B

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