We can all be a little delusional when it comes to our self-image, can’t we? We think we’re just a bit smarter, funnier, and, frankly, sexier, than most of our peers. As a result of our awesomeness, we have lots of friends.
Umm, no. That last part is often a huge self-delusion, according to an MIT study. If you made a list of all of your “friends,” only about half of those people would include your name on their list of friends. That’s probably because we all have different definitions of “friend.” One person may consider his work teammates to be friends because of their in-office companionship and laughter. But some of those teammates probably don’t share that view.
This is important stuff, because true friendships are incredibly important to our well-being and happiness. Social isolation and loneliness have been liked to any number of health problems. True friends are defined as those with whom we have a true connection; people we can confide in and count on – in good times and bad. Because it takes time to build and maintain such relationships, most of us have just two true friends, our spouse (hopefully) and another person. It’s extremely uncommon for someone to have more than five true friends. We may be friendly with many more people based on common experience or interests, but these aren’t friends in the most important sense.
The key to making new friends is to be… friendly. Give before you expect to receive anything in return. Support and encourage the people in your social circle. Think about what those closest to you need, and then meet those needs. Be the guy who volunteers to help a casual friend move, or listens sympathetically and non-judgmentally to his workplace laments. These sorts of gestures will plant the seeds for the kind of deep and meaningful relationships that can enhance your life.