New friendships: to be the person I have become

Most of the people I know are closest to friends they have known for years – usually from as young as age 5 to early 20s. At my age (and what age is that?), I’ve started to meet many folks who are simply not “interviewing” for new friends. That’s fair enough.

But I have discovered that making new friends, regardless of my age, can help me be the person I want to be and establish the person I have become. I’ll explain:

You might agree that sometimes, people change. They change because of their experiences or they make a personal discovery that motivates them to change. But their friends don’t acknowledge it or respect it. Changing becomes difficult or they change but nobody reinforces it or allows them “display” this change. Even to them, the change is doubtful. “Have I really changed if my friends keep treating me like I haven’t?” It’s easy to continue being that good ol’ pal who is all those things that you don’t want to be anymore.

I recently moved house, about 25 miles away from where I used to live. The little village is lovely and the people are friendly. I have found myself meeting people who I could make a new impression on because there is no prior evidence or past knowledge of me in their minds. It is an opportunity to be the person I have become at 32. I have started to feel excited about this opportunity. With my knowledge of the past and my hopes for the future, I have opened up and let people in. Yes, I have begun “interviewing”. Some of my concerns that I haven’t learned from the past or that I’m not the person I want to be has evaporated. I anticipate that this will be even more established in 2012.

Indeed, some long-time friendships may be holding us back, making us believe that we are still that “little person” who will never change. But think about it. What if you have become stronger, faster, better? What if you HAVE changed? Make a new friend today and find out for yourself.

Thanks for reading.

Managing relationships one concept at a time

Vector image of two human figures with hands i...

Relationships (Image via Wikipedia)

I’m interested in Relationship Marketing (RM) and I’ve read quite a bit about it. I found many of the theories rather conflicting with my status quo, depending on what areas of life and business I tried to apply it. RM is essentially about getting closer to your customers, designing ways to have 2-way communication with them and ensuring a win-win association. What is intriguing is the attitude postulated for existing customers and new customers. It’s common to walk in to a bank and find that great rate is only available to new customers or that awesome phone contract deal is only for newbies. It can be frustrating for “old” customers not getting any love (my experience still gives me nightmares). RM is very much about existing customers, engaging and retaining them. Most businesses are preoccupied with acquiring new customers and I agree with the concept that it’s not always the best to ignore existing customers. Apparently, it costs more to acquire new customers than it does to keep the folks you have. I apply my thinking to (1) Business (2) Friends (3) Church.

Business. It’s not rocket science that existing customers need to be kept satisfied. But new customers are important if you want to grow market share. Nonetheless, when it comes to RM, some customers will continue to be transactional and so will not want a close relationship with their supplier. In business, RM will be about identifying the customers that want a relationship and keeping them close. Overall, the RM concept will work very well for most kinds of businesses.

Friends. Interestingly, this concept works when I tried to apply it to friendships. It would mean focusing more on nurturing already founded friendships. Older posts on new year resolutions and the friendship grid is in line with this thinking. It’s great to make new friends (although finding trust and commitment can be hard work) and sometimes this is done at the expense of old friends who know you well and love you. So in this case, I vote for Relationship Marketing concepts!

Church. And not-for-profits in general. It all falls down when I apply it to Church for instance. Existing members of the community are important and part of the body but a Church’s main mandate is to win new people, to go out there and touch others. In other charities, it’s about rising funds and making a difference on a grand scale. Therefore, we don’t want to spend endless amounts of time chatting amongst ourselves. We need to go out and “acquire” new customers.

All very interesting (or not). Thanks for reading about what I’m reading! Ciao.

The friendship grid by Moi

It turned to be a lot of fun and downright cheeky! I used an idea from the 3D HR model by Gratton & Truss (2003) to build a friendship grid. Mind you, this grid is rather personal but I think many folks will find it useful as you can add and subtract as you please. There are a total of 8 segments with only 4 moving to the third dimension (a dimension of commitment, if you like) of loyalty and trust. Yes, you don’t have to trust everyone in quite the same way. I always think that with some modification to the grid, dysfunctional romantic relationships can be sniffed out! The horizontal alignment is based on common values and support for each other. Vertical alignment is based on mutuality of the friendship. Is one person doing all the work? I’ll break down what I’m thinking at the risk of being burned at the stake.

The Business Addict's friendship grid

 Low Loyalty & Trust

1. Friends for fun & laughter (High reciprocity, High alignment)

They are great fun to be with and they put you in a good mood. But there’s no psychological contract of loyalty and commitment. The misunderstanding comes when you start to have high expectations of these folks. Saying things like, “But she should have done this or known that.” No one owes anyone anything. In a way, it keeps things simple.

2. To-be-nurtured friendships (Low reciprocity, High alignment)

One person is doing all the work here. If that person is not me, this is one friendship I need to nurture. Perhaps some efforts from my side will lead to some kind of trust and loyalty. It may have something to do with past upsets and/or betrayals. But who knows where life will take us?

3. Passive acquaintances (High reciprocity, Low alignment)

We are always pleasant when we meet in parties, school pick-ups etc. But it really ends there. No hard feelings but you don’t know me and I don’t know you. Or maybe I do know you and I find we don’t have much in common.

4. Remind me why we are friends again? (Low reciprocity, Low alignment)

It can be argued that people like this should not be on the grid at all but I think that’s unfair to say. There are those that are in your life for whatever reason e.g. through a mutual friend, in-laws etc. You go out of your way for them because maybe there are related to you or to someone you know. They think they deserve it and you play along. Hmm, I’m beginning to see that “friends” may not be the right word here. Any ideas?

High Loyalty & Trust

5. Friends for life (High reciprocity, High alignment)

This speaks for itself. You’ve been through thin and thick together even if you don’t see them often, they know you and you are comfortable around each other. You don’t always agree but you always know they would never disrespect you intentionally and will support your dreams as you support theirs. For instance, I  had a close friendship with someone that I only ever met once over 5 years! We talked over the phone and are still good friends now.

6. Stop taking and give more (Low reciprocity, High alignment)

This is a stern instruction. Someone is loyal and trustworthy but the other is taking it for granted. If this is me, woe is me. I need to identify those who love me and love them right back! However there are folks here that used to be “friends for life” but perhaps distance and lack of “active” forgiveness has reduced the willingness to exert more than the minimum effort.

7. Accept me as I am (High reciprocity, Low alignment)

We understand each other even if we don’t think alike. If the differences are so fundamental maybe I shouldn’t be here in the first place. If they are not fundamental however, accept and proceed. A loyal friend is hard to find and I am not really looking for a splitting image of myself (shock! horror!!).

8. I don’t understand you but I respect you (Low reciprocity, Low alignment)

Often those who you don’t completely get. But you respect their stance in life. Hell, you may even admire them. You wouldn’t go to them for advice (unless you want the absolute undiluted truth) but it may be good to look at someone different from you once in a while. These folks tend to be much older than me and have seen many phrases of life. I aspire to have their grace and confidence but at this stage in my “growth”, I have to admit that I often don’t understand them but respect that they have come a long way.

*Note: I use You and I interchangeably. It’s just me generalizing and then talking some sense to myself in the same breath.

I smell a “friendship” audit

I believe it was in October this year that I had an interesting conversation with a stranger. We were at a holiday club for our kids and we got talking. Somehow we stumbled onto the subject of friendship. This lady is some way older than me (up to 10 years) and I was engrossed by her insight to life, marriage and raising kids in general. She asked me how I was finding Aberdeen and I said, ‘Overall, it’s great for families but I’m not as friendly as I used to be….’. She asked me why and the only way I could explain my comment without appearing as if I didn’t want to be friendly to HER was to tell the truth:

‘I find that many women my age and older tend to stick to friends they’ve had all their life. It’s like, ‘I’m NOT recruiting new friends-sorry.’

She bellied over laughing and said she’s never heard it put quite that way but she understood. It was then she told me about the “friendship audit”. Apparently, just a few days ago she had taken out a piece of paper and audited her friendships. It is not as sinister as it sounds. It was actually really good. In the audit she considered the following:

  • What she needs in a friend e.g. loyalty, sense of humor, trustworthiness
  • What she gives in her friendships e.g. advice, good times, loyalty, money 🙂 (!)
  • What she makes her uncomfortable in people/situations e.g gossiping, prejudice

My list is not exhaustive but the main result of the audit was that it highlighted that she had different categories of friends. They just fell into groups. There were friends who she would run to if she had a problem in her marriage or with one of her kids. There were those she would ask to pray with her. There were those who she only had a good laugh with but wouldn’t confide in them at all and so on. There were also friends that made her uncomfortable, perhaps because they were judgemental and put her in positions where she felt that arguing and displaying her opinion would just cause a fight. She often left feeling as though she was party to something she would rather have nothing to do with.

Anyway, I  remember thinking that I owed myself a friendship audit. I desperately need to do one but I haven’t. I think it will be revealing and will probably prove right certain things I already know, to be honest. Personally, I think it’s okay to have different classes of friends. It’s like market segmentation. You can be different things to different people. I cherish my friends that give me a good laugh even if I can’t confide in them about my challenges. That’s okay. I pray for those who listen to my ramblings about my insecurities because they deserve life’s very best. Well, we’ll see what mysteries my friendship audit reveal. Watch this space.

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