How to Make Friends

Food for Thought

My new friend George introduced me to this Sarajevo restaurant. Great food. I particularly liked the bread which is somewhere between pita and nan. We had fun talking about the realities of a bilingual and bicultural household. He grew up in it, and I’m living in it now.

The other day, I was talking to my kid about how to make friends because she is going to high school next year. Many people think making friends is an end in itself, but I don’t think that works. I think we tend to have more friends like this when we are younger because we are simply trying to avoid feeling lonely. But this type of friendship tends to fall apart easily when the bond is stress-tested in some ways. Because the friendship itself is the sole focus of both parties, when conflicts arise, there are no other values that can put the conflict in a broader perspective. Naturally, you’d think: This is not enjoyable. Why am I hanging out with this person?

The best way to make friends, I believe, is to focus on your passion and interests. You don’t actually “make” friends; it just happens. When you share the same passion, you can easily overlook any minor frictions and differences in personality because the primary bond is the shared interest. Even if your friend has some annoying traits, often says embarrassing things, or looks hideous, it wouldn’t matter much.

When making friends is an end in itself, it’s quite hard to initiate the friendship. You have to slowly and carefully get to know each other because both parties know that the only conditions for accepting each other as friends are their personality traits. You have to be careful not to do or say anything that would annoy or offend the other. In other words, you have to time-release your true self through a series of small trials and errors. This process could take many months, and could still fall apart once you reveal the part of yourself that annoys the other.

When you make friends through a shared interest, you can be yourself from day one, because the condition for the friendship is not personality traits, and because it’s quite easy to detect the authenticity of the other’s passion when your own passion is authentic.