Putting Your Friends Out

We live near an airport.

When our friends fly, our home transforms into a park-and-ride.

When our friends fly, our home can also transform into a bed-and-breakfast.

We offer this service.

We are trying to be good friends, not bad friends.

Some participate.

Some don’t.

We hear similar reasons from our friends who don’t.

“We don’t want to be a burden.”

“We don’t want to inconvenience you.”

“We don’t want to put you out.”

Putting your friends out.

The intention is noble.

But helping is not Putting Your Friends Out.

(Unless you are that one friend with a pickup truck and everyone expects you to help move, then we are totally tracking with you.)

Is it a little inconvenient to drive to the airport at weird, early, or late hours? Yep.

It it always the best time? Nope.

Then why do friends offer to help?

Because everyone’s lives are so busy, sometimes the only time we get to connect and see folks are on those small drives to and from the airport.

Connecting with those around us that we care about is hard.

Find the small moments to connect.

The trip to the airport.

The errands.

The grocery store.

Waiting in some line.

Dropping off their car for an oil change/repairs.

The ride to and from [soccer, dance, hockey, or whatever] lessons.

Remember you are not Putting Your Friends Out.

Maybe they are just trying to connect.

Some of my fondest memories are small moments doing the most routine things with my closest friends.

 

Conversations and How to Have Them

Together we discussed friendship, which was one of my favorite experiences. But recently I have noticed that friendship (or relationships in general) are built and fueled by conversations.

Over the past few months I have been observing conversations.

But conversations are weird.

Some are like duels.

Some are like speeches.

Some are veiled.

Some are superficial.

Only a few are deep and memorable.

I recently shared some of these conversation observations with a class. Not just any class, but the last class of the year. This particular class has become a yearly tradition and it isn’t lost on me that the final chapter of the year (right before the Holiday Season) is a class on Emotional Intelligence.

Before I shared, I asked.

“What does it take to have a good conversation?”

The answers came.

“Listening. Letting other people speak. Making eye contact. Not being distracted. Not looking at your phone. Asking questions.”

Great answers. Great advice.

It was the last one that really resonated with me. It is what I have been observing.

Asking questions.

You need all of the first things, but it is the last part that may make the real difference.

Asking questions.

Demonstrates that you are interested in others and not just about yourself. (I have a friend who has made extreme strides in this area, and jokes about how they used to be as a reminder. During a conversation they will jump in with “Enough about me, now I want to hear what you think about me.”

Asking questions.

Questions help you to learn about others.

My assignment to this class was to spend the Holiday Season practicing having conversations. This practice starts with asking questions. It may be helpful to try out a few of these questions over your Holiday Season as well.

  1. How are you? (And listen to the reply. Wait for a reply beyond “I’m good” or “Fine” and maybe ask a second time. Really, how are you?
  2. What is going well?
  3. What are you most excited for in 2017?
  4. What are three things that you would most like to accomplish in the next year?
  5. What is the last book you read?
  6. How are you balancing your multiple roles?
  7. Can you tell me a little more about what you do? What most excites you about what you do?

And the list goes on.

Be careful about asking a question, then jumping in with your own answers to each of these questions. Remember my friend’s quote, this is about them, not you.

Asking questions.

Go try it out and let us know how it goes.

P.S. Sometimes conversations drift towards things that are not as important (Politics, Sports, the Weather) and I have a fun trigger phrase with a few friends when we drift off. Whenever one of us dwells too much on the latest game stats or news story, one of us remembers to say, “Are you Sad?” (Because we must be avoiding real conversation out of sadness…) We all chuckle and get back to focusing on things that matter most.

Elliptical Orbits

solar-system-orbit

(Image Courtesy of wiseGEEK)

Apparently I have a lot in common with early astronomers. Both Copernicus and Galileo thought that planets traveled in perfectly round orbits, because the circle was an “ideal shape.” Circular orbits made sense, something is moving around something else, and a circle is a pretty good choice and seems right. Especially if you have an “ideal shape” or expectation in your mind in the first place.

With all the recent friend research we did together, friends and relationships continue to be present in my mind. I found myself using the term “orbit” a lot with friends.

“Hey, I want you back in my orbit.”

“You seem to be drifting out of my orbit.”

“Why can’t we stay in orbit?”

But there is a law of motion in the universe. Johannes Kepler noticed that the “ideal shape” didn’t explain everything. Instead, he discovered something else.

The orbit of a planet follows an ellipse with the sun at one focus. He discovered that the motion and travel was not an “ideal shape” but instead an almost flattened version of the ideal.

This means that at any given time, planets will be further away from the sun, and other times they will be closer, but still in orbit.

When it comes to friends, I fell into the same “ideal shape” trap. Since I assumed that being in orbit with a friend was a perfect circle, any perceived distance was interpreted as getting out of orbit.

But maybe, Kepler’s First Law of Motion can apply here too.

Let’s call it Carl’s First Law of Friendship:

“The orbit of a friend follows AN ELLIPSE with YOU at one focus.”

Realizing that a friendship may follow an Elliptical Orbit helped explain why friends are not always constant or “perfect.” Sometimes they are closer, sometimes they are further away, but that is how orbits work.

Want to know more? Check out this great video on Elliptical Orbits. And just like the astronomers, we will keep trying to understand this whole weird and wonderous universe of friends, and friendships.

 

A Little Friendly Research (My Turn)

I asked you a series of questions, and your answers appeared in the last 7 posts. Your answers were vulnerable, honest, funny, serious, and clever. Your answers inspired questions, discussions, and honest conversations about friends, and friendships. Your answers inspired some actions, as friends connected, reached out, answered phone calls, and actions became a little more deliberate and focused.

I wondered about how to end this series, and a few of you suggested that I weigh in on those same 9 questions.

So, it is my turn.

Question 1: What are the best attributes of your good friends?

They are intentional. They reach out. They call me, text me, and email me. They initiate as well as respond. They seem to have this internal counter that knows when too many moments, hours, days, or weeks have passed and the alarm goes off and they remember to connect.

Question 2: Do you think friendship is hard? Why or why not?

Friendship seemed easier in elementary school when you walked with the same person every day to school, then goofed around every weekend together on little adventures in the woods and on the pond. Friendship seemed easier when you were on a ship and saw them everyday for 6 months, and ate, slept, and worked together. Friendship seemed easier in college when you were in that crappy little apartment waiting for your paychecks so you could actually buy meat at the store.

Friendship seemed to get harder in the next stage of life. New jobs, new cities, new neighborhoods, new kids, and new distances between all of them.

Friendship is getting easier and harder at the same time in this current stage. My expectations have grown as the years have passed. What satisfied this need to connect years ago, doesn’t seem like enough. I have more time for friends then a decade ago, but some of them don’t have the same time available to me. The number of friends “goal” has been replaced with a depth of friendship “goal” which I recently realize is a much harder prize to attain.

Question 3: What do you expect from a friend?

Balance and equity in the long-run. I may need something from them for a season, but I want to find a season to give back as well. They shouldn’t be the only one to initiate connection, I want to call them, text them, email them, or reach out as well. I need that same little internal counter in my head that reminds me that too much time, distance, or life has gone by and I need to take action.

This question caused me to wrestle the most. I fear my expectations may be causing interference with some friends because my expectations may be higher, and unspoken.

There is tension expectation. How do we learn to give freely, and not be taken advantage of? When do you give? When do you need? How do you measure balance and equity?

No great answers, yet the wrestling seems like a good thing for me to work on.

Question 4: How much time in a given week do you think about your friendships?

A LOT! Until I read your responses, I thought I was a bit of an outlier (well I may still be). There was comfort to know that I am not the only one who thinks about this pretty often.

My mind wanders towards friends and friendship throughout my entire day. The morning computer/writing time, the commute, at random times each day, lunchtime, afternoon coffee, closing time, the other commute, dinnertime, vegging out time, before I sleep (you get the idea).

Bottom line, if you are my friend, I think about you a lot.

Question 5: What are your best attributes as a friend?

I care about you. I think about you. I connect with you. I am here when you need something (yes that has included the occasional furniture moving). I invest in you. I want you to succeed. I have hope for you. I find time for you. I love you.

Question 6: If you could say one thing to your friends that would help explain what you need from them, what would you say?

Be real. Be present. Be available. Be my friend.

Question 7: How many close friends would you say you have?

Nine.

Question 8: Anything else you would like to share?

Yes. This process, this journey has helped me understand friends and friendship in a new way. Your responses have helped shape me and I don’t want this journey to end.

Earlier this week I was teaching a class and we talked about leadership. One participant mentioned that leadership has an expiration date. In other words, if you are not exercising those skills, they expire, go bad, and become rotten.

I think this applies to friendships as well.

Question 9: In 10 words or less, what advice would you give the World about friendships?

Intention. Balance. Mindful. Time. Hope. Connect. Remember. Savor. Initiate. Love.

 

A Little Friendly Research Part 7 (The Finale)

Part 7. The Finale.

Wondering what this is all about? Start here.

I asked. You answered.

Question 8: Anything else that you would like to share?

[Insert name] is a great friend.

This exercise, especially questions 6 and 7, gave me pause – made me think. Thank you for that.

Yes.

Regardless of the type of relationship you have you get out what you put in.

Friendships are difficult. time and distance have a way of seeing some friendships lose their closeness. Yet many friends, who I don’t see on a regular basis because of distance, etc. can pick up where they left off immediately because the disruption of the friendship wasn’t based on wounds of differences, but just life. Others dissolve because of differences that went unresolved. Those are the hardest. Unresolved conflict is tough.

[insert name] is a great friend and I appreciate [name].

Question 9: In 10 words or less, what advice would you give to the World about friendships?

Treat a friendship like a romantic relationship and vice versa.

Friends are one the greatest gifts you will receive. They… (sorry there was a 10 word limit.)

(Just Kidding) …provide laughter as well as keep you from wandering off in the desert of life.

Be the friend you want to have.

It’s not a contest.

People always come into your life for a reason, enjoy!

Being willing to be vulnerable when you want to retreat because you are hurt or misunderstood, is well worth it. If that friend truly values you and your friendship, he or she will cover that vulnerability with grace. Your friendship can grow stronger in spite of the struggle. Way more than 10 words. Lol.

I’m breaking the rules and combining 8 and 9.

I don’t have any advice, but I will share a wish. When I think about my friendships, it occurs to me that most (if not all) of them are largely based on convenience. It’s convenient because we live near each other, or because we work together, or because we’re in class together, etc. If that convenient variable were removed, I don’t know what would happen to those relationships. Would they make the effort to maintain them? Would I? I know that feeling like a friend-when-convenient is pretty sad; I’ve felt that way, and I’m sure I’ve made others feel that way too. I wonder if this is just the way it is with the friendships we have in adulthood?

If so, my wish is that we could find a way to do better than that. I wish that friendships were a higher priority, despite all of other things competing for our time and energy. I wish we valued them more. I wish that we’d protect them, and fight for them. I wish we’d be more willing to do the work to sustain them, even when it’s not convenient. Especially then.

Ten words: Food and friendship enhance each other.

Thank you again for all of you who answered and shared this post with others. Keep sharing, keep answering, and most of all keep questioning.

What’s next? My turn.

A Little Friendly Research Part 6 (Questions 6 and 7)

Part 6.

I am a little sad that this series is coming to an end.

You see, I asked a bunch of you to weigh in on 9 questions about friends and friendship. After this post, only 2 questions remain. It feels a little like the day before the last day of vacation. You are still relaxing, sitting by the pool, but the normal world is vying for your attention. Suddenly instead of enjoying the sun on your face, you begin to think about packing, traveling, unpacking, getting back into the routine, grocery shopping, making dinner, and doing laundry. You have to work to keep the world out of your vacation for another day. I had to remind myself to enjoy this post, this day, and not worry about what the next post may bring.

If you are totally lost, start at the beginning. Think about the questions. Take out a sheet of paper and jot down your own answers, the compare them against this smattering of wisdom, openness, and advice.

They are friends.

They have friends.

Perhaps their words, answers, and ideas will help you in your own journey.

Question 6: If you could say one thing to your friends that would help explain what you need from them, what would you say?

Question 7: How many close friends would you say you have?

Just love me for me.

Four.

Confirmation that I’m being the friend that they need me to be.

15.

I need to know that you care, and I might need to be reassured sometimes.

Few. I could count them on one hand and have fingers to spare.

I don’t know what I need from my friends, other than to be friends.

6.

And please don’t give up on me.

4-5.

Honesty. I don’t want someone to tell me what I want to hear or what they think I want to hear.

5.

don’t give up on me.

4 or 5.

Trust: I need to know you have my back, will be my cheerleader and defender and think the best of me.

I have a lot of folks in my life who I love deeply. But many are just too far away or seen too seldom to consider “close” friends. So I would say right now, there are 7 people I consider close/deep friends.

Availability.

Question 8 and 9 remain.

 

A Little Friendly Research Part 5

Part 5. Over the hump. In the home stretch. Some other cliché.

Just finding this today? Try the beginning or the reason behind this little experiment.

In order to learn more about friends and friendships, I asked some of the followers of this blog and the answers appear below.

But before we get to your answers, I just wanted to thank you all again. Thank you for hitting reply. You have given us a gift to share together and to learn together.

Question 5: What are YOUR best attributes as a friend?

I guess I’d say that when I develop a close friendship with someone, I consider that person to be like family (or even closer than family, depending on your family!) and I care about them so deeply that I’d do just about anything for them.

Humor.

I’m a good listener and the “fun” friend because more often than not, I’m being positive. But I can be there for my friends in any circumstance.

I try to be a good listener.

Honesty.

I’m also an honest friend in my feelings and my advice.

I try give my friends the space to be themselves.

Authenticity.

Will listen, provide guidance when asked, willing to take feedback and change if needed.

I try not to give advice that’s unasked for.

Honesty & vulnerability.

I forgive and forget quite easily. I’ve actually been told to my detriment, where other people who used to be friends took advantage of that trait.

Not Critical, provide comic relief and go with the flow.

Good questions.

Attention given to the things people enjoy and then do/give/support them.

Honesty, caring, loving and supportive.

I will be there, always. Unless, uh … I’ve gone dark because I’m afraid, as I just wrote two minutes ago. Oops.

On to the other questions.

For me, the comfort and connection gained by reading all of these replies over the past few days is like walking in a warm ocean and feeling the water and sand wash over your feet.

Keep reading. Keep friending. Keep connecting. Keep sharing.

Tell others: come on in, the water is great.