How to Make Friends and Influence People

IMG_4588Real friends will tell you when you’ve got a chin hair that needs plucking.  Or when you have spinach in your teeth.  Real friends will tell you when you’re being stupid or ridiculous or over-analytical or when you are flogging an already dead and decaying horse.  Real friends will tell you to look on the bright side, but they’ll peer over the wall into the dark with you, holding your hair back while you vomit into the abyss.  Real friends will tell you your ass has looked better, that acid yellow may not be your color, that it may be time to think about retiring the mini skirts.  But they’ll also be the ones that tell you to go ahead and buy the $500 dollar boots because it’s good to treat yourself every now and again…as long as you’re not in debt and just not all the time.

Real friends are hard to come by.

But they’re really not.

If you are a real friend yourself, you will attract the same back.  And once you recognize what you can tolerate and what you can’t, you’ll quickly find that you don’t need to do any weeding because they’ll weed you out first.  I imagine that people who don’t like loud, rather opinionated, snarky, Americans steer clear of me.  They’ve done the work for me.  Result.

I have friends back home with whom I can laugh until I snort wine out of my nose.  The kind of friends that you imagine cackling with on a porch swing some day with spiked lemonade.  We have the beauty that is a shared history.  We can giggle over those V neck sweaters we wore backward in high school.  The pumps with the ankle socks.  The Choose Life and Relax T-shirts that came down to our knees.  We can get all misty talking about those boys we crushed on, the grade school romances, the lost virginity in the back of the car stories.  (Not me, Mom, don’t worry).  First cigarettes and first wine coolers, first loves and first forays into independence.  That rich, bejeweled kind of history that makes conversations easy and giggling mandatory .IMG_4592

But I’ve also met great friends along this weird-o ex-pat journey that my family and I are part of.  Friends that understand because they too have found themselves stranded in a supermarket looking for whipping cream.  Or have been left scratching their head in wonder over local customs.  Friends that you can call in the middle of the night because your husband is setting up house in another country and your kid has a fever.  Who will leave their cell phones on by the bed, just in case.  And those friends are just as real, just as valued.

I am lucky, on many levels.  I find it easy to talk to people.  I find it easy to laugh about myself.  I find it easy to find the common denominator.  I have met others who don’t find it so easy, and sometimes, after an initial bout of trying to ease them out of their shell, I have gotten side tracked.  So for that, I apologize.  I’m sure there are many people out there who’s paths I have crossed but not spent enough time getting to know.

We make it hard for ourselves if we limit who and where and with whom friendships can blossom.  If we automatically discount someone who is a card-carrying member of a different political party, or of a different faith, or doesn’t wear the same type of jeans or has tattoos or comes from a different part of the world, then we are denying ourselves the opportunity for debate and discussion.   The opportunity to broaden our horizons, to learn something new; to think, feel, approach something from a different angle.  If we’ve convinced ourselves that our friendships will never be the same as they were when we were young or when we were home, then we are denying ourselves the opportunity to meet some wonderful people.  To make real friends.

As the new school year starts and I have that series of conversations with my children, the ones were you use examples and parables to promote respect for differences, to push for a tolerant and diverse atmosphere, it got me to thinking about how to apply the same conversations to our friendships as adults.  We don’t hesitate to teach our kids to be open, to play nice, to make the effort.  Yet often we don’t practice what we preach.

MjAxMi1lNzdhZDM5NjU1MzM1ZjNiThe title of this post is not meant to suggest that I think of myself as a great influencer of people.  Or even that I think that I am a great friend.  I have my moments.  But I also have a bad habit of interrupting people when they are speaking to get my say in or make a witty comment or just to get a word in edgeways.  I have a tendency to run from one place to the next, perhaps not listening hard enough to clues and hints and sometimes, things are missed.  I’m not particularly sympathetic to a lot of things.  And sometimes I have my head so far up my own ass, lost in my own dramas and daydreams, that I miss the nose in spite of my face.  It’s quite possible there’s a whole gaggle of people out there who merely tolerate me as I jostle and joke.  Who knows.   But maybe that is the key to making friends.  Perhaps we should all have our heads up our own backsides a bit more.  No, not really.  But the truth is, most of us do.  Most of us are so caught up in the day-to-day whirlwind of life that we are not thinking that hard about others.

Perhaps that is the key, realizing most people don’t have the time to worry about whether you are this or that or the other.  It could be that I’ve reached an age when I really do need someone to keep an eye out for chin hairs.  Or maybe it is reaching a stage in life when you simply don’t care if someone thinks you are loud or opinionated or snarky or American.  And those that do care will weed you out.

Those that don’t?  Well, you can invite them over to the porch swing and spike their lemonade when you’re old and gray.


22 thoughts on “How to Make Friends and Influence People

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  1. You know what? You convinced me…

    We make it hard for ourselves if we limit who and where and with whom friendships can blossom.

    Let’s be friends 🙂 🙂 🙂 Fu…k the writing ! If it will come, it will come !



    1. This made me laugh. While it was not my intention to get out there and convince anyone, it is an unexpected bonus! You have to promise to point out if I have any chin hairs though 😉


  2. I’m a bit disappointed, I must admit. Because of the title, where it says how to make friends, I thought you were going to include a section on fashioning companions out of macramé or macaroni or some such. The fact that you instead advocate making adjustments to one’s expectations surrounding friendship, just sounds like too much hard work. Although spiked lemonade sounds like a good idea! I think I tease people too much to be a good friend. Nice post! 🙂


    1. Well now I’m disappointed because I could have combined this with one of my earlier knitting posts, a treatise on the importance of imaginary friends in childhood and the retro macrame craze (give it time, it’ll happen…). I think if you let the ‘other’ do the weeding, then the hard work falls on them. You get off easy. I just think that no man/woman/child is an island–but at the same time, it’s no better if that island is filled with closed/clique-y groups that don’t communicate with each other–it’s only a matter of time before it goes all Lord of the Flies. And chin hair or not, I don’t want to be Piggy…


      1. This is just to say I’m holding you to a future “fusion” post, where you do combine the topics of imaginary pals, retro macramé mania and your earlier forays into the wonderful world of knitting! Now, if you can somehow work Lord of the Flies into said post, as well, I will be the first to applaud you. Lord of the Dance will suffice just the same, however…oh, dear, I do believe I’m rambling again. Ciao!


      2. There has got to be some word play in there about Piggy and not by the hair on my chin-ny, chin chin (that takes care of teh chin hair/Lord of the Flies connection…)


  3. I related to this post so much. We aren’t in another country in our last move, just a small conservative town where everyone already has life-long friendships since childhood, etc. Just about everybody has grown up here. When a stranger moves in, they evaluate them by what church they join, whether they belong to the country club or not, or their political stance. I have a lot of acquaintances here but only one good friend. And we’ve been here 18 years! We gave up trying a long time ago. Great post!


    1. I guess it wouldn’t be very helpful to say I think you should move? ;-). I don’t think your experience is uncommon–I think human beings like to surround themselves with like-ness, but they also like to have other-ness to judge. Usually to make themselves feel better about something. Which, if you think about it, is not very nice at all.


      1. We never intended to stay here this long. As retirement looms, it is just easier to ride it out until we can go somewhere permanently. We enjoy each other’s company and find so much to make life interesting that we are satisfied for now. We do have wonderful friends from our past that we connect with on vacations together.


  4. I think that friends are one of those things you take for granted…until you move. Then you realize that friends are vitally important and hard to get, until you get new ones. But what I hope is that once you realize what it’s like to be lonely, you’re more welcoming to newcomers.


    1. I think you are right. Although there are lots of loners out there, I would place a bet that very few of them enjoy being lonely. There’s a difference. Needing time to one’s self and enjoying spending time by one’s self is not the same as feeling isolated and alone. And I too hope that once you’ve felt that it would make you appreciate the trait in someone else–and go out of your way to be friendly. Then again, I’ve known a few people in my time who would do the opposite–just for sport.


  5. You can count on me to point out your chin hairs only if you will please do the same for me. (You’re going to be a busy friend) And, I’d have spiked lemonade with you anytime! Rock on with your “bad” writing self. Love it!!


  6. Thanks for lending your husband for bag lifting, keeping your phone by your bed, being my emergency contact and more importantly keeping me entertained! Your MUCH younger friend who will NEVER get a tattoo 🙂 Not so much thanks for teaching my girls rude rhymes pre a grandma visit!


  7. Despit the tattoos I guess you’re pretty cool, or maybe its because of them. Can’t decide if I approve. Is that suitably reserved for a Brit?


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