One of the hardest thing you may experience on a Friday morning, at about 11am, midway through the workday, is realising,
Gosh, I have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow.
It may be coming to the weekend, but you have no plans.
You end the day, and realise you’ve nothing to do on a Friday night.
Take a step back and think.
What are we really doing as adults when we reach out to our old friends and try to connect with them again?
If you imagine yourself as an alien who just came to Earth, and you’re observing what people are doing, messaging people to get into their diaries, trying to find the right place to socialise, you might laugh.
It does seem just a tad ridiculous.
Adult friendships are really, really hard
Take a step back and observe the closest circle of 5 friends you have. You will start to find them being more difficult than you initially thought.
Keeping in touch, and ‘catching up’ may seem a lot tougher than it is.
People move on
I remember a friend I was very close to. I confess.
During the initial months after school, when I was beating myself up over my A Level results, and thinking about what an embarrassment I was to my friends, I slowly withdrew myself away from her.
Even though she was making a lot of effort to reach out, and arrange meals or meetings with me.
Yes, I was that friend.
The friend who doesn’t reply. Who’s standoffish, and doesn’t seem very keen to connect.
There were no excuses.
But when I eventually came to my senses and tried (very) hard, even riding my little scooter up to her home at midnight to pass her a birthday gift, something had shifted.
She awkwardly accepted the gift at the door.
Thanked me for it over text.
And after that, despite my messages to meet up, she never answered them anymore.
She had moved on.
Accepting that people move on, and giving them the space to do that, is tough.
The other option is clinging onto the friendship. But that too, can make it tough for both parties.
Relationships are two-way. And when one has chosen to move on, we shouldn’t try to hold them back. One friend once described it as a kite.
Sometimes you have to let go of the kite to let it fly higher.
That analogy reminds us that sometimes, it’s not anyone’s fault that friendships didn’t work out.
But accepting that they didn’t, and learning to move on can sometimes be the best for both parties.
Keep the circle of 5 close
If you’re an introvert, you probably find meeting people draining your friendships. And sometimes, it can be useful to invest more time in a small number, rather than finding yourself spread thinly over a large quantity of relationships.
Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist,
“defines meaningful relationships as those people you know well enough to greet without feeling awkward if you ran into them in an airport lounge.
That number typically ranges from 100 to 250, with the average around 150.
Can You Have More Than 150 Friends? (New York Times 2021)
He theorised that the the closest circle would be at about 5, followed by 15, 50, and 150.
|Dunbar’s number||How to know the level of ‘closeness’|
|5||If you have a problem, you would think of calling or messaging them immediately|
|15||These are friends you would probably meet in a regular social setting, such as people in church. You might occasionally share with them a problem you face, but most of the interactions are social, rather than emotional.|
|50||These are those you might meet regularly in the office, but you do not share much beyond just work.|
|150||You might peek into their lives on social media, like their posts, but you do not regularly make an effort to talk to them.|
Keeping them close can involve:
- Take the initiative to ask them out for coffee
- Take it beyond just messaging them and asking ‘How are you’ over a message, but take the time to arrange something that you enjoy
Go beyond meals, but do an activity together
Singapore gathers around food.
But after a while, you might find that boring. After all, if you look at the convention of a food gathering, it might just be:
- Buy the food
- Take pictures of the food
You might not find yourself feeling that you’re more connected with your friends because there is no explicit plan to understand each other’s life in more detail.
Look back at the past meal you had.
Chances are, it was a little like this.
You ordered the food. Funny Friend shares about something hilarious that happened recently.
Serious Friend shares a deep thought about something he recently went through.
After a while, the conversation degrades to become about what your friends have done recently.
You may not feel more connected as a result.
One thing you can do is to be a hub of social activity.
Plan things such as:
- Trips to different places
- Movies, with conversations after about the movie
Being intentional about planning the conversation
Friendzone chooses to do things differently. (I’m not paid by them to say this!)
They have conversations where they plan out a topic. For example, they might plan a topic around:
- What’s your goal for this year, and why?
- Why has it been hard for you to make friends?
Make a little more effort
We are not asking you to move heaven and Earth to keep in touch with your friends. But what might help is just taking a little more effort.
Because friendships matter.
They remind you of who you are and who you’re not.