Investment in Friendship

There is a lot of research about the benefits of a strong circle of friends, especially as we grow older. It seems like all the research published the why it’s important, but little is ever written on the How to do it! How do you maintain friendships as your life dramatically changes moving into retirement? How do you establish new friendships, when traditional ways (school, work) are gone? The “how” type of information is harder to locate and was therefore precious when I did find it.

In retirement, I needed to move from the convenience & reliance on work for my casual, social connections to actually learn new ways to develop and maintain connections. More than 80% of my regular daily connections were gone. I needed to learn the how – the “art of friendship”.

 
William Rawlings, professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University stated: “Satisfying friendships need 3 things: somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy”. He also points out 2 critical elements for developing friendship:

  • Make the time and do it consistently; spending time together is critical to friendship formation. By intentionally investing in areas of your own interests, the three elements of quality friendship have a higher likelihood of being met.
  • Listen when others share. Take the time to learn about them — not for them to learn about you. This is not about rebuttal or one-upmanship in conversation. When others feel listened to, they are more likely to feel positive to you.

An investment of time is required. Here’s a few how-to invest in friendships I’ve found in various articles and tried to implement:

  • Regular attendance at something. Church, yoga, an exercise class. Pick something and commit to attending for at least 6-8 visits. And while there, talk to people! If someone expresses interest in you, then follow-up with a one- on-one coffee date, or walking date, or something.
  • Find a club that matches your interests, whether it’s a walking club, book club, writers group, garden club, pickle-ball, or bird watching. Again, pick something and then regularly attend and talk with/listen to others. Meet-ups are a great way to locate groups of interest; or your local OLLI, senior center, YMCA, rec center.
  • Plan something yourself, regularly, and invite others to join in. If people keep showing up, keep doing it.

The thing I noticed about all of these How-to’s was the time investment needed – the regularity of connection. In the past (school, work), that regularity of connection was simpler — it came with the job, or the kid’s activities. Now, in retirement, those regular connections need to be created.

 

Learning the skill of listening is also quite challenging! With my storyteller traits, I noticed I’m often doing “one-upmanship” in conversation. Perhaps I was taught this was a way to establish connection. Now I need to learn to listen more, to be present in the conversation, and ask a question of their experience versus give my own experience/story.

It’s also about giving of yourself. I’ve recently changed my thinking on planning activities and the need for reciprocity. I’ve tried to move from frustration that I seem to always be the planner (old thinking) to thinking this is my gift to them. It’s a bit of selfish pay-it-forward – they enjoy the activity, but I do, too!

Investing time and working on the skill of listening has worked. I’ve recently realized I need to change the tapes in my head away from focusing on the loss of 80% of my connections (all work based). I do have a strong network of friends, an abundance of friendships — old and new, IRL and virtual, near and far. I have people in my life who give me energy, who are there if I need them, who I love spending time with, who I can talk to. I hope I can be the same for them.

I will continue to invest time and energy on friendship (and listening skills) in this coming year.   Are you investing in friendship?

Picture credit: Tim Doyle, Serengeti Cuddling Cats, 2017

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40 thoughts on “Investment in Friendship

  1. Pat, this is such an important topic for retirees. Like Marty above, after I retired we retired to an area where we knew few people. One of my priorities has been to get to know people in our new community. Rob and I joined a local service group, and it has been a great way to get to know people and the community. Most service groups are always looking for new members. Our new neighbours are really friendly and have come by to introduce themselves, and we have followed up by inviting some of them over, and I watch my neighbour’s house when she is away. Donna, who I met via blogging, and I meet regularly. I am also getting to know people by attending a yoga studio. Recently, two of the yoga ladies invited me to join a local retirees’ social club that hosts speakers and outings. I am by nature an introvert, but through my career I had to learn how to engage with people, even though I often felt uncomfortable. So my “how” includes: participate, converse, and offer to help out (in clubs or volunteer activities).

    Jude

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jude – I love how you’ve shortened it to “participate, converse, and offer to help out”! I am also an introvert, so I do understand how uncomfortable just participate and converse can be. I just moved – only 6 miles but it meant joining a new yoga studio and meeting new neighbors. So I am back to the uncomfortable beginning on meeting new folks and conversing on a regular basis. It is an investment in time and energy… but so important to do. It sounds like it’s working for you!

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  2. This is a timely post Pat and one I enjoyed very much. Making time to be with others after I retired was very important to me. I really loved my work colleagues and we were a tight knit little family. I missed our daily interactions the most and so we scheduled in regular catchups and always try to set up a future date at each event. I love my online blogging community friendships too and these have kept me going at times. It’s the regularity of it all that’s important as you so rightly point out. I’ve shared this on my social networks 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Debbie, thanks for sharing! I don’t have broad social networks, so I’m impressed.

      The regularity of it was learning for me.
      I didn’t realize how easy it was to have regularity of connection with other women at work; and then how many of them were based so strongly on the commonality of work. I tried to keep in touch but after a bit the lack of commonality was hard to overcome and the planning to make it regular was difficult. I wasn’t there to say “hey, let’s grab coffee today to talk about X”; work meetings came up and plans were cancelled last minute. I wasn’t enjoying the conversations of things I was no longer a part of. So many of the connections are just no longer there.

      I too enjoy the blogging community friendships. I’ve learned however that those too can be ones that go away as bloggers leave the blogging world as their lives change (one just announced her leaving this weekend). So …. put the friendship investment skills to work once again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I enjoyed your response to my comment Pat, and agree it’s hard at times to keep up with regular connections. Bloggers sometimes disappear and I often wonder what happens to them, it can be very hard to lose ‘friends’ this way.

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  3. Your advice makes a lot of sense. Strangely I’ve also been thinking about investing in relationships and being more friendly, less judgemental, more open to people’s sharing and to remembering what they tell me so that we can continue with a conversation we had earlier. It’s made life much nicer and I’m a happier person. Don’t know about those around me : D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think if you are a happier person, those around you are happier as well. Everybody loves a good listener and one who remembers things and asks about them – even better! Sometimes I have trouble remembering which friends have kids still at home, kids in college, kids married… hard to start a conversation except for “how are the kids?”.

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  4. Hello Pat and it is lovely of you to join us for our first Midlife Share the Love party. Friendships do change throughout our lives and sometimes we have to let go of some and then find new ones. I have a couple of friends who I run with regularly and we call ourselves the Saturday Sisters. We share our thoughts on our runs so keep fit mentally and physically. I hope you will join us next Wednesday. Have a great week! #MSTL #midlifesharethelove

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    1. Thanks Sue for helping me link with the MSTL party. I’ll work on my skill! I’m not a runner but I do enjoy my Walk & Talks with various girlfriends – the time together has enhanced the friendship.

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  5. You are so right about this – I’ve actually written a post for later in February about letting some friendships go – and it’s all about recipricosity (sp??) I have found that I’m tired of always being the one to make the contacts and the plans and it will mean that some friends drift away. I’m okay with that – I think my online blogging friendships are taking the place of some of my IRL ones – maybe that’s the way of the future if I’m not prepared to be the one making all the effort? Thanks so much for sharing your post with us on #MLSTL – I’ve shared it on my social media. I hope you get to meet some new bloggers as you comment and share on the other party guests’ posts.

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    1. My personal learning about reciprocity is if I’m enjoying the activity, I view the planning as my gift to the friendship. It’s made me stop planning things where I’m not enjoying the time…so those relationships are ones I need to let go.

      A few friends verbalize (sincerely) their appreciation for me setting up the activity. Or, if they offer to pick up the tab once in awhile when we are out, I say OK. My way of expressing appreciation is time together – others are words spoken or gifts given. So I take those elements as reciprocity of friendship. And yes, a couple of folks have started to plan things and call me. A very few, but I make sure they know I appreciate it!!

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  6. Hi Pat,
    Sorry to be so late in replying and dragging you back to this post. It has been a crazy busy few weeks. And that’s why I still have to reply to this post even though you posted it more than a week ago. My early January was crazy busy with people and commitments.
    I struggle with this so much, Pat. I read, appreciate and agree with everything you are saying about the importance of friendships and the need to work on those relationships later in life.
    Like you, I had lots of work friends, but I always saw 99% of them as precisely that – work friends. When I left a school, I left those connections behind and formed new ones at the next school. That was the way I liked it and the only way that made sense for me. I was always way too busy working to maintain friendships from prior locations.
    Then when I went out on my own, travelling and consulting, I interacted with hundreds of people – the second point in the video Donna talks about. I enjoyed all of that, and I do miss it.
    But I’ve always been a one-on-one kind of friend, hugely connected to just a few people. And I like that too. Now that I’m retired, I’m getting to indulge my love of solitude. Going out and making friends requires going out! I treasure when I have a run of three or more days where I can just stay home, walk with my dogs, read my books, write, make art. It’s so tough to do it all when one desire is so completely opposite another.
    Just wanted to share all that, and to thank you for yet another excellent post.
    Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen – It’s good to know yourself! I am finding that if I have 3-4 days where I just stay home, I’m miserable. I do like those days, but not multiple strung together. For me, losing all those work connections and people to talk to was devastating. One of the big items on my action plan continues to be the Out & About activities! Learning how to turn meeting people into friendship is still a work in progress.

      My hubby is more like you – he likes his quiet at-home solitude. I’m learning to respect those needs in him and to recognize my own needs are different.

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  7. Hi Pat! Great topic that I think needs to be shared and promoted over and over amongst us all–especially writers because we work at home alone. I have been self -employed nearly 97% of my life so I never really had much of a work environment where I could connect with friends. That forces me to reach out as much as possible. I’m about a 50-50 extrovert/introvert so I enjoy my quiet but get restless and need connection too. My solution? Resist the urge to be “shy” and just do it. Like you said, by asking someone to join you for coffee or whatever, you get some no’s but also some yes’s and in the end, it works well. Thanks for the reminder! ~Kathy

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    1. Thanks Kathy. I’ve talked with others who have been self-employed, work from home, or don’t have the workplace or kids connection for other reasons and they’ve had to learn the skills earlier in life. For many of us introverts these are skills, not innate talents. So as with any skill, it takes work to master it and repeated action to keep the skill at peak performance. I’m a beginner at it and still in the working on it mode. I asked out 2 new acquaintances for one-on-one lunches so far this new year. Both said yes. Now if I can only keep the willpower to order a salad and not fries at those lunches, life would be pretty perfect!

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  8. All the others before me have expressed it so well. Developing and maintaining strong connections with like-minded people has been a priority of mine. It’s not easy, it’s uncomfortable … but it’s been important enough to me to persistent.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for the important reminder, Pat. I’m still working, but often need a gentle nudge to invest in friendships outside of office hours. As an introvert, it’s stepping outside my comfort zone to suggest a one-on-one activity, except for with my closest friends and family. I just read a study though that said the employee initiating social interactions or providing social support is 10 times more likely to be engaged at work and that the correlation between happiness and Zimet’s social support scale is a whopping .71, as compared to the correlation between smoking and cancer, which is .37. I commit to scheduling at least one social interaction per month (outside of my normal routines). Thanks for the motivation!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And you’ve put a measure against it! I am so impressed. I’ve just spent the last 30 minutes setting up some interactions for the next few weeks…. unfortunately most ended up being lunch or dinner dates, given our winter weather and my recovery expectation of low physical energy. A double edge sword – great conversation and social interaction, but I always eat things I shouldn’t… french fries are a food group to me! But these connections could turn into walk & talks in the future… so I’ll need to just look at the salad options, if I have the willpower.

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      1. I just had to come back and report that I went to dinner with a girlfriend after work yesterday. We had a lovely time–and I ordered off the “guilt free” menu and actually really enjoyed the food too. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  10. Hi, Pat – Yours is a very timely post. I was just viewing a TedTalk Video that a friend sent to me on the same topic (errr, well at least on the “why to”….not the “how to”) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDdn1XSYU-4.
    Building and maintaining meaningful relationships demands a large time investment….but that’s an investment that I have never regretted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Donna – I’m learning that talks/articles that only talk “the why” are becoming a really frustrating pet peeve! Hesitating to even look at this YouTube, but probably will because you sent it.

      One of my learnings in retirement is the need to plan so you invest the time. Previously, time connection just happened because you were in same place at the same time (work related time and place). I guess I need to be grateful for the planner inside me that was able to plan this!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, Pat – Oh dear, I truly did not mean to frustrate you at all. To prevent you from opening a video that may turn you off, I can give you a quick summary. After much longitudinal research in a well-respect study, scientists found that the top two factors influencing longevity where 1) Close, meaningful relationships with friends and family 2) The number of people who we talk to everyday (including the cashier in our local grocery store, and the baristas in our coffee shops). While maybe not earth shattering, it did reinforce to me to continue putting myself out there!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey Donna, I did look at it and it didn’t frustrate me as much since I knew it would only be the why element. Quite interesting that social integration was even higher correlation than close relationships (although I doubt the significance of one slot in this kind of data). It did make me think about getting out and about more … I tend to be a homebody a lot, especially this time of the year.

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  11. Jeez, Pat, we are so alike it is scary! In the first place, this very topic is (was) on my list of future posts! Secondly, I too tend to be the director of the conversation (it’s the teacher in me coming out) and I need to learn to listen and to quit directing. The most important thing my friends and I do (most of them retired teachers) is to plan from one activity to the next and PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR! We make a commitment to the next lunch out, movie, shopping or golf, before we leave from the last event. Then we always stay connected and have something to which we all look forward! ~ Lynn

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    1. Lynn – I’m looking forward to your spin on the same topic – you always have great insights! I love your phrase the “director of the conversation”.

      One of my lunch groups that I am a participant in (a retiree and almost retiree women’s group from the MegaCorp i worked at) has a leader who does a similar thing you do – I get the invite for the next lunch in my email before we leave the restaurant. It helps with a larger group – with work travel and retirement travel, we never have the total group in town for any monthly lunch! But those who are in town do come and it’s always fun to see who’s doing what. I’ll have to think if this approach might work for other connections.

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  12. Great post Pat. I think you make a good point about friends versus acquaintances. To turn acquaintances into friends you need to set up some to set up some one on one sessions. Thanks for the encouragement. I have made some nice acquaintances by joining the Y, book clubs, knitting classes, etc. that I need to invite for coffee or lunch.

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    1. I will warn you that not all my forays into one-on-one have worked out. A couple of times it just felt like work (not flow), and a couple when I tried for a second meeting always couldn’t find the time. But a couple have worked out really nicely – one is even a “couple” that hubby and I both get along with.

      This is another one that I have to keep reminding myself not to expect reciprocity on. I just keep asking them and enjoy the time together.

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  13. Relocating on retirement certainly brings a challenge in the area. Not everyones choice, but doing counselling training or a basic course both enhances listening skills and provides a circle of motivated friends!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nexi – great builds on taking classes and I guess it’s a subset of a common interest “club”. I didn’t specifically add those in because it didn’t work for me. All the classes I’ve taken (so far) have been either individuals merely looking to learn or groups of friends doing it together. Maybe I haven’t hit the right learning experience. I’ll add it to my list of possibilities!

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      1. Yes, I’ve found classes in the past can be a solitary experience for exactly the reasons you’ve suggested; but spouse in retirement has joined a reading group – and is thriving in it.

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  14. Friendships are so important aren’t they? So worth the the investment of time and energy it takes to create and maintain. As I ponder retirement in a little over a year, this is definitely a concern of mine since my current network will drop. I am already trying to come up with a plan of action to stay involved with others, and it is my hope to make new friends along the way. Thanks for sharing your great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew I would be losing those connections as I went into retirement but I didn’t realize how much it would hit me. I’m an introvert and didn’t have strong friendship skills (honestly). I’m getting better at it now. I’m glad to hear you’re trying to come up with a plan of action on this aspect of the transition! I was able to convert a few of my work relationships into non-work friendships. Even that took planning and execution to make the regular non-work connections happen.

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  15. You make some really good points, Pat. It is harder to make new friends outside of the work word as we get older. I especially liked “Plan something yourself, regularly, and invite others to join in. If people keep showing up, keep doing it.” That reminded me of my mother’s advice about finding a good romantic match: “Do what you like to do and you’ll find others who like to do that too.” Taking her advice, I met my future husband when we both were taking dance lessons 🙂

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    1. I met my hubby at “wally ball” for singles. Not sure if that was widespread, and it’s not done any more – volleyball played on a racquetball court with walls being “good”. Common interests a bit – I liked volleyball for the team aspect and limited skill required… he was the natural athlete that tried every new sport! Luckily we moved quickly a beyond sports/athletic link. I jokingly say our prenup lists “I will not run”.

      The plan something yourself is my Mid-week Foodie group…which is now going on over a year. And they are the ones who helped me give up the need for reciprocity… they always (and sincerely) thank me for setting up the dinner. And I enjoy every time we go out. There is something to be said for having control of where we go to…. Hah!

      I’m going to continue the common interests thing (hopefully) this year. Looking into Meet-ups on outdoor activity among recent retirees – bird watching, nature hikes, SUP in the spring. It’s a hard thing to get this introvert going in those things… it takes a good activation energy, which I’m hoping my Soar mantra this year helps!

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  16. This is very helpful, Pat. In my own case because we relocated to a place in which we have no ready-made friends, I think finding people with whom you have common interests is key. For all of my adult life I found collegiality and friendships completely through work. Now I need to seek out those interactions, and the best way to do so is via something in which I have an interest. Thanks for the reminder and validation. – Marty

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marty – that is one of the primary reasons I’ve pushed back on our moving to Florida. Relocation would have removed all my connections … not just 80% of them! And I needed to learn the skills. Interestingly, many of the friendship I have today (not all) did have a basis in work familiarity – I was able to move those relationships from work to non-work. So, unfortunately, it supported that not relocating was right for me (at this time). But I have learned new tools and some of my friends are from the new approaches. Which I will continue to use and refine – spending regular time in areas of common interests and listening.

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