Last updated on March 23rd, 2019 at 12:20 pm
A lesson in building friendships and community
Feel this for a moment. You throw a coat over your shoulders. Scramble to find your good pair of boots. Feel the coarse cotton of your go-to scarf flying around your neck. Then you open the front door to a brisk, sideways breeze. It’s 5 pm, but dark– and the chill of your frozen breath flies to your left with the snowflakes.
What causes this kind of situation? Aren’t winter nights for Netflix and soup? Don’t you have hot chocolate recipes to perfect? Or possible Christmas presents to wrap or shop for on Amazon?
Because it’s the cold part of Winter for myself and others here in Northern Colorado, I have been finding myself in this situation more than I did this time last year.
The reason? I’ve built community with friends. And we will delve into some things that I have done through discovering how to build friendships.
Why Build Community?
The generic way to put this is:
Friendships have a huge impact on your health and happiness. Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness and isolation, and even strengthen your physical health. But close friendships don’t just happen. Many of us struggle to meet people and develop quality connections.Making Good Friends
And that is a good way to generally put it. But, from my experience with friends and yours, there is a lot more color to it, isn’t there?
What is Friendship?
Friendship is where you trust people enough to let them ask questions. It is how comfortable you feel opening up your home to people when there is no agenda, no party to throw, but just a time and a place to meet. Friendships build community and strengthen the individuals in them.
What a thing to be a part of! That is WHY we build friendships
Is it time to Make Community?
But, how do we create friendships and a community around ourselves? Are we really missing something if we are sort of stagnant with our relationships?
Many of us have felt what it is like to move to a completely new place. New school, job, state, all very different from what we are use to. It’s those moments when we realize what we had ‘back home’ and create longings inside of us that we had previously taken for granted.
The fact is people are at their best when they aren’t isolated or don’t feel isolated by others. Strong friendships create an environment where we feel accepted and valued. Find friends and find community.
Community is Obvious; Creating it Isn’t
Chances are that I don’t need to convince you about the power of relationships in your life nor do I need to explain what it feels like to really want friends and community. Those are things that you feel naturally – so much so that you googled it and found an article like this.
I am no expert but I have built strong relationships everywhere I have been, much to the credit of the outstanding people that have come into my life. I have made a few really big transitions that completely changed my immediate situation so that I needed to recreate
Here is some help on how to build friendships
How to Build Community in Life
How to build friendships in life – 17 Thoughtful ways and Counting
- Offer Assistance Freely
The point of offering assistance is that it is indiscriminate. You see a need- you fix it or help. No, this isn’t guaranteeing that you are making friends but it creates moments of genuine human connection and
good will. Think of the stories of two people getting in a fender-bender and 9 months later are engaged.
Chances are that you walk through doors. So hold them open for people. You drive all the time, at least stop by someone pulled over on the shoulder. Help an elder citizen get across the parking lot when it is iced over.
Give tiny amounts of time and energy to people. Because of that, people will be open to you.
- Provide a Date Night – Give a Gift Card / Offer to Baby Sit
Kenz and I had a couple friend that gave us a book and card. The book had 50 date night ideas and we are actually excited to try some of it. Doing a small gesture like that is thoughtful enough that it can spark community with acquaintances.
- Become Comfortable Giving and Receiving
The giving part makes sense but why get comfortable with receiving? When you start to get close with people they tend to open themselves up more to you. This can mean that they invite you to a ball game and spot you a ticket or offer to drive on the way to a movie.
I’ve got a work buddy who I am pretty close with, in some early stage kind of ways. I helped him out by switching shifts with him so he could make an event he wanted to attend (giving) and he insisted later on to buy me lunch (receiving).
I could have said no, but friendships are built by giving and taking. If you don’t let people give into the relationship, it won’t last very long because it won’t be fulfilling for them. It won’t be how to build
communitywith that person.
- Create Special Moments and Events
Last summer, my wife and I tried to do a few day hikes and backpacking trips with friends. I don’t know how this worked out but it is a perfect illustration.
Of the hikes and backpacking trips we went on, almost all of those people became much closer friends. The trips that got canceled or never got off the ground, those relationships have suffered. And I am talking a sample size of like 40 people. Those that we hung out with on the trail are sticking with us.
Now, don’t go hiking with friends if you hate it, but do find things that you love that you can invite other people along. I have had friend communities that loved bowling, watching movies, going to concerts, day trips to big cities, going to horse races, BBQing in a backyard, visiting at new coffee shops, and on and on.
Create special moments and constantly invite people to join you.
- Be good Neighbors – Be Visible too!
If you live in an apartment, be the neighbors that don’t make too much noise. Clean up the area around your space. Plant flowers if you can. Offer to help people move in for even 20 minutes! Hang out in common areas like nearby parks and apartment pools. Grill some good food outside and wave at your neighbors. You can look here if you are looking for friends in college dorms.
- Pray for the People in your life
Now, Christians. We are supposed to pray. But really, often times we just don’t know what to pray about. Pray for your friends and co-workers. Pray for people at your church. For your family. And I mean, really pray. Pray like they are someone you are concerned for. Maybe, you can be the answer to a few of those prayers.
- Create Watering Holes and Places to Keep Coming Back To
Central Perk in Friends. That one Bar from Cheers. The lunchroom or gym you met in before school started.
Chances are you can create consistent moments if you can create a rhythm of making it to a certain spot. When I worked closing shift at a Starbucks in Kentucky, we would often close the store and then go to one of three places: Bowling alley, Waffle House (put me in the hospital once), or Steak n Shake. We were the closes knit team of any Starbucks I have visited or worked in.
- Walk your Dogs
This is a reminder that Balto needs out today! Not really, but if you are American, your peers just love all things dog. I suggest this for anyone who wants easy conversation starters. Just walk your dog, pick up droppings, and don’t let it bite anyone. And if you two have a rescue-dog story, all the better 😉
- Support People in What they Care about
I have watched plays, eaten at restaurants for fundraisers, gone dancing, listened to vocal recitals, donated to mission trip funds, watched comedy routines, visited
body buildingcompetitions, sat at high school sports events, bought cookies from little salespeople (Girls scouts), read blogs, and so many other things just to support the people in my life.
Chances are, when you support people in what they care about, they will disproportionately want to make the effort back or give wild thanks. It means so much when people read and comment on my blog, or come to church with me, or go on hiking trips with me and Kenz. Those are things that I enjoy!
- Be Open to Discuss non-Superficial things
I have found that the fastest way to connect with people is to open up to them and allow them to open up to you. When they trust you because of the things you are saying you are creating something that can either last or is very valuable for the time being. Speak your mind and care for them.
Community exists where there is
- Share your Cool Skills or Resources
We are each our own person with wildly different skills and resources. Leverage those things in a way that provides values for others. If you own a boat, take people on the lake with you. You’re an artist? Make a really cool gift that is personalized and thoughtful. If you read interesting books, pass one along. Don’t harp on them to return the book either.
If you have a trade offer to fix leaks, paint a room, or change their oil. You don’t have to always do these things, but try to help every once and a while. I help some friends with websites they are needing. This is a great, practical way of how to build friendships because it matches their need with your skill.
- Introduce your Friends to Each Other to Create Broader Community
I have noticed that people want good friendships as much as I have wanted them. Instead of just talking about my cool friend who plays in a band, I can invite them with me to a concert and introduce them. We can go out and buy two extra cheap chairs so we have more room at game night. Share your friends and create something bigger.
- Pay Special Attention to Important Dates
Birthdays, Anniversaries, Weddings, Graduation Dates, and so on are sooooooo important. A ‘Happy Birthday’ with a grainy gif on Facebook wont cut it unless you are out of town. Write them a card on stationary. Drive to their house and give them a half eaten cupcake and then laugh. Make a memorable effort!
- Acts of Kindness
Do things for people that you know and not just strangers. Purchase textbooks for a student one semester. Call it your own personal scholarship. Offer to drive over take out when you find out someone broke an arm. Leave random baseball tickets on their kitchen table. Buy them a gosh darn coffee mug!
- Spread Good Stories about Them
If you caught someone being a kind, decent person, try making them look good in authentic ways. Don’t just poster it everywhere but be thoughtful with how you communicate about the people in your life. I am trying to do this more and more with my wife. I take her for granted but she is really awesome!
- Just have Dinner or Meals with People
Kenz and I recently got a hold of some people that were in and then out of our lives really quick. It was just how things played out. But we thought there could be potential for really good friends there. So, we asked them to coffee. That led to a really cool dinner. And now, we are tentatively invited over to their place for a kids movie and pizza rolls. Success!
Best thing about this is that if we didn’t reach out we would have been out the friendship. But we aren’t 🙂
- Make Attending Church with Friends a Habit
This doesn’t happen much with adults. Two Sunday’s ago, when we got to church we had a full row of friends and family that sat together. Everywhere else in the room just had immediate families and teenagers sitting together. The fact that we were visibly ‘a group’ was very cool and shows a sense of community.
How do you Build Friendships and Community?
Offer up your ideas about how to build friendships and explain them. If you want, I can even include them and cite you with a link of your choosing!