Of course, you have friends, but do you have a solid circle of friends who you can count on to encourage you when we’re down, inspire you when you’re lost, and to tell you the truth when you’re wrong? Most of us have lots of friends, and maybe like me, you have compartmentalized your friendships; there is the “work friend” who you talk to about work, the “old friend” who knows your history, and the “party friends” who you can call on for a night out. And maybe, just maybe, you have one friend you go to for anything. What if you had a number of friends you could go to for anything and everything? This was what I wanted so for the last 8 years I’ve been committed to creating a solid circle of meaningful friendships.
Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some amazing women and men in professional situations. Of course, my first thought was how great it would be to know them professionally to learn from and build my network. Then after getting to know them, I was impressed by their warm personalities, senses of humor, and abilities to be compassionate and vulnerable. I quickly realized I wanted to be “more than professional colleagues”; I wanted them to be my friends. So I had to figure out how to take the relationships to the next level, after all, developing friendships isn’t exactly dating, or is it?
Who makes the first move? What if they turn me down? What if I come on too strong? So maybe it is a bit like dating. It was increasingly evident that the logical next step was to turn these professional relationships into real friendships. A move was made, and discussions about meeting outside of professional settings started to happen. Not living in the same city, state, and in some cases country, meant this was going to take a coordinated effort, but it has proven to be well worth the it. In the last eight years my professional relationships have blossomed into meaningful friendships.
Fostering friendships with people who are empowering and uplifting has been extremely valuable and has taken a lot of commitment. It’s not as easy as it was when we were in school where proximity did a lot of the work for us. You may be finding as you get older that schedules get busier, distances get greater, and demands from new family relationships increase making it more challenging to connect with friends in a meaningful way. But when you make the time and put in the energy these friendships can be huge source of empowerment, encouragement, and inspiration. My friends have made great contributions to my sense of self worth, both personally and professionally. I now have a lots of friends who I can go to for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, and who reach out to support and encourage me without even having to ask. And if you are one of them and reading this, THANKS, I LOVE YOU!
So what does it take? Here are a few suggestions:
- Who? Identify individuals you believe will be powerful and meaningful friends.
- Why? Know what it is you want to get from the relationship, and what you have to offer.
- How? Reach out and make the connection; be willing to be vulnerable and ask for the friendships you want.
- When? Figure out how much time you can contribute to building the relationships and to meeting regularly; depending on the geographic proximity, you may be able to meet weekly or monthly; if there is a greater distance, then plan an annual meeting. Trust me; a few days with a great group of friends can go a long way.
- What? Friendships are two way streets so be available to encourage and support your friends, and remind them of their unique beauty and talents.