You spend the first two or three decades of your life making and keeping and occasionally losing friends, but what after that? Much like dating, befriending can actually become harder and harder as we get older. Here, Sally Horchow, author of The Art of Friendship, explains the impact of social networking on real friendship, and how to make genuine new connections (even with your parents).
Q: Is the art of friendship in decay or is it stronger than ever?
A: In trying times, I think people realize that friendship is more important than ever. Therefore, people are more focused on practicing the art of friendship – i.e. actually making an effort to make and keep meaningful relationships.
Q: Do you think social networking, texting, emails and all of the new ways we have to communicate are having an impact on friendship?
A: Yes, of course. The fact that we communicate so much differently (e.g. much more in writing, or face-to-face by Skype-ing, but not necessarily in person) means a couple of things: 1) we have lots of new levels of friendship (like: a “friend” on Facebook may be different than an acquaintance); 2) we have lots of new ways to connect with each other; and/or 3) it’s all the more important to use these new ways to take the communication off-line to an in-person interaction (the only effective way to grow a friendship, in my opinion.)
Q: What are the rules of connecting?
A: The main rule of “connecting,” as opposed to “networking,” and the difference between the two, is that you do so with no ulterior motive. And then, although there are many others, I would say: Listen, Express Yourself, and Don’t Keep Score are probably the other main rules.
Q: You co-wrote this book with your father; do you consider your parents your friends?
A: Not all family members become your friends – because, even with family, you choose your friends. I am so lucky to have developed a very close friendship with my dad. And we did so, unconsciously, by following a lot of the same rules in our book – like by “updating our experiences” together, “peeling back the onion,” and “expressing ourselves.”
Q: Do you have any tips on making meaningful new connections?
A: When you meet someone new, make your conversations count. You don’t have to “go deep” the first time you hang out together, but definitely talk about things that matter to you, and be open and revealing of yourself to create a connection off the bat.
Q: Do you have any tips on how someone can strengthen existing friendships?
A: Rule #52 in the book is “Update Your Experiences” – and I think that’s the most important thing that will strengthen an old bond. If you only ever get together and talk about old times with a friend, and never introduce that person to your newer friends or environments, or do something different together, to create new memories, your relationship will always stay in one place.