Just like LOVE, FRIENDSHIP is a chemical reaction! And just like LOVE, we can start a friendship at first sight! Right?
Well, ask anyone what they look for in a friend, and odds are you’ll get pretty similar answers: someone who’s fun to be around and someone you can trust. Maybe someone you also share similar interests with?!
But before we even get to that point, before any of those things can come to light in any meaningful way, we connect to people on first impression; on a gut feeling! Imagine walking into a room full of strangers. You take a look around and someone holds your attention. All you need is a handful of seconds to form your first impression on that person and make your judgement. That’s the one you want to approach and start a conversation with!
In a study published in Nature in 2009, researchers identified two areas of the brain that become especially active when we meet someone new: the amygdala, the area of the brain that deals with emotion, and the posterior cingulate cortex, which is linked to autobiographical memory. As Karla Starr noted in Psychology Today, the posterior cingulate cortex also helps us weigh decisions and assign value to objects; we go through a very similar process with humans. “And after we’ve assigned a value to a person, we make the decision about how to orient ourselves to that person,” she wrote. “Do we want to get closer? Knowing what this person’s value is to us, do we want this person to be involved in our network?”
A chemical reaction or not, friendships become a mirror in life! Especially later in your 40s! When you’re young, you’re still trying to find out who you are, plus you are kind of desperate to be liked and to fit in, which explains why there is a lot of trial and error. But later, when you get to know who you really are, you start choosing people who reflect your values, your ideals, and your preferences. You start making friends with those who accept you in full, without conditions, and who slowly and patiently earn your trust and loyalty!
Friendships in your 40s are not hard or difficult to make, they just take time and patience. What makes them hard to find is that you don’t want to compromise and settle for less any more!
YOU CAN’T MAKE BEST FRIENDS WITHOUT KNOWING YOUR TRUE SELF. IT’S JUST NOT POSSIBLE EVERYTHING ESLE IS A TRIAL UNTIL THE REAL DEAL SHOWS UP.
I met Julie a year ago at a fashion party. It was difficult to pick her out in a room full of strangers, because everyone in that room felt like someone I wanted to talk to. But I did pick her out as it turned out later that evening!
There were many interesting women from all over the world, but Julie was different! We kept in touch, and because I had to interview her several times for work, I found out that we have a lot of things in common and share very similar views of the world. Plus, I have with her super interesting conversations about life, women, fashion! But what remains most important in our relationship, is that I can be honest with her and I can be me! And she holds space for that without judgement or without even analysing me! That’s why I asked her one day, “What does friendship mean to you now you’re in your 40s?”
Here is part of our conversation…
Tsitaliya: Julie, you’re one of those people who make friends so easily, it seems to me you can strike up a conversation with anybody and make them love you immediately! Is this a talent or an acquired skill?
Julie: As a child I was painfully shy. I felt much more comfortable around adults than people of my own age. Then I moved a lot starting from my 20s, and the irony is that I still managed to make friends while traveling. But to answer your question, this is a learned skill, not a talent! In the last few years I’ve become a true extrovert and much more skilled at making friends!
Tsitaliya: What do you look for in a friend today vs in your 20s?!
Julie: Honesty, truthfulness, having your best interest at heart! Not to forget: fun! In my 20s my friendships were driven by competition and comparison! Who is smarter, who is going to the best college…today, as I feel much more comfortable in my skin and with who I have become, I attract similar people. What about you Tsitaliya?
Tsitaliya: I look for authenticity vs pretence, humbleness vs show off, and loyalty vs one night stands. I’ve always been an extrovert, but lately I’ve become an introvert; maybe because I’ve dedicated myself to writing and reading. But I loooove good company, intelligent conversation, sharing laughter and dancing! These things though I find very intimate and I can only share with good friends.
Tsitaliya: Julie, you and I share a similar lifestyle and past experiences too. You’ve travelled and lived on different continents, in different cultures! Starting every time from scratch means starting to build new relationships too and a new network of friends! What’s your tip for people who move a lot?
Julie: Take your time and don’t rush making friendships. Take your time to settle! As you become more comfortable with the place, people start to appear around you! Expats tend to move too quickly and that kind of makes us rush things.
Tsitaliya: Tell me, where did you feel it was the easiest to make friends?
Julie: Switzerland! Not because of the country, but because of myself. I’ve become much more confident in who I am as a person, and I tend to migrate towards people who share my philosophy of life….naturally! With you it didn’t take 6-months, it took several conversations, to realise that I want to spend more time with you. With time you realise you want to be surrounded by people who want you to succeed and people who encourage you and stimulate you!
Tsitaliya: I agree. I love to be around people who also stimulate and provoke me to be more creative, even though they’re not necessarily my best friends! When I moved to Switzerland I felt so lonely, which I don’t necessarily dislike, but I started connecting to people from my culture first, only to realise that friendships are not based on culture, they are based on values!
How about friendship and age? Why does it get so hard to make friends with age?
Julie: With me it’s actually the other way around. I’ve met a lot more people in the last 3-4 years and have built really strong bonds with women. In my 30s I had no social life. I had small kids and a crazy busy job. Now I feel lucky with my job to meet new people all the time and to make great friendships :)
FRIENDS ARE THE FAMILY WE CHOOSE
Tsitaliya: How is this whole pandemic affecting your relationships with friends?
Julie: The friendships I really value have managed to grow even bigger and become more solid. We did face time calls and a lot of social distance walks. The relationships I miss though are the ones that happen spontaneously, for example with the ladies who own the local coffee shop or the woman at the flowershop.
Tsitaliya: How about long-distance relationships, those friendships you have built before or you keep from your childhood?