One of the most interesting aspects of going back to school after reading many books on human behavior is that you feel you are in a human laboratory of sorts. For a start, you meet more people in 2 weeks than you’ve probably met in 4 years of professional life. And, as a bonus, you have a very high school-esque atmosphere as everyone is keen to understand who their friends might be.
Since friendship offers incredible insight into human behavior, I thought I’d share my notes on a few observations about friendship –
1. We are the average of the five people we spend most of our time with. Friendships matter. (glad we’ve gotten that out of the way)
2. Schools are one of the best sources of great friendships. While some work environments manage to create strong friendships, it isn’t uncommon to hear people describe their friends either from high school, university or graduate schools. I think friends are one of the education system’s biggest gifts to us.
3. Friendship in our early years is almost entirely a product of proximity. As we grow, it becomes entangled more by choice. And, the entrance of choice means we get to see our own magnetic fields in action.
4. We all have magnetic fields that either attract or repel people. These magnetic fields are almost entirely driven by a combination of who we are (comprising of our values and what drives us) and the strength of our personality. Depending on who you ask, we can either be bloody boring, absurdly cool, too serious, too uptight, too flaky, etc.
5. That brings us to the next important truth – everyone is not going to like you. No, you can never be universally popular. In fact, shooting for popularity is probably a problem in itself.
6. If your magnetic field isn’t getting you the sort of friends you’d like to be surrounded with, you either need to change your friends or change yourself.
7. “Cool” exists in every social group. There is always a certain sub-section that is cooler. This group is the envy of most nerds and geeks. However, in my experience, the cool kids are left behind almost without exception. That’s my way of saying – make sure you pay attention to the nerds and geeks. You might just end up working for them.
8. You can be intentional about friendships. But, you’ll have to learn to do so without trying too hard. All human relationships are two way and the other person has to respond too.
9. Trying too hard is a field-killer. It obscures who you are because you pay too much attention to fit in. Don’t fret – just keep an eye out for like-minded people and you’ll generally do just fine.
10. Some people manage to present different faces to different people. If you’re not skilled enough to play that game, don’t try it.
11. If you aren’t really clear about who you are and what you stand for, don’t worry. It comes through when you start doing work. The work you do is a by-product of who you are and how you approach life.
12. Finding excuses to let yourself and your work shine through are critical as a result. That’s why many friendships build when working on projects. Don’t underestimate the power of extra-curricular activities.
13. As with life, patience is critical. Great relationships often take a while to form. That’s okay. A great personality can help speed up the process but, unless it comes naturally, it is probably not worth the bother. It is character that is going to sustain a relationship. There are few more accurate signs of good character than long-lasting relationships. It is definitely an infinite game.
14. If possible, actively seek folks who have different backgrounds and points of you. This is only possible once you feel relatively secure about who you are and where you come from (hence, communities of expatriates typically cluster). If you feel you are ready for this, give this a shot. While it is guaranteed that people with similar background will have many shared experiences, you will be amazed by the sheer number of like-valued people you find when you venture outside.
15. And, one last thing, be yourself. If you don’t know what that means, work hard to understand who you really are by working to understand what your values are, what drives you, and how you approach life. It is only once you possess a sufficient amount of self awareness will you be happy to be by yourself. Often, it is when we’re perfectly content to go on a journey by ourselves that we find the best group of travel buddies.