Friendship is born at that moment when one [person] says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .
So writes C.S. Lewis on the subject of one of the most important institutions in the social universe, and it’s one which I’ve often found to be entirely and completely true. Making friends is one of the key tenants of social interaction within any given society. In passing, I’ve mentioned that making friends is a good thing, even with/especially with the opposite sex. Friends form a wonderful network of people who can help support you when you feel down, or join you in times of happiness.
They can provide advice and moral support. But the fact is, friendship sometimes seems random and arbitrary—or at least, the origin of most friendships I know of seem to often be arbitrary and random; sometimes even counter-intuitive.
There seems to be this mystique about friendship, that it is something hard, and is a knack for some people and not for others. But that’s not really true. Anyone can do it.
So, how does one get a friend, anyway?
It’s not so hard. Well, it can seemingly be so, but it’s something that does tend to happen organically and at random. But the key to starting a friendship simply involves talking to people. Which, granted, for someone with social anxiety, it can be difficult. But it all starts with small talk. Small talk is the opening point for all communications between fellow humans. You can’t just ramp up to the serious stuff right away.
Here’s the thing about friendship. Age doesn’t really matter much; and it matters far less than it would in any given romantic partner. You can have friends when you’re 26 who are twice your age; you can have friends at the same time who are just coming out of their teens (or even still there). Friendship is more about commonality than anything else. Shared interests, shared ideas, shared activities, and of course, shared religious traditions.
Make small talk with folks in your parish. Join bible studies, or studies of the Church Fathers within your community. While most of these are segregated by gender, it’s a good start for the acquisition of friends.
Open up and talk to people. Say you’re at an Art museum, and you come across someone examining your favorite work. Instead of shyly walking away, why not say “Hey, what do you think of this piece?”
If you find yourself participating in a hobby you enjoy, and you come across someone else who’s enjoying it, you can say “Hello, I’m (insert name here), how did you get interested in this?”
Just start small. Work your way up. Friendship may seem even more of a challenge than dating, but in reality, it’s far, far easier. I promise. 🙂