March 15, 2014

Why Not Be Friends When We Have so Much in Common?

Photo: Denis Burin on Pixoto.

Recently, I had an epiphany: I suck as a matchmaker.

This comes after a series of failed attempts to fix up friends. Interestingly, not all of them were attempts at romantic matches. Some of the most spectacular failures were attempts to introduce people who were looking for friends and made it clear that was all they were seeking-friendship.

While I am happy to say that no one was harmed and there was no lasting long-term fall out from these failures, it nonetheless made me wonder:

What makes any of us compatible as friends? Is it having a lot in common? Liking each other? Having the same likes?

As I thought over my own list of friends, I came to one conclusion: Whatever it takes for a long and successful friendship there needs to be more than merely having things in common.

While some may be reading this and wondering what the big deal is about that, as someone who has been in the mind/body community for a decade and have many friends who are as well, it is something that many of us forget over time.

Sometimes we feel that we must be friends with everyone because we all share the same interests, the same love of yoga, the same political views, etc.

Even in cases where I have known of being who secretly or not so secretly disliked each other, there was still an united front in public that they were friends.

I know because I’ve been guilty of it myself on more than a few occasions. In one case, I went so far as to ignore every gut feeling that I had that this was not someone I should be hanging out and was “friends” with someone even though it later proved to be to my detriment.

I was afraid that if we weren’t friends, then other mutual friends in the mind/body community would abandon me. (Interestingly enough, when we stopped putting up the pretense of friendship and I confided to some people how I really felt, I found out that I was far from alone in my dislike of this person nor was I the only one putting up the friend pretense. At the time all I could think was, “You mean I am not alone?”)

While not everyone has a fall-out like the one I experienced, many of us tolerate people or have people in our lives that aren’t enriching it in any meaningful sense of the word.

As I have gotten older, I have become more selective as to who I allow in my life. Just like there is no recipe for a great romantic relationship that will work for anyone, the same is true for friendships. Often times, I have met people who had the same interests in me, similar educations and backgrounds, and the chemistry, spark, etc. simply wasn’t there and/or the negative parts of their personalities outweighed these things.

While having things in common can be great and especially in the beginning lead to hours of discussion and getting to know you time, there has to be more than that for along-term relationship.

Also, as a friend of mine recently pointed out, it’s pretty easy to come up with things we have in common with people we like and want to convince ourselves that we are compatible with, just like it’s easy to do the reverse when we encounter someone we do not like and wish to avoid them.

He was correct. We all do this.

As human beings, we are all share the same  planet. We all have similar hopes, fears, loves, sorrows, etc. While this can be a bounding experience and help us to realize how most of us have more in common with each other than we do not, it’s important to remember as one recent article on here pointed out that being friendly is not the same as being friends.

Deciding not to be friends with someone is not the same as disliking someone or wishing for rotten things to befall them.

It doesn’t mean that the choice not to be friends is the choice to make an enemy.

However, it can prevent experiences like the one that happened to me. It can save a lot of time and energy forcing ourselves to try and convince themselves they are friends with someone when they actually are not.

As far as to what makes for a successful friendship, I do not claim to know the answer to that. When I look over my friends, sometimes I am amazed by little many of us seem to have in common (politically, socially, etc.), yet in many cases we have been friends for decades.

It’s something that even science will never explain.

To paraphrase Albert Einstein: How on earth can any of us explain in terms of physics and chemistry something as important as friendship?

Perhaps we never will know, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

However, it’s of equal importance to recognize it when it is not there, and remind ourselves that isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Pixoto


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