The Love We Crave Series: Friends

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all [my friend’s] facets. [For e.g.] Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke.
— C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves: Friendship
My All-American cheerleading team of former flatmates, and me ;).

My All-American cheerleading team of former flatmates, and me ;).

Friendship - unlike family, romance, or God's love, is the most unnecessary.

If the Four Loves were 4 parts comprising a house:

  • God's love would be the internal scaffolding, erecting the entire block; 
  • Family the bricks and mortar, strengthening the home.
  • Romance would fill the house with occupants, never failing to provide future generations and
  • Friendship would be the paint, furniture placement, and interior decorations. 

It seems indefinable, friendship. Whether it's the drawing of two people based on their love for Warhammer figurine painting or two women gossiping about boys over peppermint tea; I am using this article to coax you:

Prioritise gathering with people whose company you enjoy.

Let me defer to my favourite guy - Kahlil Gibran - for his mouth watering insight on:

PHILEO LOVE: YOUR FRIENDS

Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.

When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
- Kahlil Gibran, On Friendship. 

"BUT I'M NOT COMFORTABLE IN BIG GROUP SETTINGS."

Big group settings make for big group photos.

Big group settings make for big group photos.

Coffee with a close friend is an obvious need.

There you examine life together, build your girlfriend's confidence in herself, scuba dive onto the deep ocean floor of each other's unmet desires. Depth is anticipated while you sip your macchiato and stare the other person in the face.

Alas, I had a recent experience that shed light on The Big Group Setting. (Yup - I'm making it a thing.) I want to point out:

  • The reason why it builds upon your intimacy tank,
  • The characters within it, and
  • Some easy social techniques to cut out and keep.

Here we go:

The reason why big group settings will add to your intimacy tank

Group Play time has been eliminated from the adult regular-activity-repertoire. 

Group Play time has been eliminated from the adult regular-activity-repertoire. 

It's play time. 

Think back to when you were a primary school kid. Hand ball was a competitive sport. You broke into the 4 square grid as a dunce, graduated to Queen, and claimed your well deserved bragging rights if you could maintain your Kingly position until the bell rang. Even if you didn't make the King square, you felt energised having played your little 8-year-old brains out for 25 minutes straight.

Group Play time has been eliminated from the adult regular-activity-repertoire. Unless you're part of a sport's team, you don't really gather a group together unless there's a specific purpose for doing so.

In his game-changing book, Essentialism, Author Greg McKeown says,

"When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality. Is it any wonder that often the times we feel most alive, those that make up our best memories, are moments of play?"

This happens in raving social groups. Most people who organise their birthday parties state in their thank you speeches: "Thank you all for coming. It's lovely to see all my favourite people in one place. I'm sorry I couldn't catch up properly with each one of you." 

But I would argue, parties are for play.

They are for dancing, games, celebration, laughter and sharing hilarious anecdotes. In sum, they are for enjoying life.

Occasionally the mood will permit for a deep and meaningful conversation. Also, each adult should learn to carry a playful small-talk type conversation with a new acquaintance. However, I believe we have completely forgotten how to play. 

(Suggestions will be covered in Easy Social Techniques).

GROUP SETTINGS: WHICH CHARACTER ARE YOU?

In the Group Setting - which character are you?

In the Group Setting - which character are you?

(NB: This is not gospel! We move and shift depending on how close our connection is with the group.)

The Initiator/Leader

You often find yourself starting the group message on Facebook, booking the venue, organising tickets/transport/food. You fork out the cost and send your bank details for reimbursement. You enjoy seeing everyone come together and don't mind going to all the effort of gathering your friends. You are reliable, consistent, generous and your phone is on loud for the tardy person running late.

The Entertainer

You have an endless ream of jokes. You start 'corporate conversations', whereby everyone is contributing, laughing and people rarely feel left out or disinterested. You could be a stand-up comic except you're sitting down at dinner. You don't mind making a fool of yourself if it means creating a more comfortable atmosphere. You are talkative, fun, charismatic, quick-thinking and feel the need to spark something if everybody looks bored.

The Quiet Absorber

You people-watch. You like to sit back, relax and watch the social interactions play out. You don't feel the need to say anything in a corporate conversation, but will contribute if you feel the need to. You often have plenty of data streaming through your head, the type you don't bother communicating to another person because you know it's too complicated for them to understand. You are quiet, observant, analytical, and hate small talk.

The Nurturer

You make sure everyone is ok. You will sit beside the new person in the group because you want them to feel welcome. You are thoughtful and considerate, always bringing a generous gift to a dinner party even when instructed not to. You believe the group is not well connected unless every member feels included. You are selflessly hospitable, warm, welcoming and can be relied upon to create a lovely, inviting atmosphere.

EASY SOCIAL TECHNIQUES 

If you know me personally, my Character in a Group Setting is The Entertainer. (Some people would call me "The Centre of Attention", but, haters were always gonna hate ;).

Yes, you've seen this before in the 3-Part Relationship series.

Yes, you've seen this before in the 3-Part Relationship series.

Alas, here are a list of tricks you can use if you find yourself in a group setting and either find yourself A) Not wanting to make awkward small talk or B) At a loss with conversation with strangers or very different personalities.

START A GROUP GAME

Play: "Would You Rather".

  • How: Each person in the circle asks the rest of the group something along the lines of "Would you rather be thrown into a pool of snakes or a pool of spiders?" The group must respond with one of the choices and qualify their answer.
  • Why: Sparks fun conversations where people start sharing anecdotes about the not-so-normal parts of life, good old fashioned values and might even kindle semi-heated debates.

Play: "Everyone's An Expert"

  • How: Each person asks a trivia question based on their area of knowledge. For example, the Podiatrist might ask "How many bones has the average human foot?" and the full-time Mum might ask "At what age is it appropriate to start feeding a toddler solids?". The question asker may give multiple choice options where each group member must lock in what they think is the right answer.
  • Why: This is for groups with curiosity, keen for some intellectual stimulation. They know each other and have passed the "So what do you do for work?" stage.

HAVE A FUN CONVERSATION

If you've passed the ID talk about jobs, partners and kids, and don't feel it's time yet to go deep, try these fun techniques:

That time when one Minion turned the other Minion into a Tae Kwon Do Master.

That time when one Minion turned the other Minion into a Tae Kwon Do Master.

Technique: Turn your conversation partner into a storybook character.

  • How: "I don't know what it is about you, but if I was writing a novel, you would be the Kung Fu Fighting Princess." Continue characterising her by designing aspects of her fictional life, from what she'd wear to battle, to the pets living in her palace, to the type of man her Kung Fu Fighting Father would be. Bring in other group members of the group to contribute to the designing of her fantasy world.
  • Why: It's a fun, creative way to encourage a shy person who doesn't speak much. Should you get any attributes incorrect, they're likely to correct you with imaginative suggestions because of the playful tone of the whole conversation.

Technique"Horror Film"

  •  How: There's a killer on the loose! Which person in the group would die first? Usually a blonde girl dies in the first 10 minutes of the movie, an average Joe dies next, and so on and so forth. Another blonde female lead will usually be the survivor. Note: You don't have to follow these rules, but you work out as a group the order of people getting killed off and for what reason (ie. "Gary would die third because he would have driven Meghan home and walked to his car in the dark by himself, confident that he would be fine.")
  • Why: While it's borderline creepy, it will push boundaries and stimulate. It encourages imaginative group thinking and consensus. 

I know what you're thinking.

These games are a little silly, you're not that "out there", you can't be bothered, etc.

In the spirit of prioritising friends: you were made for community. The person with a strong group of friends they love, trust and can frolic around in laughter-land with, won't hurry to fill the void with more fruitless dates.

Fun and laughter in a group setting, noting the few in that group you are emotionally bonded with, will satisfy your need for play, adding a different flavoured joy to your intimacy tank.

Try asking: "Hey guys, would anyone be keen for a game?" when you're at a dinner party with new acquaintances who have already made small talk after the main course of their meal, and they will most likely comply.

Play is where friends look outward and ahead; at an external slice of life's stimulus. It is where laughter is found, and comical anecdotes start flowing.

Big Group Play can shift the atmosphere from dead to alive in minutes. And when you've spent the entire night cackling, slapping the table, and your jaw starts to ache because you've been laughing so much; you'll be glad you went to the effort of making that first move.

I WISH TO ERADICATE LONELINESS. 

I KNOW, IT'S AMBITIOUS!

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