Some things happen to us when we are kids that make us who we are, and we may not be able to live them down. In this series, how to make friends is meant to help me deduce where the habit of blocking out potential friends started and find a solution.
I do not come from a rich family, and that’s ok, so many people don’t. My parents did their best and took my siblings and me to a good school. By school standards back then, we studied in the top cream schools. But this also posed some problems for us, but since I cannot speak for my siblings, I will speak only on my behalf.
Where it all started
You see all my classmates had a television at home. We did not. Can you imagine everyone standing in a circle talking about xyz program and leaving you out on purpose because you have nothing to contribute! Its funny isn’t it. Something as small as tv can cause such an emotional impact.
I kept asking my father when he would buy one so that finally I would be part of the group. I would belong. I would have something to contribute.
And he did. One of my grandfather’s (my father’s uncle) was moving to the UK.
Naturally, they were selling all their household items, and my dad knows a good bargain when he sees one. He jumped for the deal and bought us a TV, and a bunch of other things I cannot remember because my mind was on the TV. I was about to belong.
Making friends is not that easy
It was on a Wednesday. The local station would air a program called ‘Tausi.’ It would be the talk for the next day. The TV could not have come at a better time. I knew the characters not because I had watched the program but because I had listened to the stories from my classmates.
That day, we watched Tausi, and I fell asleep with a smile on my face. I could not wait to get to school.
Lo and behold when I did. The usual clique was discussing how things went down. I joined them, and for the first time, I contributed.
I small statement “Yeah, I saw that too. Did you hear what xyz answered?” I was smiling from ear to ear, waiting eagerly for the conversation to continue.
Do you know what one girl told me? Obviously not. Let me fill you in.
“Is it the first time you are watching tv? Everyone else has had a tv for long except you. Just because it’s the first time you bought a tv does not mean the whole class should know.”
Bubble just burst.
It’s not you; It’s me
I remember feeling sorry for myself. I thought that maybe I would make friends that day. After all, I had what everyone else had, but it did not matter.
It is me they did not want. That is where, I believe, the habit of making friends took a different turn.
People can be mean, even kids. It hurt, pretty bad. I have probably had the wrong idea of making friends, but were my observations wrong? Most likely.
They must have had another unifying factor that was not the TV program, and that’s what I missed. I have not been good at making friends ever since.
I have 4 friends. Literally.
So if I am to guess, I would say this was the very first moment I felt rejected. It is not the only time though.
When I was in my final year, we had this thing of signing ‘autographs’ in each other’s books before the national exams.
Basically writing something good about the person because we may not see each other ever again.
I passed my book around, waiting to see the good things people had to say about me. I remember one girl refused to sign my book, she said that I had a habit of interfering with people’s friendships.
I hang out with the people who did not want my company so to speak. What did I miss? I am yet to know.
When I was in high school, the one girl I thought was a friend said some very nasty things about me just before the national exams.
To be specific, I am the one who insisted on being her friend, and she could not wait to finish school and cut ties. ????????
And here I was buying her a souvenir! This is someone we did everything together. We studied together, played the same sport and shared a dorm. I must have missed something, again.
It hurts to date. It does. Maybe that is why I have 4 friends. The smaller the circle, the safer it is.
I hope I have never made anyone feel the way those incidences made me feel. If I did, I genuinely apologize.
Nobody should be made to feel like that. Nobody. Regardless of their race, status or whatever other means people use to measure the level of respect to accord others.
And for those ”friends’ I thought I had, I have forgiven you all. You probably do not remember any of this, but I forgive you anyway.
And from this day onwards, I will not carry this pain with me. I let it go.
So the first habit I must have learned from these incidents was how to protect myself from people who may potentially hurt me.
But you see, it’s difficult to define who will and who won’t. At least not at face value, and you will never know someone’s intentions until you give them a chance.
So for my first assignment, I will learn how to make friends. I have almost zero skills in this but since I have 4 friends I cannot be that badly off.
The habit loop and Cure
Looking at my habit loop, it is probably something like this.
Cue– Friendly stranger or weak link acquaintances.
Routine– Say as little as possible and hold as much information as possible.
Rewards– No humiliation. No hurt. I am safe.
Changing this is probably going to be a risky business. Risky because I am used to protecting rather than taking the risk and maybe being hurt.
I am preparing myself mentally on how I will handle hurt in the event that it occurs. This is what I plan on doing.
Realize that this is an experiment.
It is bound to work or fail. However it goes, I will have results of what worked and what did not.
I will not beat myself up
Over the years I have realized that I am enough. I may not always feel this way, and I sometimes doubt myself.
However, that does not mean that I am any less interesting as a person, or less deserving. I am just human.
If my enough is not enough for someone else, that is not my fault and I will not beat myself up for it. I am enough.
Meet as many people as possible
In sales, you are likely to pitch your idea to a lot of people before you get a conversion. using the same logic, not everyone I meet will buy my product, that is, be my friend. Most will remain, strangers, some will become weak link acquaintances and even fewer will become friends.
By the end of 2019, my desired habit loop will be something like this.
Cue: Friendly stranger
Routine: Smile and start a conversation with something common like the weather, or a compliment.
Reward: No humiliation. No hurt. I am safe. And even if there is humiliation or hurt, at least I tried.
To help me learn how to make friends, I plan to read the famous book by Dale Carnegie ‘How to win friends and influence people.
Cheers to making friends!