I remember sitting all by myself in my room at university. I was thinking about all the people I had met, all the connections I made and all the friends that wanted to keep in touch with me.
I also remember seeing my phone and my social media profiles without a single message.
It was a feeling of loneliness that didn’t seem to pass, no matter what I did.
I would meet new people, talk to them, make a connection, but it never seemed to stick. I would never hear back from these friends. Not once.
I graduated from university and moved to a new place with the same amount of friends that I had before. Something had to change, because I didn’t want this lonely feeling to last.
So I thought about how I was approaching people. I was wondering why no one was contacting me.
I always imagined myself to be a great friend. I’d listen to my friends’ problems, I’d support them when they needed me, and I’d always be there to help them out when they needed it.
Not only was that a severe overestimation of my abilities, I realized that I had been thinking of making friends as a passive process. One where I sat back, relaxed and waited for friends to come to me.
But I hadn’t given people a reason to believe that I could be a great friend. More importantly, I hadn’t actually tried to show people that I could be a great friend.
I knew I had to take more responsibility to find the people that mattered, so I went on a journey to find them.
Instead of just thinking about the friend I could be, I decided to show people the friend that I wanted to be.
I went from being a passive onlooker to an active friend.
I Started Checking In With People Every Week
Every time I met someone new and received their contact details, I would send them a message saying it was nice to meet them.
After that, I would leave them a short message every weekend asking how things were going.
It wasn’t anything big, but I made sure that people knew I was available to talk, and was interested in what was going on.
You would think simple messages like these were just a very small step, or just me being really annoying. To be honest, I wouldn’t disagree with you. I never expected things to change just because I checked in every week, and I was worried that people would think it was annoying.
But just by sending weekly check-ins, I was able to start conversations with people. I was able to learn more about what they did, and sometimes they would even ask how my week was.
I felt like I was building a bond with people, and it was fantastic.
I Met People Face To Face More Than Once
Personally, I don’t feel that I could be friends with someone who I was never able to meet more than once.
It’s hard to be friends with someone you only meet once, and then never see again.
So every time I made a new friend, I would always see if I could meet them again. It was easier in university when I had classes, but outside of university it was always difficult.
Thankfully, the people that would matter the most to me would appear again and again. They had the same interests as me, and they liked seeing me again.
This also helped me to get someone’s contact details if I couldn’t get it the first time. People enjoyed talking to me, and I had the chance to form a strong bond that you can’t do through texts.
As I spent time with people, while chatting through messages or meeting them in person, I also had to accept another part of meeting people.
Not Everyone That You Meet Will Matter
You can’t be everyone’s friend. You will encounter people who seem like nice individuals, but then turn out to be people that you don’t connect with.
You will also encounter people who say they want to be friends with you, but then never respond to any of your messages.
This happened to me many times when I was contacting friends. People I thought were great turned out to be less-than-wonderful individuals. Some friends I thought I made never replied back to my messages and I had to conclude that they didn’t want to be friends with me.
I sometimes sat back and wondered if I was being too annoying, too intrusive, or I had let one of my bad qualities loose and that didn’t connect with them.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I wouldn’t find the answer to that question very often.
That’s because for every person I met that wasn’t going to be a great friend, I found someone that mattered much more to me.
These would be the people whose time and attention I valued more than anything else. Their company and advice soothed my feeling of loneliness and helped me see the bright side of life.
Whenever I thought about these people, I felt a lot better putting others aside. They didn’t want to be my friend, and that was that.
I was meeting people that mattered to me, and they would be my first priority.
I Did My Best To Give Advice
When you talk to friends on a semi-frequent basis, you learn about a few things that are going on in their lives.
It was never a life-changing event, but some of my friends asked for my opinion on different events.
We wouldn’t always agree on the right decision, but you won’t always agree on everything, especially with the people that you care for.
That being said, I always made sure that I was telling people my honest opinion, and the reasons why I felt that way. I may not have been an expert, but I did my best to help my friends out and supported them when they needed it.
You’d be surprised how many people value your opinion if you’re being honest, and how many people appreciate you taking a stance, rather than giving vague advice that doesn’t actually show people what a suitable action looks like.
Sometimes, my advice didn’t work, and I was afraid. I didn’t want to be seen as someone who was unreliable and didn’t give advice that worked. Sometimes, I was defensive about my advice.
Thankfully, my defensive attitude never lasts very long, and my friends appreciated the fact I was giving advice over the fact that it worked.
I’m never afraid to admit that I’m not an expert in certain areas, and people took that into account when listening to my advice. For them, it was enough to know that I would be there to consult with.
For the people that matter, they know that you being available to talk to is more important than anything you could say.
I Made Them Laugh
Entertaining my friends was something that I did even when I first met them and we were strangers. But I never stopped trying to put a smile on their face and make them laugh.
I’m no comedian, but I like to think I’m quite funny. I enjoy making my friends laugh, and my friends generally enjoy what I say.
Whenever I bring a smile to someone’s face, I feel like they remember me and have a pleasant experience.
The next time they saw me, they feel confident that they can enjoy talking with me and have a nice conversation.
Just entertaining people and making them have a good time, no matter how long it was, was enough to help me see who would matter in my life, and who wouldn’t.
Because people who did matter would also try and entertain me, while others would just sit back and enjoy the one-way ride.
I Met Up With Friends And Tried Asking Them Out
When your friends are comfortable with you, they will ask if you would like to meet up at an event or for a meal.
I would almost always take them up on that offer. It helped me spend more time with them and see what kind of person they are.
Spending time with someone outside of the place you first met them shows you what kind of person they really are. You won’t see this side of them in a group event or in a classroom.
Sometimes I spent time with someone and I discovered that they weren’t the person I thought they were. It was disappointing to know this, but I realized it was better to learn this now than find out later.
I also tried asking friends if they were interested in doing some activities. I’m a very shy person and I’m very afraid of rejection, so it wasn’t easy to ask people out.
I was very afraid of people rejecting me, and ruining all the progress I made. It sounds like a silly thing to be scared of, but it sometimes felt like that was what was happening, especially if it was a female friend who thought I was being a bit too “pushy”.
But sometimes I dove past my fears and honestly, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it was. Some outings succeeded, others didn’t.
Sometimes my fears came true, but that didn’t happen often enough to deter me. Later on, I would realize that the people who turned me down would either learn that I was just being friendly, or that these were people who were not wanting to be friends with me.
Through these events, I would learn who was going to be meaningful to my life and who wasn’t. I would look back at these people and truly understand why they mattered to me, and why I mattered to them.
I Supported People During Their Rough Times, And They Stood With Me
The defining moment of a friendship is when one person has a crisis in their life, and what the other person does to help them.
When I say “crisis”, I don’t necessarily mean a life-threatening event or something that has the potential to derail their whole life.
But events like a painful breakup or a failure in a critical moment can trigger our helpless emotional response. During those times, there’s nothing better than knowing you’re not alone, and that you will get better.
Whenever I found a friend that was going through a rough time, I always gave them my support and did whatever I could to help them out.
When you’re there for someone in a crisis, it means the world to them.
You’d be surprised how many people don’t want to talk about difficult things or the harsh realities that some people experience.
Which is why they are so much more appreciative of you when you offer a hand to support them.
It’s not easy to be someone’s support. Depending on the situation, you might not know what you can do to help them. Something you do to help them might end up making things worse.
But when I was there for someone, I did everything I could to be there. Even if I could only sit back and watch, I stood by them and supported them all the way.
And they overcame their crises and became stronger people for it.
We’re humans, so we will all run into crises at some point. So it’s no surprise that I have crises too.
I seem to run into a few of them every now and then, such as when I lost my job or when my current career path didn’t seem like it was going anywhere.
The people who mattered came and backed me up. They supported me and helped me through. Other people forgot, or didn’t care.
But when you’re experiencing a tough moment in your life, you will easily know who matters and who doesn’t.
The people that matter will stand with you, no matter the crisis, emergency or danger you’re in. @SpiritOnStage (Click to Tweet!)
And Then, My Life Became More Fulfilling
At the end of the journey, I looked back at my phone and my social media profiles.
They were empty, but that’s because I’d just finished checking them all for messages.
I would just message a few friends each day, and they would happily chat with me.
Sometimes, I’d even wake up the next morning with messages from friends, asking how I was doing.
And I knew that I’d met the people that mattered for me.
If you’re worried that you won’t ever find people that will matter to you, will care about you, or will always stand by your side, all you need to do is take a step forward and start a journey.
Those people are out there, and if I could find them, you will too. But sometimes, you need a push to get you started, or a person to help you along the way.
So let’s go together, and let me know what you think of my journey, and how your own search is going.
Victor Tan is a public speaking writer who helps people overcome their weaknesses to be a better speaker. He also enjoys helping people achieve their full potential through self-improvement and reflection. You can find him at his website, Spirit On Stage, Facebook and Twitter.
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