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Thursday, September 14, 2017

It’s natural to drift apart from your circle of friends as you grow up. But it needn’t be that way. Purva Indulkar tells you how to maintain your childhood friendships

When we were kids, making friends was second nature to us. We would spend six hours a day with a motley bunch at school and a few hours after school with a messy group playing cricket. Making friends came to us rather instinctively; we didn’t have to put any effort into it.

By the time we were in college, the clothes we wore, the phones we used and the field of study we chose limited our friend circle. And now, as we reach an age where we are finally independent and on our own terms successful, we find ourselves more than a little isolated and just a little lonely.

Of course, we post radiant pictures of ourselves online from our latest holiday, but we are emotionally very distant from the people we once cared deeply about. It is either that we can’t find the time or don’t want to put in the effort to keep in touch with our old friends.

Maintaining friendships is difficult, and it gets even more difficult when we have friends at different life stages. You are moving abroad to pursue your dream, while your best friend is stuck in a job they hate; you’re about to have a beautiful baby, but your friend is still worried about whether or not she’ll pass her exams; you’re going through a divorce, while your friend is falling in love. Or maybe there is an age difference or a physical distance between the two of you. In all these situations, you’ll need to make an extra effort to keep the friendship going and growing. Here’s how.

Focus on what brings you close
Many times, especially in our twenties and thirties, we find ourselves surrounded by ‘frenemies’. These are people who are our friends, but also our rivals. They want to help us find a new job, but they don’t want us to find a better job than theirs. We’re friends, but we’re also competitors.

This can also happen if your job pits the two of you against each other. If a close friend is your colleague, it is natural to find yourself wanting more attention and praise than them. But, while we carry these childish tendencies with us far into adulthood, they do not have to damage our friendships.

If your friend has bagged a deal that you wanted, you may harbour feelings of resentment (at least initially); however, join them in celebration. They will do the same when you get a project you badly wanted. Instead of fixating on all the things that divide you, think about all the reasons you care about this person and want to support them.

Communicate constantly
Communication comes in many forms. You don’t have to take an hour out every week to meet them in person; nowadays committing to anyone is difficult, even if they’re a friend. We’re so busy that we don’t have time for our families! But, it’s important to stay in touch in whatever way possible.

Unlike what most people might tell you, we would argue that you should use social media more often. Let your friends know what you are up to and keep an eye on what experiences they are sharing. Or get a little more personal and send a text; even if they’re busy, they’ll reply when they can. A simple “Haven’t spoken to you in a while. How are you?” can go a long way when it comes to staying in touch.

Find time to call your friends and relatives once in a while. A few words of support will help ease their burden, especially if they’ve experienced something difficult. Even if all you can do to stay in touch is ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on their photographs, that is still better than not being connected at all.

Be a picky friend
When we were in school, we were friends with practically the whole classroom. But as we grew older, our friend circle became smaller and more closed off. So now, in your adulthood, it is the right time to truly decide which friends you want to stay connected with.

Of course, we all have the kind of friends who we make small talk with, but we’re talking about the friends that you call on when you are facing a challenge or have a difficult decision to make — the kind of friends that you can rely on. Then it won’t matter even if you are in different stages of life.

Decide which of your friends have helped you grow, accepted you for who you are and stood by you in times of need. These are the people you should make time for; so skip a party where you’ll just be expected to engage in some small talk and make time for your besties, even if you feel that it might be awkward or difficult to do. Take the road less travelled some of the time. It will do you good in the long run.

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