This post is the second in a BreakfastinMoscow series on friendship. To see more on the subject, click here.
Do you find it easy to make friends? Do you struggle? I do!
Relationship dynamics change when you move to a new city or country. They change when you get married, when you change jobs, when you have kids.
Moscow has its own challenges for making and keeping friends. Expat communities are vicious for the rate at which they snatch friends away from you. Cities are notoriously lonely.
I’ve been thinking about friendships a lot this summer, and there are a few habits I’ve noticed that have helped me make and keep friends in Moscow:
- Be lonely. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I think being lonely is the first step towards making new friends. If you’re not hungry for friendship, then you won’t be ready for a new friend when they land on your doorstep (or cubicle or church pew or metro car). I love that verse in the Bible that says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I think it’s talking about humility. If you’re low, hungry and sad, then you’re in a position to be comforted and fed.
- Be intentional. For me, this is not just an attitude of constantly scouting for new friends, but it also means setting up boundaries with work so that I can pursue relationships when not in the office. It means calling people in advance to set up coffee or lunch ‘dates’ to get together.
- Be the initiator. There’s this insecure part of me that totally fears rejection if I tell someone I like them, or that I want to get together for coffee. Actually, though, I’ve found that most people are just as hungry as I am for a real connection. If I initiate and set up the time/place, most people are really grateful for it.
- Be open and vulnerable. Another very insecure part of me holds back at first when I’m just starting to get to know someone. Part of this is natural and totally fine – you don’t want to freak people out with your deepest, darkest secrets, and trust is only built up over time. At the same time I think it’s important to share who you are with people. If I initiate with vulnerability, like talking about something I’m struggling with, I’ve more often than not found people responding with their own vulnerability and openness. Sometimes I just have to take the first risk.
- Be sincere. I want a friend that I can be honest with; someone I can relax with. I want a friend that I can call last-minute to go to a concert with, and that will also be there to support me if I need help, or just to stand with me as I struggle through something. When it comes down to it, I simply want a friend that likes me for who I am and likes being with me. I want a sincere friend. In order to have that sort of friend, I have to be willing to be that sort of friend. You have to sincerely like someone to be friends with them. And I think that, if you’re genuinely seeking friendship, people can sense that.
What do you think? Do you agree? What would you add to this list? What habits make for good, strong friendships?
P.S. The above Ed van der Elsken 1954 “Love on the Left Bank” photo was found here.