A social network comprises a group of friends and acquaintances that share similar interests, careers or both. Building a social network online can also mean gaining an audience that will in turn benefit your career or your political clout. Building an effective social network will mean that you will always have contacts to help you with your personal or career endeavors. In fact, it can help to have separate networks for both. Expand your social network through person-to-person interactions, and keep in touch via social media.
But it hasn’t all been an easy ride. For example, one of my best friends is my ex-husband. It took years of work to move through heart-ache, anger, grief, and resentment in order to find the strong friendship we have now. To create a true friendship takes a lot of effort and dedication.
A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away. ~Arabian Proverb
How I Lost a Heap of Fake Friends (and Gained a Few True Ones)
In the past, I learned a hard lesson about friends. I was a professional musician at the time and Director of one of the oldest and most renowned music schools in Australasia. My life seemed to be going fine: I was in a good marriage, had great job with a high public profile, and was a popular friend of many.
Or so I thought. Then things disintegrated: I lost my job, and my husband and I separated.
Suddenly, I had no social standing, and all the people who I thought were my friends disappeared overnight. It was a dark time. Then a couple of people rang me and said they wanted to spend time with me. I asked them, “Why now?”
One of them said, “Oh, I’ve wanted to be your friend for a long time now. But I had to wait until you got knocked off your pedestal and came down to earth again!” These people are still staunch friends today.
What I learned from that difficult time is that you can miss out on real friendships if you just focus on success. When we are vulnerable, down-to-earth, and modest, it’s easier to attract real friends.
But what is the secret of attracting friends?
It’s not what we do that attracts friends, it’s how we think. If we change how we think about others, we can become a magnet for new friends.
It’s seductive to focus on the faults of others. That’s because we often put other people down in the hope of elevating ourselves. But when we focus on what is lovely about others, something magical happens: We begin to feel different about them, and they in turn respond to us in a new, positive way.
Here are seven simple tips that will help you to attract new friends:
1. Focus on the good in people.
None of us is perfect. We all have traits that make us difficult to live with. It’s easy to focus on what is difficult. Instead, look for what is good and strong. If you do catch yourself focusing on negative aspects, remind yourself that you too have faults.
If you look at ancient Buddha figures, they usually show a serene smile. It’s a kind of visual teaching, because when we smile, we become mindful and step out of our preoccupation. No matter how you connect with others, remember to smile. Whether you’re connecting face-to-face, or via Twitter, email, chat, Skype, or phone, your inner and outer smile will be felt by the person you are connecting with.
3. Let go of grudges.
Do you stew over how others have treated you? It can be difficult to release yourself from negative thoughts about how someone harmed you or made you unhappy. Such negative thoughts are corrosive and will harden your heart. So let them go and focus on the beauty of the present moment instead.
4. Be a positive mirror for others.
I you want to be a friend to someone, make sure you let them know all the wonderful things you can see in them. There is a lovely poem by Galway Kinnell that talks about this:
… sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.
This poem shows us what it is to be a good friend. We need to reteach our friends their loveliness, in words and in touch.
5. Be helpful.
The key to creating lasting friendships is to think about what you can do for friends. They key question is: what do they need? For example, a friend of mine recently lost her father. At a time like that, help is important. So I’ve been cooking meals for her, just to make things easier and to let her know that I care.
6. Be kind.
My aspiration in life is this: kindness is never out of place. Mind you, I don’t always manage to live up to it. But that’s the nature of aspirations—they are the stars by which we navigate our lives. Though they light up our path, we can never reach them.
7. Be grateful.
It’s easy to take friends for granted. But if you want to strengthen your friendships, do the opposite. Think of your friends with gratitude. And then express your gratitude to them in words and deeds. Everyone loves being valued.