I’ll be 45 years old this year and, for the most part, my close circle of friends is what it is. Many of those I’m closest to are friendships cultivated from college and my work. The majority of them, however, seem to be those whom I’ve met through my children at various times throughout their development and, because of this, we share many of the same values and interests, an aspect which makes things comfortable. But, as our kids get older, lives and schedules get busy in new ways and people have a more challenging time getting together. Lately I have been making it a point to be open to creating new friendships and widening my circle of what kind of friends I have. I’m trying very hard to be less concerned with us being more alike than finding people who help me expand my own vision of the Universe.
To this effect, Jeff and I have also been looking for new couples outside our normal pool of double dates. A few weeks ago, we met another couple out for dinner and drinks in the charming river city, New Hope, PA. Unlike so many couple dates, this one was male-arranged, born from a new bromance of Jeff’s. They were our age, outgoing, funny and fun to be around. There was rarely a lull in conversation and, all in all, the date was a success and one we’d repeat. There was just one thing that I noticed… while, during the course of the four hour evening I’d learned many things about both of their lives, both personal and professional–as well as talked with them about Jeff’s new business venture– not once did they even ask me what I did.
Now, I don’t expect that everyone is going to be so fascinated by what I do that they clamor to find out, but I know that I always feel like I want to know a little bit of something about all the people at my table–not only because I’m curious but because I think it’s important to bring everyone into the conversational fold feeling valued in some way. I once heard someone on a radio interview who said, for a more thoughtful response, instead of asking people, “What do you do?” ask them, “What do you love to do?” I’ve tried this a few times and, after the initial pause, people seem to appreciate the opportunity to talk about what’s in their hearts and souls–and, often it is actually their work.
Later that week I met my friend, Kathy, for lunch and I was telling her about this experience. She and I have that nice back and forth that leads to all kinds of conversations and plenty of smiles and giggles. After I told her about my double date, she told me she’d recently had a lunch date with another woman who spent thirty minutes interrogating her about her life and, because she’d felt an initial connection with this person, she went on to reveal some rather personal things about herself. But, when it came time for Kathy to ask her date about her life, the woman held up a hand and said, “I’ll talk about that when we know each other better.” Kathy felt put off and a little bit betrayed–not to mention sorry that she’d shared so much with someone who didn’t reciprocate. She wasn’t sure she wanted to put herself in that position again and questioned whether she would exert much more energy in cultivating that friendship if she was going to be the only one playing show and tell.
I have come to realize that I can try to use situations that leave me with a less-than-sweet taste in my mouth as a mirror. It can feel uncomfortable to see parts of myself in this mirror–and it should–but it helps me continue the work of being a better version of myself. I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t ask people about them selves nor do I want to be the person who gets asked and gets cagey and coy. I feel that friendships must have some semblance of equality when it comes to what we know about each other or they will never grow beyond superficiality. And, then, there is the truth that many of us have come to know: At some point in our lives, it becomes more and more important that we focus our efforts on the people, places and activities that enrich our hearts, spirits and lives and that do not require too much in the way of angst or anxiety.
It is a worthy activity to think about what we bring to the table.
TRY THIS WEEK: Think about what you bring to the table.