“What we’re all striving for is authenticity, a spirit-to-spirit connection.” — Oprah Winfrey
I recently had business meetings in NYC on a Monday. I took advantage of flying up there the weekend prior and scheduled catch-up time with several friends. Two of the friends lived in or near NYC so it was easy for us to get together. Two of the friends also had to come in from out of state. It took more effort to connect.
NYC is a great place, but we could have been anywhere. We talked and talked and talked … and apart from the sounds of NYC outside the cafes and restaurants we met at, we could have been in the middle of nowhere. All that mattered is that we were focused on each other, talking and reconnecting. Just this past week, a woman at my gym asked me what my favorite places were in Atlanta to hang out. Her best friend from middle school was coming to town for a long weekend. They hadn’t seen each other in 12 years and she wanted to show her around. I suggested that it was less about what they were going to see or do, and more about just catching up with each other.
I call my NYC weekend my “weekend of connecting.” Starting on Friday night, my husband and I googled “cozy warm small intimate Italian restaurants in New York City.” After a busy holiday season and a chaotic start to the year, we wanted to spend a quiet evening eating good food, drinking good wine, and connecting. We talked for hours until we realized we were the last couple in the restaurant. The next morning I set out to meet up with a friend who started off as a work acquaintance. We’ve only seen each other in person three times in our lives, but have developed a phone friendship that results in some really great dialogues. Our “quick-catch-up” ended up being a 2 ½ hour lunch.
Later that afternoon, I met another friend for a cup of tea. This friend is someone who I hired as an intern many, many years ago. We’ve always stayed in touch, and while I haven’t seen her in nearly 3 years, we spent 2 hours and several cups of green tea just talking and talking. That night I attended a business dinner with a group of people I didn’t know well or didn’t know at all. I was expecting the normal “surface” conversation, not deep connections, but was so incredibly pleased when our dinner-time conversation turned very real as we talked about our “word for the year” and what it meant to us.
The next day I visited one of my newer friends. I met her 3 years ago, and have only seen her 3 times, but she and I sat together and spoke for 2 hours. What I love is that this friend asks about me, my husband, my kids. She remembers our conversations and follows up on them the next time we talk. She is genuinely interested. She’s twice my age (and that’s pretty advanced!).
I realize I am at my best when I feel as if I am “connecting” with the people who are important in my life. We get so busy and caught up in our day-to-day lives that we forget to press pause and just be, and be with, and be real with one another.
Here’s my list of a few things that are important to me in my friendships:
1. Real friends initiate and reciprocate … they reach out to me just as much as I reach out to them … it’s a balance of deposits and withdrawals.
2. Real friends don’t allow the passage of time or distance to impact our ability to just pick right back up where we left off last time we saw each other … be that last week, last year, or last decade.
3. Real friends are the ones I know I can be totally honest with and have confidence that they will never bring things back and throw them in my face … this allows total vulnerability and honesty in our conversations.
4. Real friends ask about me, my family, my work and take a genuine interest in what is going on in my life … it’s a combination of asking and telling.
5. Real friends will call me out when they think I’m not being honest with myself … they will challenge me to be my best … because they honestly want the best for me.
“Side by side, or miles apart, good friends are always close to the heart.”
What about you? What would you add to the list of things that real friends do?
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” (2010) in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys, and “The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view” (2013) to provide perspectives on love, marriage, divorce and everything in between. The books are available on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.HighRoadLessTraffic.com.