It's hard to make friends when you're out of college, hanging in this crazy place called the "real world". This week's guest post, from Aliza Kellerman, teaches you how to do that - without giving away your chocolate. Enjoy!
“Did you let yourself into my room and use my calamine lotion?”
I stared up at my friend, scratching the angry mosquito bites I’d picked up in Mexico. “Yeah, why?”
“Aliza, you can’t just go into someone’s room and use their stuff without asking.”
That’s news to me!
As the youngest of four children raised in a house where hollering was the chosen method of communication and private property was a nice ideal never employed, I’ve never been good understanding boundaries. I’m a sharer, a “let’s-swap-dinner-plates” kind of gal. And it doesn’t always sit right with everyone.
Here’s the thing: I totally get why people want to keep their stuff theirs. For many, sharing is something you do when you’re already intimately familiar with someone. It’s a true manifestation of trust. But for me, sharing is a way offorging an emotional bond, solidifying the fact that “hey, we both like each other!” I want people to wear my shirts, drink my beer, and frankly, pick food off of my plate. To me, sharing begets love, not vice versa. And I came by that train of thought honestly. When I arrived at my new job, my mother suggested I put a dish of chocolates on my desk, figuring people would naturally come over, take some, and consequently make conversation with me. Of course, I ended up eating each and every last Dove milk chocolate egg, giving me stomach cramps and no friends.
I was eventually able to convince people that I wasn’t so bad after all, but I didn’t do it through handing out candy or offering up my coat. Making friends in a new environment, especially at a fresh workplace, is hard. The quick fix I often pined for doesn’t seem to exist, so here are some tips to help you avoid being the chocolate goon.
1. Don’t talk before you listen.
This is one that I feel people (myself included) miss all the time, and for good reason. Just as I over share my stuff, I over share my life. From quirky childhood anecdotes (they’re funny, I promise!) to gastrointestinal issues, I tend to talk about stuff no one really cares about. It’s a natural thing to do: by throwing out facts about ourselves, we’re hoping to find things in common with the person we’re friendship-courting. However, it’s much more effective to listen, be interested, and avoid self-relation. Lending a good ear, even with no real insight, is a unique thing in this day and age, and it will always be appreciated.
2. When someone complains, let’em go at it and don’t fuel the fire.
Did you ever hate on your university but get oddly defensive of it when anyone else spoke an ill word? Chock it up to protective instincts, but this is just something we humans do. When your would-be friend is vocalizing discontent with some aspect of her life, resist the temptation to pipe in with your own adjoining complaints. I’m all for kvetching, so a hint of solidarity at whatever your potential friend is complaining about is good, but don’t pile on a ton of whining.
3. Don’t offer romantic advice. Not yet, at least.
You’re well-meaning, and you could be more romantically seasoned than Don Draper, but you still don’t have a firm grip on the situation. I have a visceral opposition to other peoples’ heartbreak, and my immediate instinct is to try and launch in and make everything better, no matter how recently I met The Sufferer. However, a simple, “I’m here if you need anything,” speaks volumes more than elaborate advice.
4. Do share, but don’t expect the same treatment back.
I’ll never give up thrusting my food into other peoples’ faces (I’m Jewish, after all), but I’ve learned over time that no matter how many times I offer something up, some people simply don’t like sharing. And no one on either side of the coin is weird or emotionally stunted or obnoxious.
Are you a sharer, or more reserved? How do you nurture new friendships?
Aliza Kellerman is an NYC based booze & food writer, an employed twenty-something, and an avid kvetcher. She sips and noshes her way through misadventures while befriending strangers and discovering new interests. Aliza is always on the hunt for new bars and restaurants, so if you’re part of the NYC booze & food scene, there is a 99% chance she wants to interview you and sing your praises. Check out her blog at here, follow her here, and browse her portfolio here.