I Missed an Opportunity to Make a Friend

I hoped to have an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with a person I did not know well. She made a claim that caught my attention because it challenged what I know. My thought was, aha, this is an opportunity to get to know her better. This is an opportunity to gain a new friend.

two white women, one older, one younger, on a red sofa, artwork on the wall behind them.

Through conversation, we gain new relationships by exploring new ideas and discovering how they complement, expand, or even change, our beliefs.

We all love to talk. Conversation – the mutual interchange of ideas – is one of the most pleasant experiences we have. Conversation binds us together in new relationships and keeps our existing relationships strong. We confirm we belong when we find common ground and we stretch ourselves when we are open to hearing contrary ideas.

Eager to hear a contrary idea, I engaged her by asking for one or more examples of what she meant. Unfortunately, my question was taken as a confrontation and it quickly became clear she wasn’t willing to have her own viewpoint challenged. As a result, she ended the conversation before I could tell her about the common ground we share.

When someone’s ideas differ from ours, we can choose to learn more about what they think and why, or we can decide to move on. When that person with incomprehensible ideas is part of our own family, we are more motivated to understand their point of view. We might even desperately look for some common ground so that we can repair a relationship or divert a conversation from heading to a shouting match, or worse.

One of the greatest challenges we have in building strong relationships with people who think differently is in listening to their ideas in a way of open acceptance. In my situation, I realized too late that I should have expressed my interest differently in order to show her we share common ground and to make her comfortable to explore ideas that challenge her own thinking.

Obviously, I don’t have a tried and true way of navigating this kind of situation.

I do know that I feel myself becoming energized and more creative simply by listening to ideas that challenge my assumptions, break my usual thought patterns, and in general shift my perspective. I also know that learning about new ideas provides a frame of reference for me to understand others who are not like me and makes it easier to hold conversations and build relationships.

Great conversation does not always come easily. A great conversation begins when two people feel at ease talking with one another based on some idea or belief they both hold. When I failed to convey that we share certain ideas, I failed to show her a great conversation was possible. I lost that opportunity to make a friend.

Life Is Honest, Open and True:  We build relationships when we are open to hearing others express their ideas and then express the common ground with our own ideas. Sometimes the challenge is in sticking with the conversation long enough to discover where our ideas or beliefs overlap.

What tips do you have for me on how to handle a challenging interaction? Write your suggestions in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!

Related Posts: Open Conversations

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Can I Hear You?

Assumption – The Root of All Miscommunications

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0 Responses to I Missed an Opportunity to Make a Friend

  1. Pingback: How do I Get to Know You? | LifeIsHOTblog

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  4. Also there are times with what you ‘think’ is a friendship, except you’re the one who’s “being the friend”. In those cases where it becomes totally one sided, and the other person shows no interest back, then you don’t have a true friendship… It’s then just an acquaintance!

    A true friendship goes much deeper, then that of knowing a co-worker, neighbor, or someone that you deal with regularly and have contact with. We have various friendly and respectful relationships all the time with hundreds of people.

    But true friends goes much deeper – It’s personal, it’s caring, it’s celebrations, comforting, being able to count on and turn to them, it’s mentoring, helping, and calling at any hour, and being able to talk about anything. Most of all it’s honesty!! True friends are the one’s who’ll drop anything to help you, and want nothing in return except for continued friendship. There’s even a form of ‘love’ that you feel and closeness and commonalities for the other person, that’s not romantic, or sexual in nature… That to me is what real friendship is! It’s wanting to have the other person be a part of your life!

    But sadly, like with marriages and dating relationships, friendships also change and sour. And what may have once been a close caring relationship, drifts apart, looses interest and becomes cold.

    Often it’s not always mutual feeling, thus one person becomes or get’s hurt as the other one moves away and it breaks up coming to an end. It hurts too because often there was so much time and investment put into it, that it becomes emotional. Then again, some things (friendships and relationships) simply weren’t meant to be, or too last. Then again there comes a time that you realize things are not working out, and you have to suck-it-up like I had to today, and cut the ties to move on from it! Yes, it hurts deeply to do, but if a friendship is not “mutual”, and it doesn’t have all of the 2-way respect, then it’s as I feel, (and felt) was time to end things and move on and focus on people who bring you joy and do not drag you down.

  5. Interesting! I probably have lots to say on this subject… The problem is, more often than not, people simply aren’t always ‘honest, open, and true’! Personally I know of two over the past year like that.

    Relationships are like plants, they have to be fed, need time and lots of attention in order to grow. Many times the friendships that we want to cultivate with other’s, simply is not a two way street. The more I think about those that never grew, the more I see in hindsight, that the elements that bond true friendships were missing, or they went astray as you point out with a simple comment in jest, a misunderstanding, or a differing viewpoint.

    People need to understand that you can be friends on all different levels. For example; Just because you have differing religious, or political views, doesn’t make the other person bad. Sometimes the best way to remain friends, and not get into a silly argument is to avoid bringing those subjects up, and instead focus on the things you do share and have in common.

    Perhaps we can discuss this further over a martini, or two, or three, or floor? If nothing else, I’m sure that we will have lots of jocular banter, and I promise that we won’t throw you out!!!!

    • You made a great point — it’s not necessary to agree with each other on everything, and its fine to mutually agree certain topics are off limits because one or both of you find discussing them to cause personal discomfort.

  6. Intent vs. outcome. It happens quite often. Maybe you’ll see this person again and get a do-over.

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