HavingTime.com featured a post of mine entitled, “The Top 5 Regrets In Life You Should Avoid.” In the article, among other things, I touched briefly on a book written by a palliative nurse called “The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying.” I have not read the book, but I did read the five bullet point regrets, and used them in my post. Now, in this series, I will be delving deeper into each statement, and reflecting on various strategies that we can implement to avoid having the same deathbed regrets.
Deathbed Regret #4:
“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
“There is a scarcity of friendship but not of friends.”
Thomas Fuller’s words apply so heavily to the Facebook generation that it is a shocker to learn he was an English scholar of the 1600’s. He touches on an issue that has plagued humanity for ages, even before smartphones, computers, and social media. Still, it must be at its worse in 2017. I have over 2,000 Facebook friends, yet when I’m home alone on a Sunday night, my most trustworthy companions are a Moscow Mule and two Paradigm speakers crooning Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” It’s never been easier to be so connected and still so lonely.
To try and combat the fourth topmost regret of the dying, “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends,” here are seven lessons I’ve learned on how to make friendships out of friends.
1. Be Reliable.
Especially at a time when someone is only a text away, and a ten-second Snap is meant to fill you in on their entire life, it is easy to avoid the archaic activity of talking on the phone. As ghostly landlines haunt the past and garish beeping of Nextel walkie-talkies still ring in our memories, many have developed what is best described as a phonebia. Even the most confident person can shrink in the awkward silence on the telephone. Picking up the phone, however, is a simple means of intentionality among friends. Quit avoiding calls, and maybe change your ringtone from Michael Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone” to the silky and inviting voice of Adelle’s “Hello.”
In addition to picking up the phone, invest in friendships by being reliable in other ways as well. If you have something planned, follow through. Check up on them about specific details from their life. Show them you care by being dependable as best you can.
2. Be Consistent
Too often, when someone is not an active part of our everyday lives, we allow the relationship to drift away into the horizon behind us. Especially when friends have become a thing of the past, have moved away, or, for whatever reason, are not readily available for a face-to-face hang, it’s vital to continue making consistent strides to build that friendship. Put a reminder on your phone to check in with each other, have a weekly or monthly hangout planned, whether physical or virtual, go visit one another for a weekend. It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, just be consistent!
3. Be Willing To Dive Deep.
Every friendship has its ups, downs, good, bad, and general fluctuations because every person has its ups, downs, good, bad, and general fluctuations. The important thing is to be real with each other and willing to dive deep. You will never have depth in friendship, if neither of you are willing to swim in the deep end. Get into each other’s lives, be honest, and allow one another to be a support. Talk about the topics you don’t want to talk about, use your friend as a sounding board, a listening ear, be vulnerable; talk about the deeper issues, regrets, hopes, dreams, embarrassing stories from the past. It usually only takes one person to be vulnerable for the other to follow suit. But don’t forget: when someone opens up to you, it is a gift. Treat it as such with the utmost respect, appreciation, and care. Give your friend permission to dig into your life, and don’t be afraid to dig into theirs.
4. Be Engaged
A mentor once gave me a piece of incredibly valuable advice. He said, “When you’re talking with someone one-on-one, ask big questions, and listen more than you talk.” The simple statement has been so profound in my life that that’s all I’m going to say. Just remember that advice.
5. Be Happy…Or Sad.
As a bachelor, I lived with one of my best friends, Ian. Content with living like slobs, we laughed together at It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia; we teared up together at the movie, Warrior. But, no matter what we did, he was ever reliable for a solid pick-me-up (Literally, he would pick me up…and hold me. Nothing is more emasculating).
When I struggled, he was there, and when I was elated, he was there. If I needed to spill my thoughts or spew my feelings, he was there. If I needed to laugh for ten minutes about turning off and on a light to a stupid noise we made, he was there. In personal battles, he was there. And in celebrating highlight reels, he was there.
I am lucky to have a couple of friendships that embody the same attribute, especially now with my wife. Of course, it is vital to have people in your life who challenge perspectives, ruts, and actions, but just having someone alongside you through it all is often meaningful enough. It is one of the most valuable aspects of authentic relationships. It is the ability to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
6. Be Deliberate About Social Media
Social media should not be the culprit behind shallow relationships; it should enrich our friendships. When expanding your circle on social media, focus on quality over quantity. There is no reason to clutter your feed like a New York City street. If you can’t (or won’t) brave a conversation with the person in real life, you shouldn’t be Facebook friends.
Instead of collecting numbers on social media, be deliberate, create a circle, and use it in a way that enriches the friendships that matter. Treat your apps like backstage passes. Don’t give access to just anyone in the general public (Check out my post Know The Why Of Social Media.)
7. Be Optimistic.
Lastly, be optimistic. People move away, hit life-altering stages at different times, or just fluctuate between dissimilar seasons. These are facts of life. But especially with the resources available today, and a strong dose of intentionality, you can do your best to maintain healthy, long-lasting, and rich relationships. Make it a goal of yours to grow old with your pals. Make it a priority to have more friendships than you do friends.