“I can’t believe he did it again,” I complained to my co-worker.
She laughed, “It’s what he always does. He asks for your input then completely ignores it.”
I laughed. Then we both laugh a little harder.
It felt good to connect with Amy in this way. We were having fun together.
Then after the conversation was over I felt this sinking feeling. I knew exactly what it was. I was connecting with Amy through complaining. It felt good in the moment, but this is the foundation for our relationship. We complain every time we get together.
When you share things that irritate you with a friend, you are looking to connect with them through a shared pain. This complaining is the foundation of your friendship.
When you share things you love, you connect through love.
Making this small mindset shift can make a huge difference in your ability to connect and sustain connections with your friends.
Next time you are hanging out with a friend try asking them…
“Are you working on any cool projects?”
Now watch as their demeanor shifts. Their voice will probably rise up. They’ll probably get excited to talk about their project.
The key part and maybe the most difficult is not to jump in and talk about your own project. It’s important that you listen to understand. Ask them questions about what they are working on so you get a better idea of the project. Here are 21 questions to ask yourself every Monday morning.
If they say they aren’t working on any projects then just ask them…
“Do you have any upcoming plans?”
If they don’t have any upcoming plans then maybe you just change the subject. They probably just don’t feel like sharing right now. That's ok too. Not everyone likes to connect in this way.
The important part of all this is asking people about themselves so they can share something that they enjoy doing.
If you don’t like these two questions you can try these…
- What are you working on right now?
- What kind of things do you do to grow in your career?
- What is the best thing you ever created?
- How do you keep everything in balance?
This last one has led to some surprising answers. I like this question because it allows them to talk about things that might stress them out and how they balance it out with a positive action.
Another way to do this is if you know you have a passion in common. Maybe you both like hiking and you are planning an upcoming trip. Asking them where they would recommend for a good hiking trip is a great way to engage them and deepen the relationship.
It’s easier to talk about things that bother us by complaining about a coworker, but this is a slippery slope. One that you might fall back on every time you talk to that person. If this is the foundation of your relationship then you are building a friendship with someone that doesn’t empower you. It just pushes someone else down.
Ultimately it’s your choice and not any easy one. I know I struggle with falling back into old habits. Every time I do, I remind myself to focus on connecting from a place of passion. When I do, I have a much more meaningful conversation and it's with these people that I have lasting friendships with.
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