“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.” – Henri Nouwen
“Hey, do you wanna hangout?”
Do you remember being asked that question growing up? Do you or your kids get that question now?
I don’t know what it meant for you, but when I was asked to hang out I quickly learned that it was an invitation to sit around and be bored together. That was the hangout experience – for me at least.
Then, as time passed and friends came and went, I would reflect upon what I missed about those friendships. If you read the quote above and give it some serious thought, and not just a cursory glance, you’ll realize something very important:
That relationships aren’t simply about what we do together, they’re about the experience we create together. What we decide to do is a means to the experience we want to have.
“Hey! Do you want to see a movie?”
“Sure, which one?”
Well do you want to feel inspired, do you want an adrenalin rush, perhaps you want to be educated. The experience you want determines the movie you choose. In fact, it makes more sense to start with the experience you want to have.
“Hey, do you want to do something fun?”
“Yeah, let’s go see a movie.”
See how that cuts to the chase?
The experience you want also determines the friend you want to do it with, doesn’t it? You aren’t going to invite your good friend Debbie Downer or Billy Badmood to the adult comedy that’s going to offend them, are you?
No. What you’re going to do is practice what I call the “friendship three step”, which is simply the answering of these questions:
1. What experience do you want to have (fun, companionship, excitement, adventure)?
2. What activity will help you create that experience (movie, going for a walk, going to a museum)?
3. With whom do you want to share this experience (a sibling, a spouse, a colleague, a friend)?
The key to the three steps is to realize that being with another human being is about co-creating an experience. An experience of fun, adventure, companionship etc. that you both put effort into creating, and ends up being twice the fun. So, choose the person you do it with wisely.
There are, of course, those moments when someone we care about is having a difficult time,and though s/he knows how to enjoy him/herself, s/he needs to be shown the way.That’s when you, a good friend, asks your friend to do something fun.
Your invitation and powerful modeling of what it means to find joy in the experience is exactly what s/he needed to remember the path to joy. Before long, s/he has joined you there.
Thanks for being you.
Brian R. King LCSW is a #1 Best Selling Author, 25-year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. He’s also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He is known worldwide for his books and highly engaging presentations that teach the power of connection and collaboration. His strategies empower others to overcome their differences so they can build powerful and lasting partnerships. His motto is: We’re all in this together.