Friday, August 26, 2016

Veronica, Joy, and our Circle of Friends

A couple of people have asked my why I am co-authoring this blog with Joy when I am married to Veronica. The answer is simple. Both Joy and I want to expand our friendship circles. Veronica is glad to cooperate in any way we wish, but she does not feel the same need to make more friends.

There are many reasons for this. First, as a doctor, Veronica spends time regularly with people who really need her. Because she works at a breast care center, many of her clients suffer from cancer and are quite ill. At the end of the week, she prefers to spend time alone and with the family - she does not feel much need for more human contact. By contrast, both Joy and I spend a lot of time alone. We both write. When our work is done we want to get out and spend time with other people.

And Veronica is also very devoted to the family. Her Mom, Zoya, spends a lot of time with us during the garden season. The two of them work on the organic garden together, growing the fruits and veggies we eat from April through November. This takes up a lot of time and effort.

Also, Veronica is a devoted daughter. About five years ago, Zoya had a stroke. She made a good recovery, but lost some use of her right arm and leg. Then two years ago, she took a serious fall and had to have a hip and a femur replaced, slowing her down further. Zoya loves the water; she was in her youth a serious extreme athlete, winning the all soviet union female sea kayaking championship two years running when she was 19 and 20. But now at 86, and with limited use of her limbs, she finds it difficult to swim. Veronica takes her out to the beach two, three and sometimes four times a week during the warm weather, places her in a life vest, and pulls her along while she 'swims' so that she can enjoy the ocean and get some exercise.  This also takes up quite a bit of time, but both of the 'girls' enjoy the beach and water, and especially enjoy their close relationship.

Veronica is also a devoted Mom. Our son has always needed some extra assistance and encouragement in his studies. Veronica and I home schooled him until high school, and then, when he was ready to drop out of high school, we enrolled him in an on-line school and assisted him while he learned at home. We repeated this process with his university studies. Veronica has until recently often been at his side, learning with him and coaching him. I was also very active in homeschool, but have not played as direct a role in his university studies.

Add to all of this that Veronica is more self-contained than I am. She can spend long hours just looking out the window at the birds and squirrels and butterflies and flowers.

Long story short, Veronica has less need of additional human contact than I; she is quite satisfied with our current circle of friends. But as I said, she is always willing to assist. Meanwhile, Joy has introduced us to just about every friend we have in Connecticut, so she is a natural partner for me in this friendship - expansion project.

I wonder whether other couples experience similar imbalances in their friendship seeking? Why not add a comment and let us know.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hold Five-Minute Conversations with Perfect Strangers

I was searching YouTube videos on the topic “How to Make Friends” and ran across a podcast by Matthew Hussey. I explored more of Matthew's writings and learned that Matthew recommends putting many, many people in your “friendship funnel.” He recommends talking to everyone: the service people, the people in front of or in back of you in line, the person beside you on the subway, a person walking on the street. He also recommends setting a goal of three five-minute conversations a day with strangers.

I decided to put this exercise into practice that very day. At one point in time I spoke on the phone with my Internet provider. The representative paused as she waited for a screen to load. During that pause, as I watched my contractor work, I voiced my thought, “My contractor brought his little girl with him today; she’s helping him and she’s so cute!” Leticia eagerly jumped in the conversation. “That is adorable! I’m pregnant so I have babies on my mind!” Thus began a ten-minute conversation. We talked about how to prevent other people from giving sugar to our children, her best friend and how cute little girls are. I did, eventually, bring the conversation back to fixing my service, but felt far happier for the interaction. I’m sure Leticia did too.

Americans, in general, are very good at talking with strangers. Most people are open to the idea, enjoy the interaction and are great at volunteering information and asking questions to keep the conversation going. So why isn’t more of this going on? Why aren’t people happily engaged with the people around them all day long?

Some people feel isolated and disconnected from the people around them. Never fear, opening up conversations with strangers will solve that!

Sometimes folks don’t dare to speak to the people around them. This fear may come from the don’t-talk-to-strangers lessons we learned as children. A few conversations will help dispel the notion that strangers are dangerous. Most people are friendly and happy for a chance to connect with the people around them.

People might forget to interact with others is their minds are full of thoughts. Of course, there are always times to focus and get things done, but I find that even in business, if I show interest in the people I work with and spend a few minutes chatting, things get done faster.  

The day that I decided to hold 5-minute conversations with strangers held a special electricity. It seemed that I had broken down some invisible barrier and freed up some magical cosmic energy. I felt much happier and freer at the end of that day than at the beginning.

Benefits of talking with strangers include seeing the world as a friendlier place, feeling more strongly connected to others, feeling a greater degree of freedom and enjoying moments that otherwise might be spent waiting and breaking out of habitual thought into new territory.

How can you begin more of these five-minute conversations with strangers?
  • Voice a random thought. You might be surprised that the thought isn’t so random and that the other person can relate to it.
  • Compliment another person about something he or she is wearing. Or you could ask that person where they got the item.
  • Wear something unusual. I sometimes wear a very unique pendant that often leads to conversations with strangers.
  • Ask a question. Let’s say you see someone in front of you in the grocery store and they’re buying an unusual item. You could ask how they cook it or if that item is especially tasty. Just voicing your questions out loud to the next person you see can lead to

    a conversation. People love to share their knowledge!