What matters most in life is relationships. They define the quality of your time on Earth and determine the legacy you leave behind. Reaching out to people and letting them into your heart offers you – and them – the warmth and comfort that only deeply caring friends can bestow.
So why aren’t more of us able to establish these critical connections? The answer’s simple – fear. And getting past it is the first hurdle to building lasting, meaningful relationships. Facing your fear isn’t easy, but in relationship building, like bodybuilding, it’s no pain, no gain.
Many of us fear opening up because we’ve chosen badly in the past – making ourselves vulnerable to people who aren’t trustworthy and who used our openness against us. Before you can open your heart to someone, you have to be able to trust that person. So look for a potential friend who has a reputation for being reliable and who you look up to and respect – someone who you feel can keep your confidences. Ask around: does this person have a reputation for gossiping and talking about other people’s personal business, or is he or she able to maintain confidences?
Then have coffee with your prospective friend and discuss what you have to offer and what you expect in return. First agree that your conversations will remain confidential, so you’ll both feel safe sharing your feelings. Pledge that you’ll honor each other’s feelings as each other’s absolute truths, to be listened to without opinion or judgment. Of course, you can argue personal opinions about politics, current events, science, sports, music, art, and whatever other interests you have; but accept that each of you is the ultimate authority on his or her feelings.
If you’ve gone through an issue similar to one your friend’s dealing with, such as divorce, share how you felt, what you did that worked and didn’t work, and what you learned. Offering your individual experience on an emotional level gives your friend valuable information that he or she can evaluate and use to make a personal decision. It’s a caring, openhearted response that honors and supports your friend’s strength and decision-making ability. The more conversations like this that you and your new friend have, the more willing you’ll both be to share deeper and deeper issues with each other. And so, your friendship will continue to deepen.
I learned this lesson the hard way. Until I was in my forties, I was a lone wolf who had only superficial and fleeting relationships and no friends. I embraced these simple principles, and twenty years later I have many openhearted friendships. It was hard to let go of my fear, but I did, and it’s the most important work I’ve ever done. Because I now have many intimate friendships based on mutual respect, trust, and love.
So, open your heart before it’s too late. Life is for sharing, caring and connecting. Reach out now!