It’s much easier to make new friends when you’re a child. You go to school, spend time with other people like yourself, and over time that friendship builds. When you’re an adult, some of these friendships are built in the office, but how many would you consider to be real friendships? The answer to how to build genuine friendships is to think about how these were formed as a child.

1) Don’t “network”!

The big problem with growing up is that people tell you that you should “network”. And the issue with this mentality is that people go around meeting other people with an intention or purpose, whether as someone useful to them in the present of in the future. That’s a really horrible way to meet people. Why? Well, imagine if you knew someone was talking to you because they wanted something from you. You would be polite and talk to them, sure, but you would never consider them to be a friend, and if anything, you probably can’t wait for them to leave.

As a child, we naturally look for people we enjoy hanging out with, people with the same attitudes to life. We don’t choose our friends based on their “value” to us.

So when you talk to someone new, have a genuine interest in getting to know who they are, and be willing to also show them who you are, and not think about how they can help you.

2) Spend more time together, doing different things

Meeting someone once or twice is not the foundation for strong friendships. See if there are common areas or activities that everyone enjoys doing, and then go on and do it. Children are forced to go to class together, and because they didn’t know anyone else, they would spend time together after class, doing sports or any other activities they enjoy doing. If you have colleagues in the office that you would want to get to know better as friends, organise badminton, dinner, or something that can get everyone to come out after work or over the weekends. When you meet at different places in a different context, that builds familiarity. If it’s not someone you see all the time, make a point of catching up every three months or so.

3) Be weak (sometimes), and let them in

Children don’t mask their feelings. And because other children can see who you really are, it’s easier to build real friendships this way. As we grow up, most adults get more guarded, because we are careful about what society thinks of us. Vulnerability is considered to be weak, and therefore we choose to have a strong front, masking who we really are, so as to not be judged. But when it comes to being a true friend, if people can’t see your true self, or what you really think, you will struggle to build a bond with them. Be willing to drop that smile every now and then, and show them when you are weak. The fact that you are willing to show them your weak side is a sign of trust, and over time, they will open up to you also.

Final thoughts

Birds of a feather flock together. It’s true. Don’t be in a group of friends that are negative and keep pulling you down. Choose to be a positive person, and you will attract other positive people around you.

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Posted by Derek Toh

Derek is the founder and CEO of WOBB.CO. He was part of the pioneer batch for the Stanford-MaGIC Entrepreneurship Program, and is also a mentor for McKinsey & Company's Youth Leadership Academy. Derek is on a mission to revolutionise work culture in Asia. He cares about initiatives that improve education and the talent market. Derek is also a big fan of superhero movies, and has been told that he drinks too much coffee during the day.