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Re: 6 Secrets to Creating Emotionally Intelligent Friendships

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"The key to success is to keep growing in all areas of life - mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical." Julius Erving
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Re: 6 Secrets to Creating Emotionally Intelligent Friendships

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Maybe you've just moved. Possibly you're newly divorced. Or freshly retired. But whatever the reason, older folks frequently find themselves needing or wanting to make new friends and feeling a little sketchy about the process.  This article offers a review of the friendship building process.


But what do you think? Are these solid suggestions? Do you have other suggestions to offer? What works best for you?






"The key to success is to keep growing in all areas of life - mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical." Julius Erving
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6 Secrets to Creating Emotionally Intelligent Friendships

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We all want good, close friends. Problem is, while high school sure had gym class, it didn't have "Emotional Intelligence 101."


So what part of emotional intelligence is critical for friendships? Emotional intimacy.

From  Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship:

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Sociologist Ray Pahl states that friendships today are based primarily on trust and emotional intimacy.

So what is emotional intimacy?

From  Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship:

Emotional intimacy is the experience of being deeply connected to another person who knows and understands your most important feelings and who shares his or her own with you.

Yeah, that sounds nice but it's still at Hallmark Card levels of pleasant vagueness. So we can probably recognize the concept better by looking at its opposite.

From  Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship:

If there were a label for this problem in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it might read something like “Emotional Intimacy Deficiency—a problem characterized by a sense of shallowness in one’s relationships with others, associated with a failure to recognize or express feelings, to reveal personal details about oneself, to be vulnerable or let anyone help you, to comfortably share attention or let go of control, and to listen without having to solve a problem.”

This won't shock you at all, but research shows men are far worse at this than women. Both sexes can certainly struggle, but this is a department where men really lag behind.

And that causes a lot of problems for men. Serious problems. Not just unfulfilling relationships -- it's more akin to a chronic emotional illness that affects every area of life.

From  Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship:

(Men who lack emotional intimacy) take longer to recover from minor illnesses, have lower resistance levels, and have reduced survival times when diagnosed with terminal illness. They are 50 percent more likely to have a first-time heart attack, and twice as likely to die from it, than men with strong social ties. When depressed, these men have significantly lower rates of recovery than those who have close relationships… Wives who cite their husband’s “emotional unavailability” as the primary cause of divorce initiate two out of every three divorces today. At the far end of the life cycle, older men without close relationships have 20 percent lower ten-year survival rates compared with those who do.

That said, women's friendships aren't perfect either. We're going to dive into the research and see the most common ways both sexes struggle with friendship, what they can do about it, and how they can learn from each other to improve.

So how do you increase emotional intimacy and build emotionally intelligent friendships? It comes down to six steps. Let's get to it...

1) “Know Thyself”

The thing everybody skips. Knowing yourself means you know what you want and need, and this is critical for both picking new friends and strengthening existing relationships.

How many friends would you optimally have? What level of closeness do you need? How frequently do you want to communicate? You want to ask yourself, "What features of a friendship will be most fulfilling to me in the long run?"

Research shows this is critical for women. We live in a world largely run by men, so women know they need close friendships to provide the things their often-male-dominated-environments don't give them.

From  Buddy System:

By forming relationships with a group of women, women escape having their relationships defined by men’s way of interacting. By defining relationships for themselves, women are able to construct them in a way that is more consistent with their own beliefs.

So take some time to think about what you want and need. (No, that 2 seconds between sentences doesn't count. Really sit down and take a half hour and think. And write stuff down.)

If you just rely on serendipity to bring you friendships and to move them forward, well, that's what got you where you are now. Time to be a little more deliberate.

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here.)

So before we go to work on developing emotional intimacy, let's find out what's been getting in the way of it. In the modern world, what's the biggest obstacle to adult friendships?

2) Make The Time

Actually, you can't "make time." We all have 24 hours in a day. The more accurate thing to say is "make time with your friends a priority." What friendships need to grow intimate and strong is hours.

What are the most common friendship fights about? Time commitments.

Via  Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are:

Daniel Hruschka reviewed studies on the causes of conflict in friendship and found that the most common friendship fights boil down to time commitments. Spending time with someone is a sure indicator that you value him; no one likes to feel undervalued.

And the research shows this is where men make a big mistake. Whether it's due to the longer hours men spend working or simply not making friendship the priority that women do, guys often don't put in the time.

From  Buddy System:

From the responses, it appears women were less apt to say they did not have time for friends. Although the majority (60%) of men say they have enough friends, 40% do not have enough or are unsure, a greater number than the women. It may be that some men are pulled by work and cannot find the time to balance friends, work, and family.

Unsurprisingly, in adulthood the biggest thing that takes away friend-time is family-time. And while no blogger in his right mind would ever type, "You should spend less time with your family," he might be able to get away with saying something like the far more acceptable, "Balance is critical."

Research has shown that in the modern era we have become far too reliant on spouses to provide all of our emotional needs -- and that simply doesn't work. So what's a feasible solution?

Including friends in family time is not only a way to kill two birds with one stone, it also improves both relationships.

Via  Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are:

Most intriguing was how couples rated their own relationships more positively after interacting with other pairs. Married partners fall into routine interactions and often fail to make the effort to entertain and please as they did when they were winning each other over. Putting your best self forward for new friends allows you to shine and to see your partner through new eyes as she shines, too. Maintaining older mutual friendships also strengthens the bond between long-term partners: Having people around who think of the two of you as a unit, who admire your relationship, and who expect you to stay together can sustain you through times of doubt or distance.

So you want to make friendships a priority and give them the time they need to become emotionally intimate. And if you're lacking hours, invite friends to join you for family time.

(To learn how to make friends easily, click here.)

Okay, so you know what you want and you're making pals a priority. But which of your friends do you need to focus on building emotional intimacy with?

3) Must, Trust, Rust, And Just

Looking at the research, the types of friends that men and women have fall into the same four categories: must, trust, rust and just.

  • "Must" friends: The inner circle. The closest of the close.
  • "Trust" friends: Not inner circle, but people you trust, share confidences with and know are there for you.
  • "Rust" friends : They're pals simply because you've known them a long time. (If it had more than that, they'd be "must" or "trust.")
  • "Just" friends : Closer than acquaintances and you may see them regularly with a group, but you're not tight with them and don't have a big shared history.

What's critical here when it comes to emotional intimacy is those "must" friends. And "trust" friends are important because they can, with work, be promoted to "must" friends.

First and foremost, you want to work on strengthening those "must" friendships and devoting more time to them. And you want to evaluate which of your "trust" friends meet with your "know thyself" criteria and might be worthy of elevation. "Rust" and "just" friends are good for rounding out your social circle but should receive less attention and investment.

(To learn more about the types of friends everyone needs, click here.)

What's the first step in strengthening those "must" and "trust" friends -- or finding totally new ones?

4) Be Proactive

You're going to need to do some legwork. You need to be proactive and initiate contact.



5) Communication

Yeah, you hear "communicating is vital" constantly from experts but few ever break it down so you know how to actually do it. (These experts must not be good communicators.)

You want to focus on four primary elements: creating safety, vulnerability, emotional expressiveness, and active listening.

  • Creating safety : Is my friend going to feel comfortable opening up to me? Am I being too judgmental? Or, at the opposite extreme, too nosy and pushy?
  • Vulnerability : Are you sharing personal thoughts and feelings with them? Reciprocity is powerful and this is vital to helping both of you. Quick litmus test: are you scared to talk about the subject? Then you're being vulnerable.
  • Emotional expressiveness : Don't just talk thoughts. Talk feelings. Yours and theirs. (Guys, if you're recoiling at this, you're proving the point that you need to work on it.)
  • Active listening : Good listeners don't just hear; they make the other person feel heard. Nod, acknowledge, and summarize what your friend said for confirmation. As former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss advises, if they respond "Exactly" -- you're doing it right.


6) Upkeep

Friendships require upkeep, like a plant. Yes, some friends are succulents that require little watering but you’re probably forgetting all the ones that turned brown and ended up in the trash.

You need to stay in regular contact. Research shows for solid friendships, every 2 weeks is the minimum. In general, women are much better at this than men.

From  Buddy System:

Women maintain friendships largely through communication and staying in frequent contact… In contrast, only 10% of the men maintained friendships through frequent contact...

But ladies face problems as well. Due to the amount of communication and openness, women are more likely to damage their friendships than men. Survey results show women were more likely to say they lost a friend because of something they said or did (65% vs 50% for men.)

That said, women are more likely to make efforts to repair damaged friendships, while men are more likely to let the relationship dissolve.

So women might want to put more effort in to not getting offended. And given how difficult it can be for men to make "must" friends, they should learn from the ladies and make more attempts to fix a troubled friendship rather than just moving on.

(To learn how neuroscience can teach you to be more emotionally intelligent, click here.)

Alright, we've learned a lot. Time to round it all up and see how all this leads to a more meaningful life...



From here. Follow the link to read this entire article and many more.


"The key to success is to keep growing in all areas of life - mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical." Julius Erving
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