“A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
– Proverbs 18:24

How many friends do you have?

According to Facebook I have exactly 399 digital friends. But I have very few close friends. I have a lot of acquaintances but few close friends. And I want to change that.

I consider a close friend to be someone who I can be completely transparent with. Someone who I can call if I’m having a hard time or when I have good news to share. Those friends are few and far between.

As an introvert I feel like I don’t need people. In fact, I often feel like people are getting in the way of what I want to do, like reading, writing and going for walks.

Maybe that’s why I love chess so much (I can sit in the presence of another person for hours at a time and only have to exchange a handful of words!).

But even introverts need friends. I believe we’re created for relationships. Just as the body requires food to live our spirits require connection with other humans.

I was talking to my wife about this today and she said, “Yeah, it’s funny you don’t have more friends because you have no problem starting conversations with strangers.”

It’s true. I can strike up a conversation with anyone. Perhaps this was a skill I learned while selling insurance. Or maybe it’s just who I am. I don’t know.

But there’s a difference between “small talk” and “meaningful conversations.” And it’s the latter I feel missing from my life.

Therefore, here are five things I intend to do about it this year:

1) Quit Social Media: this may sound counterintuitive but hear me out. I feel like social media insulates us from our true need for real friendships. We desire to be known and to know others and in the past we would get those desires fulfilled by being in the presence of other people. But now we can “scratch that itch” by simply pulling out our phone and spending a few minutes scrolling up and down on the screen. It can make us feel like we’re not isolated but the downside is that we miss out on intimate and meaningful conversations.

2) Be Interested: One of the reasons I don’t have more close friends is because I refuse to do things I’m not interested in. And that’s no way to cultivate friendships. It’s a selfish attitude that needs to change. For example, I have a good friend, Kevin, who likes to play disc golf. I don’t like disc golf. So when he’s organized games I haven’t made it a priority to go. But I like hanging out with Kevin. So next time the opportunity comes up I’m putting it on my calendar and going to start stretching my throwing hand!

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
– Dale Carnegie

3) Initiate and Invite: Instead of waiting for people to invite me to events I’m going to think of fun things me and my friends could do together. So if I have a few friends who like to play video games I will coordinate a “Halo Night” or a retro Nintendo 64 night so we can play the classics like Smash Bros, Mario Kart and Goldeneye on the big screen!

4) Give Gifts: Maybe this idea came to me because Christmas is next week. But even when it’s not Christmas I think giving gifts is a great way to make deposits into friendships. I know it feels good to get a surprise package in the mail from someone who was thinking of me. So I’ve started to record gift ideas in Evernote when I find out one of my friends likes something specifically.

“And every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.”
– Proverbs 19:6

5) Rekindle Old Friendships: You know how it’s easier to get a past client to buy from you again than to acquire a new client? It’s the same with friends. The friends you already have know, like and trust you. So why not invest in your current friendships instead of spending all your time trying to get new friends?

So those are my five ideas. I plan to stick to them and report back on here on my progress throughout the year.