by Niall Doherty

Back in November I became friendly with a lady who, by choice, didn’t have many friends. Let’s call this lady Finoula.

I discovered that Finoula’s approach to friendship was much different to mine. The way she saw it, her friendship had to be earned. Every new person she met was a stranger; unknown, untrustworthy, a potential threat. Each stranger would have to prove themselves worthy of her friendship before she would let herself open up and be comfortable around them.

Finoula seems happy doing this, so more power to her. She has a small handful of close friends, people who she would put her life on the line for, and vice versa.

That approach to friendship doesn’t appeal to me though. I prefer to operate with more of an abundance mindset, and so I try to take the opposite tact. My friendship doesn’t have to be earned. I give it out by default. I try to assume everyone I meet is a potential friend and I act accordingly. That may sound like a dangerous thing to do, but apart from that one time in New Orleans when I woke up with a strange man’s hand down my pants, it’s worked out pretty good for me so far.

No regrets

By assuming rapport with lots of strangers over the past couple of years, I’ve been able to connect with many people in a meaningful way. Sometimes the interactions are brief and fleeting, sometimes they lead to a deeper place.

Now I don’t advocate that you go downtown, make friends with a bunch of homeless folks and invite them back to your house for falafel and hummus. That would be a bit foolish. But you can be friendly towards homeless people and treat them like real human beings, made of the same star stuff that you’re made of.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been thankful that I took a chance and said hi to the person standing in line with me at the checkout or got talking to that stranger on the street. I never have to worry too much about “what if’s” with my approach to friendship. What if I had taken a chance? What if I had given that person the benefit of the doubt? None of that really comes into play when you assume everyone is your friend.

How do you approach friendship?

Do you hold back until you feel someone has earned your trust, or do you just throw it all out there from the beginning, for better or worse? Maybe something in between?

Is one approach better than the other? I don’t know. I’m just one person. I know what feels right for me. You have to test for you.