Recently I made friends with someone new, Rachel. This happens less and less as I get older, most of the people I met now are activity partners (people to do stuff with), romantic partners or co-workers. There is a purpose to these interactions and each of us play our role. But with Rachel it was different. We’re drawn to each other in a natural way that seems to foster an interpersonal synergy that fuels thought and positive action.
As a result of spending time with her I’ve become more aware of what I look for in friends. First off, while I do activities with my friends, they serve a social function and are not the purpose of our visits. For example, I don’t have any close friends who I ride with. I really like the guys on my cycling team, but we know each other BECAUSE we ride together. A couple of my friends snow board and a few of them work out, but by in large, other than the bike races, I do my activities by myself. It’s hours a week on the road, the trails or the gym by myself because that is what I like to do.
When I’m with my friends, the activity is just a back drop on which to have an experience. Most of the time we just talk in the kitchen while making dinner or have a couple of drinks. As an outsider watching these interactions, I can’t imagine them seeming like they are very purposeful but I have no doubt that they would see that we’re having a good time and that there is a high level of engagement. The conversations vary from talking nonsense (humor type improve about whatever comes up), to information exchange to idea exchange. The information exchange type conversations do not get my full attention. I’m not sure why, but I tend not to pay much attention to this stuff. I place a much lower value on this type of information, likely because these are the types of conversations that I have with activity partners and co-worker. These are just the details you need to get by and I find most of them pretty uninspiring.
The nonsense talking gets us laughing which is fun and feels good (all of my friends have either a good sense of humor or a great ability to laugh). It also helps to consolidate ideas or turn thought fragments into ideas. Given that I do not feel any judgement from my friends, I am completely free to say whatever I feel like. Sometimes I just need to say things out loud to make them more real in order for me to think about them clearly. My friends are often the first and only people to hear article ideas, workout programs, training tips and jokes. However, the biggest benefit of nonsense talking is its ability to open the mind through a sort of mental lubrication. Whenever you are engaging someone with the pure intent of having a good conversation, you open yourself up to all the possible directions that the conversation may take. A lot of the time we don’t stay on topic and will hop all over the place in a seemingly random fashion. The only pattern is that we are open to whatever the other is saying. It’s like good improv, it may not go the direction that you think should, but it goes somewhere and if you let it, it keeps on going.
As some point, the conversation will usually drift back to a more purposeful interaction that is focused on a single idea or point. It will still have the same sort of freestyle stream of thoughts to it, but they will all be related in some way to a key idea. These are the best conversations because they are free flowing, spontaneous and enlightening. There is a interpersonal synergy generated that allows each of us to consider topics in ways that are different from the norm. Patterns and the interconnected nature of ideas become evident were only randomness existed before. I find these conversations to be invigorating and I leave them feeling uplifted and with my head spinning.
I have some friends where all of our conversations are like this. We rarely discuss details about life or if we do, it is just to get the conversation going as to why things are that particular way. It is pretty amazing because I discuss certain topics with certain friends but regardless of what we talk about, the experience is the same and I leave the conversation feeling great and thinking that I’m a little better off because of it.
It wasn’t until I met Rachel that I realized that I was this way with my friends. I had often wondered if I was too serious all the time because of my passion for training and the intensity at which I seek out information that I am interested in, but I now realize that too serious and not serious enough are basically the same thing to two different people. I am the way I am and some people are going to be drawn to that while others will be repelled. It is not uncommon for someone to tell my that talking to me is draining, that they feel I am analyzing them and that they need to be on their guard. They are sort of right, I am trying to figure out why they do the things they do, but it’s only to get the conversation going. It isn’t judgement, it’s just how I talk to people.
What it comes down to now is that I’ll most likely go right for the guts of the matter and alienate people as I go. I’ve found that if they don’t get what I say, they don’t get me. If they think I’m judging them, it kills the conversation immediately. There is no changing this. The connection is either there or it isn’t. And no matter what the intention or desires of each one of us, there really isn’t any point in existing as a friend around someone who you don’t gel with. It isn’t anything personal to me or them, it’s just the way the world works. If you want to be happy, you need to engage the people who make you feel happy and for me that means the people who I feel an interpersonal synergy with.