How to build stronger friendships in a shallow world

Do you know which house plant is the most difficult to keep alive? Many pundits will argue online about this. But one plant you will see consistently mentioned is the Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree. One of the things about this house plant is that it has exacting requirements. And when I mean exacting, if you’re off by a little bit with what it needs, the plant will not grow. This applies to its need for humidity, indirect sunlight, moist soil, and infrequent watering.


Not many people are successful with the finicky Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree.

One thing that requires a lot of care to grow but is not as finicky is strong friendships. Now some might think that creating healthy and vibrant friendships in a shallow world is a lot more difficult than growing a house plant. But the thing is, we’ve been trying to create friendships without the proper ingredients.


So it always felt hard creating meaningful friendships.

But in this article, I am going to show you the three key ingredients needed to create strong friendships in this fickle world. These traits are:

  • Respect

  • Enjoyment

  • Utility

First one up Respect

Before two people can engage in any form of a mutually beneficial relationship, there needs to be a great amount of respect between the two. Whether it’s a business relationship, dating, etc.


Respect has to be at the foundation.

Yet, many of us don’t think of respect as the cornerstone of our friendships. And as a result, we tend to have lackluster friendships that don’t go beyond the surface-level topics of our day-to-day life.


Respect in friendships is what allows friends to open up with each other without judgment.

Respect is what lets the other friend know that they can trust each other.

Respect is the glue to help friends during rough times, not judging them for any reason.


You have to understand that, friends who respect you, will do whatever they can to ensure you are successful.


Since one friend succeeds, so do all his/her friends.

Friendship is not something fickle or shallow, but something where you can open up completely. And for that to happen, respect needs to be present.


If we’re being honest, if a friend holds back big news or some life events, then it’s due to a lack of respect. Now people might say they don’t want to come off as needy or judged, etc. Yet, how can a friend that holds you in high esteem ever think low of you? If that’s a serious worry, then it’s not friendship.



Anyways, before I ramble on too much, let’s get to something tangible.

To start building strong friendships, show great respect to the other person. If they reciprocate, then you have the potential to cultivate a strong friendship. But if they don’t reciprocate, then just bail on it.


And to be more clear, if the person follows any of these disrespectful traits, then don’t invest in the friendship:

  • Takes days to respond to text messages with no fair excuse

  • Makes fun of you in front of people you don’t know

  • Can’t keep confidential information to themselves

  • Doesn’t take you seriously

Okay, let’s get to the fun part of friendships.


Enjoyment

This one is pretty straightforward. To ensure that the friendship is not strictly business, the two parties have to enjoy each other’s company.


Crazy thought, I know.

Now when I say enjoyment, it shouldn’t be doing the same thing over and over again. You want to enjoy the person’s company doing a variety of things. When I was in a frat, most of these frat boys would do the same things with their friends. They would party, drink, do drugs, party, drink, do drugs on repeat. Not saying anything is wrong with it, but the enjoyment was so superficial, that “close” friends in the frat would end up hating each other over petty matters. Despite the fact, they spent so much time together.


For strong friendships, you want to enjoy your friends doing a variety of things you are both interested in. For example, with my friends, I do a variety of things such as watch MMA, do combat sports, talk about philosophy/literature, talk about vulnerable stuff, pull pranks, watch improv shows, board games, long walks, basketball, comedy shows, etc.


Doing all these types of activities and the ones my friends are interested in, just enriches the friendship with more experiences. Funny stories can come out of it, insights can be discovered, etc.


Enjoyment isn’t strictly about being entertained.

It’s about having a good time that brings you closer to your friend. And when people choose to do the exact same things with their friends, they are not enriching the friendship. In fact, someone is going to get bored and grow out of it, causing the friendship to die.


So ensure that you are enjoying your friendships but in a way where you can explore life. But how can we ensure this happens?



Well, try this:

  • Initiate and try to do different activities with your friend.

  • If they consistently say no and prefer to do the same ol’ things, then take it as a sign that this may not be a strong friendship.

  • If they say yes a few times and they are enjoyable experiences, then you have the potential for a strong friendship.

Speaking of doing things, another hallmark of a great friendship is the utility of the friend.


Utility

I know this sounds Robert Greene-Esque, like why would a friend need to have some utility. Just give me a chance to explain.


When I say utility, I am saying that the friend is beneficial to you in some way. For example, one of my utilities for my friends and members in The Secret Lair is that I am able to create a comfortable environment talking about sensitive topics. Since I am willing to talk about sensitive topics with my therapy journey, years of low self-esteem, etc. My friends and members are able to trust me and listen to my insights. Because if we are being honest, a lot of people don’t have friends that are consistently vulnerable. So I don’t mind being the friend to open up to.


But back to my point.

Friends need to have utility to help you discover more of yourself. In today’s world, modern "friends" are just about having a superficial good time with someone on a somewhat consistent basis. But friends should be people who challenge you, support you, and help you grow into a mature well-rounded individual.


If a friend is not doing that for you, then the friendship will rarely ever be strong. The reason why friendship is a big part of my personal development system is that you only go as far as the friends you surround yourself with. If your friends truly respect you, they will do their part to help you become what you can be. And that's friends quietly displaying their utility.



So again, let’s have something tangible.

So a rule of thumb for if someone displays utility is:

  • Do they inspire you to better in some way?

Ask yourself that question from time to time, and if the answer is a consistent yes, then you have a friendship that has the potential to be strong.


Wait one minute.

This seems like so much work to create such friendships, especially in today's shallow world.


Yeah, it is hard. Anything in life that is worth it, is not easy. You can easily find shallow people that will make it hard to create a friendship.


I’ve been there and it’s exhausting.

Yet, putting in the groundwork in creating strong friendships is not easy, but the few friendships that come out of it will be incredible. You might think I’m exaggerating, but the Spanish philosopher, Baltasar Gracian mentioned in his book The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence about what friendships offer (the ones that meet the requirements of respect, utility, and enjoyment):

  • “There’s no desert like a life without friends: friendship multiplies blessings and divides troubles. It’s the only remedy for bad fortune and is an oasis of comfort for the soul.”

That is a perfect description of an amazing friendship.

So although this requires effort, time, trial and error. In the end, it’s all going to be worth it. So don’t cut yourself short with lackluster friendships. Similar to dating, if you put yourself out there and keep trying, you’ll surprise yourself with amazing people.


As an adult, I have a knack for finding and cultivating random friendships.

Mind you, I am selective about who I bring into my life since I had a lot of family drama from 17-28. So peace of mind is something I strive for.


Anyways, I am going to show you a decent friendship (with the potential to be a very strong one in the near future) that I made in my early 30’s. And we’ll check off the three traits.


Friend from YouTube

An American viewer reached out and was willing to pay me to pick my brain. The fact that he was willing to pay me, showed that he respected me in some form. I offered to talk to him for free and he was grateful.


So respect is checked off.

We had our first conversation and it went deep. We spoke about personal development, sexuality, therapy, parent relationships. And the guy was taking notes on my advice and adding his own thoughts. That conversation, he not only learned from me but I from him. And over the next 13 months, we had more conversations, emailed/text. And each interaction, we were learning and growing a little more.


So that checks off the utility.

Now, in all our conversations, we have had a blast with each other. Although these interactions are virtual, we are able to talk about a wide variety of fun and serious topics plus we have good chemistry. We are able to have a good time each time we speak to each other. And considering he told me which city he lives in, he invited me to come to visit him. And when I do, we’ll do random fun things together.


So that puts a half a check on enjoyment.

As I do want to take part in activities with him, but distance is a current obstacle.


Anyways, this type of dynamic is what happens in The Secret Lair membership site, which is why I am very picky about who I let it in. I want people who will respect each other, be useful, and know how to have a good time doing a variety of things.



That being said.

Don’t go thinking ALL friendships have to be like this. In life, we have to be conscious of who we bring into our lives. So we can’t make the mistake of thinking we need to have great friendships with all our friends. You want to understand that you want a few great friendships where you can invest and tend to. Then for others, you can designate as you see fit.


For example, if you do boxing, you have your boxing friends.

Or for board games, you have a board game group. You get my drift. You can have a vibrant social life by understanding that you can have a close-knit of amazing friends and people that you share a hobby or interest with. Mind you, the latter can turn into amazing friendships, but don’t go around making that your aim.


Again, to quote Baltasar Gracian on friends:

  • “Some friendships are like a marriage, others like an affair; the latter are for pleasure, the former for the abundant success they engender.”

I’m liking Gracian a lot today, so here is a bonus quote from him:

  • “A friends true understanding is worth more than the many good wishes of others.”

Okay, let’s wrap this up:

  • To create a strong friendship in a shallow world, it needs to have respect, enjoyment, and utility.

  • Respect requires friends to hold each other in high esteem. Allowing vulnerability, trust, and support. Disrespectful behavior invalidates friendships.

  • Enjoyment is all about doing enriching things to deepen the friendship. Friendships based on the same cyclic activities are shallow and prone to break apart easily.

  • Utility is about friends inspiring us to be better in some way. Friendship is all about mutually enhancing each other in life.

  • It’s hard to create strong friendships in life, but like anything that is great, it requires effort. It’s easy to have lackluster friendships but they are not worth it.

  • Not all friendships have to be strong. To quote Gracian, some are like marriages, and others like affairs.

Again, this might sound like a great task to cultivate amazing friendships.

But if we’re being honest, if we are just patient and put in the effort, we will find it. And considering that there are only three traits needed, it’s not as complicated to grow. I can’t say the same for the pesky Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree. You’ll have more success creating strong friendships than growing that house plant.


Bulcha

The Charismatic Nerd