Dear Papa Bear,
I suppose I do have a rather silly question, but I am desperate for advice. So, my question is, How does one make friends? It's an idiotic question I know, but honestly I'm terrible at it. I've tried, I really have, but it just never works out. I probably come off as an idiot most of the time. I am sort of new to this, I've been in the online furry community for a couple of months and it's just hard to not have made any friends yet. But I'm equally awful at it in real life, too. I just wish I knew what I am doing wrong. I'm okay with talking to people, but I never get it passed that random 5 minute conversation and then it’s over. So, mainly, how do I get it passed that point? Sorry to waste your time with my question, I'm sure you have better ones than mine to get to. But I saw, I guess it was an ad, on FurAffinity.com and I thought I would give it a shot. Thank you for your time. I hope I was clear enough. I didn't want to bore you with a long letter, so I tried to keep it short.
* * *
It’s not at all an idiotic question. If there are two main things that people want in life it is someone to love and friends to share their lives with. Most of the letters I receive are about one or the other.
Judging by your letter, I think I have an idea why you have such a hard time making friends: you lack self-confidence and self-respect. Your letter is filled with self-deprecation: you call yourself an idiot, you feel you’re wasting my time and that your question is silly and that you may be boring me. In short, you feel unworthy of friendship, don’t you, at some level?
If you came up to me at a furry party and behaved in this manner, I would probably lose interest, too. Things that attract people to other people are characteristics such as: having interesting things to say (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run away from people trying to talk to me online who have nothing to say and want me to carry the conversation because they are “bored”; if you are a boring person, you will be boring to others, too), being interested in other people and who they are and what they think (they have to meet you half way and actually have some thoughts in their noggins), being self-confident, knowing who you are, NOT being whiny or complaining all the time, being fun, having a good sense of humor, being compassionate and empathetic. Above all, do not act desperate (“Would you be my friend, please???” Eeek! A stalker!)
It’s great you have the courage to walk up to strangers at a social function and introduce yourself; that is the first hurdle, and many shy people don’t even get that far. But then you have to carry the conversation. Two things you will need for this: 1) have something to say (it helps a lot if you are well-read, well-rounded person with experiences to share); and 2) be interested in what others have to say and be curious about their lives, as well.
That is the second step. The third step is establishing a friendship, which means that once you get people interested in you as a person you need to spend time with them doing things you and they both enjoy. The more experiences you share, the more conversations you have, the more you will bond to the other person. Once a friendship starts to take hold, whether or not it will survive depends upon the character of the people involved.
As you know, there are a couple types of friends: fair-weather friends who only hang with you during the good times but quickly abandon you if you need their help for anything; user “friends” who only glomp onto you because they want something from you; and true-blue friends, who are the rarest of all. These are the people who love you for you and will be there for you when you need them, and who you will gladly help out in return. They are the friends who will walk up the side of Mt. Doom with you.
Lucky is that person who needs two paws to count all the true friends in his or her life; blessed is that person who also needs to count toes.
I hope these words of advice help steer you in the right direction.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.