By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector

Some of us recently gathered outdoors at RSI’s Rhine Lake Retreat to celebrate a Day of Friendship. We couldn’t have asked for a better day of weather, given the recent heatwave. Sunny, mid-60s, and a light breeze to keep everything comfortable. Rhine Lake Retreat was in fine form as well, the gardens and grounds were impeccable and ready for our company.

The morning session was spent talking about the importance of friendship in our lives, and how good friends can improve our confidence and sense of belonging as well as our happiness and ability to manage stress. Much of the morning session was interactive and we focused on why it is so hard to make friends as we get older. We know it takes effort. So, we focused on the key concepts of communication and connection. The unspoken forms of interpersonal communication such as body language, eye contact, posture, and tone of voice. We had a lot of fun doing skits and role play, and it helped loosen the tension to see that everyone is human and quirky!

We also talked about strategies we could apply to keep relationships strong and reciprocal, and how the foundational strength in friendships was a strong belief in one’s self. In order for friendships to succeed, it takes mutual respect and interest. This led to a discussion of how to find “the right friends.” For friendships to succeed, we agreed that we need to respect one another, listen attentively, respect each other’s boundaries, and to stay in touch. Again, this led to another discussion on what friends we would like to search for. Good friends have mutual interests, a sense of humor, and accept us just as we are…warts and all!

After a delicious lunch from our garden at Rhine Lake, we began the afternoon session by once again talking about how to find friends. Some of the suggestions included volunteering, joining groups that we’re interested in, meetups, asking a “social butterfly” for suggestions, and finding friends in places where we share an interest. We all agreed that smaller groups provide more opportunities to engage in small talk and get through the awkwardness of introducing ourselves.

The day ended with the idea of building an action plan for building friendships. We compared it to going on a fishing expedition. In order to succeed, planning is part of the process. So, everyone received their own personal action plan to begin the commitment of developing true friendships. The action plan is a step-by-step process of measuring efforts and results while holding ourselves accountable. It was an interesting concept for all, as it’s often believed that friendships just occur organically like when we were young. However, we all agreed that we need more friends in this world and it is worth the effort to develop more opportunities and have some fun along the way.

Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.