Building Friendships – Learning the Stories behind the Faces

Forty-six recent high school graduates. Forty-six new faces with forty-six new names.

My family often has the opportunity to welcome mission teams to Cambodia from “the West.”

It’s an honor!

I’ve heard the analogy (here, if you’re interested) that a conversation is like reading a book where you can turn to any page and read for as long as you want. And every person is a really good book.

I believe that’s true, particularly the last statement. Except, for people who don’t like reading, I would use a different analogy because regardless of how much you enjoy reading, the person you couldΒ talkΒ to is precious. They’re made in God’s image. They have stories to tell. They have passions and interests, pain-points, viewpoints and backgrounds which have shaped their lives.

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There’s so much joy to be found – for both parties – in conversation with a stranger.

However, though I count it an honor to meet new people, it’s an honor that I sometimes don’t know what to do with. When I started meeting some of the forty-six people who my family is currently helping to host… I felt like I was stuttering and stumbling through, wishing I knew just the right questions to ask and could remember who had told me what.

Hence, my question for today: How doΒ you start conversations with strangers and build new friendships from scratch?

I look forward to hearing your answers. And, in the process, I look forward to learning a bit more about you, whether we’re already acquainted or whether this will be your first time commenting here.

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19 thoughts on “Building Friendships – Learning the Stories behind the Faces

  1. I struggle with that, to tell you the truth. When I was younger, especially, I was really shy. Someone I know recently helped me by saying that being shy is really just being proud: you’re afraid of what people will think of you.
    I think I’m getting better at making friends, but it can be especially hard when the person I’m talking to is very… how shall I say it… unfriendly. πŸ˜‰
    Asking questions about people can be a great conversation starter- finding that you have something in common with somebody really helps. πŸ˜‰ Otherwise, I’m not sure what tips I can give… I go to a small church, and we don’t have visitors that often (maybe once a month), so I can’t say that I have much experience with meeting new people. πŸ™‚

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    1. I have a hard time getting out there and taking the first initiative with new people too, Leona, which is why I wanted to make a conversational post about it. I can definitely learn from others – extroverts, as well as introverts who are intentional about getting beyond their comfort zone. X)

      I’ve heard that said about shyness and pride. In light of that, it makes sense that it’s harder to get out there and make friends with people who are “unfriendly,” who aren’t returning the kindness to indicate that they think well of us.

      Good point about asking questions! DO you have any favorites that you like to pull out as often as you meet someone new? I want to make my new pet question, “How did you end up in Cambodia?” for non-Cambodians and, “Did you grown up in this town?” for Cambodians. I realize, though, that not everyone has the luxury of such an obvious and interesting question.

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      1. …hmmm, what about, “What do you do in your spare time?” Or “What do you wish you had more time to do?” That seems to cut to the point of their interests, which people are usually passionate about. πŸ˜‰

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  2. This is something that I also struggle with, being an introvert. It’s no excuse for ignoring anyone, though, and recently I have been aiming to overcome this. First I’ve been practicing on my friends- being more friendly and open with them-and slowly I’m trying to work up to strangers. I agree that asking questions is a great way to begin any conversation! It usually opens the door to other discussions, so that’s what I would suggest as well. Being sincerely interested in the conversation, even if you’re a little shy or uncomfortable, is also helpful, since I’m sure people can tell when we’re actually interested or not. This applies to people we already know as well as strangers too.
    Thanks for starting an interesting discussion, Jordy! xx

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    1. I’m an introvert, too, Emily (it seems like many writers are… coincidence?). Admittedly, I find it a little exhausting to go out there and make conversation when it doesn’t come naturally. Are you that way? I find it especially hard if I’ve just come back from work and am already tired as it is. I think what I need is to get out of my own little world and remember that other people also have their own little worlds. Wouldn’t it make their day if I expressed interest in the happenings in their lives?

      I like your thought about “practicing” on friends. I hadn’t thought about it that way… but of course! Strangers and potential future friends aren’t the only ones who are blessed by our efforts to reach, make conversation and express interest. As we’re practicing, we’re blessing another soul, too, if it is indeed genuine.

      This discussion reminds me of Philippians 2 and how it tells us we should not look to our own interests, but each of us to the interests of the others. Can you think of any other relevant Scriptures?

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  3. With me, I just try to start a conversation with them. Depending on their age you could ask them about school, hobbies, family, etc.. When you find things you have in common with them it opens doors. The thing about making new friendships is that it’s easy to just talk to someone once or twice and never again… it’s important to keep talking to them… even if just briefly. I have a good sized youth group and sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the people to talk to, so besides just talking to my closest friends (which I’m tempted to do most of the time) I try to look to see whose alone in the room, especially if they look out of place. When I first moved up into my youth group from our church’s children’s ministry I felt really out of place and awkward, I’ve also moved a few times so I know what it feels like to be somewhere new. I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did. I want to make people feel welcome. I myself am a ENFP, which is the most introverted extrovert (it’s weird) so sometimes I just don’t feel like talking to a lot of people.
    Since your family is hosting mission teams then some things you could ask them is why they came, what sparked that passion, what their spiritual gifts are or what they’re passionate about, or maybe their testimonies. The great thing about meeting fellow followers of Jesus is that you already have that in common… they are your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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    1. I’m not sure if you watched the video that I linked to or not, but a few of the things you said sounded a lot link what the lady giving the speech was saying. Except you’re coming at it from a Christian viewpoint.

      And, speaking of finding things in common, I’ve also moved a few times in my short life and know what it’s like to be new! Have you moved near or far (as in, have you moved streets, towns, states, countries, etc). Or maybe you haven’t moved houses, but you’ve moved churches, or schools, or other communities?

      Those are great questions to ask the mission teams we host. Not only are they interesting, but they’re personal, as in not superficial. I like what you said about how we already have one thing in common when we meet other followers of Jesus. ❀ And what a most wonderful thing to have in common! What a most wonderful place to start building a new friendship.

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      1. I haven’t moved countries before. I was born in Alabama then moved about two hours away to Georgia. Then I moved around 7-8 hours away to North Carolina. I’m homeschooled so the transition was easier for me then most people I guess. When I moved I didn’t want to, but I ended up loving it here where I live and making great friends.

        Where’ve you moved? Countries, cities, schools?…

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      2. Moving can be so hard! I get it! But I’m so glad that your story ends with a happy testimony of how God redeemed an experience that you didn’t like at the time. Isn’t He good at doing that? Great friends make a difference! Am I assuming too much to guess that you’re now pretty settled and wouldn’t want to move again?

        I’ve moved from Canada to Australia to Canada to Cambodia… and moved houses multiple times within each country. I’ve also had various school experiences: private, public, homeschooled, distance education. It makes me wonder what God has in store for me in the long run. But don’t we all wonder that?

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      3. I’ve never lived in Canada, but I’ve went on mission trips there with my church and really like it.
        Yes, I do feel settled here. I think it’s easy to get comfortable, we need to remember that we’re just passing through this world. I’m not sure what God has in store for my future, whether it’s overseas, staying here, or moving states, but I know that my home is in heaven.
        πŸ™‚

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      4. That’s such a key truth to remember! Even if God has us living in one place our whole lives on earth, even then it’s just a speck of dust on the scales compared to the rest of eternity and this world is not our own. It was refreshing to hear that from you.

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  4. I don’t talk to people. #problemsolved πŸ˜‰

    Seriously, though, usually when I meet someone who I want to be friends with, I try to ask a variety of different questions about what their hobbies are and what they want to do with their life and all that. I’m okay at thinking up questions to ask.

    I … honestly have very little interest in making friends and so I struggle with it because I just don’t want to! I’m the kind of person who makes a few close friends and then is very much done, feels like there’s no point, and doesn’t want to be open with them/decides they aren’t worthy of my attention. And … that’s wrong.

    On the other hand, I suppose there’s a big difference with being super close to someone (and I do think there’s wisdom in getting to know someone before opening up to them too much) and being friendly and loving. I do love talking to new people and getting to know them. I especially love talking to kids. I’m afraid of people 14-40, though. πŸ˜›

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    1. Your initial answer sounded familiar to me. I was at a meeting earlier this week where we were asked what advice we would give to a new teacher who is beginning their very first year teaching. One of the others in the meeting said, “don’t teach.” XP

      I guess, when we don’t feel like making friends or have very little interest in talking with someone new, that’s when we have to ask if it’s worth it to push through anyway. Or rather, we don’t *have to* ask it, but I have asked it myself and in a sense, that’ what this discussion has become. Because it seems like many people who’ve responded have said this is something they struggle with (whether they find it hard or just aren’t all that interested) – not something that comes naturally. So in that sense, we’re in good company.

      What do you think? Is it worth it to push through when we don’t want to talk to someone new… or is it just something in life that we could get vainly caught up on…? Or what?

      But just to make sure I’ve got straight the gist of what you were saying, you love talking to new people, but aren’t interested in making friends, right? I guess I was treating the two as one, when that’s not necessarily always the case.

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      1. Very good advice for any teacher. πŸ˜‰

        I guess there aren’t a lot of extroverts here … which makes sense, as the extroverts are probably out there making friends. πŸ˜‰

        I think sometimes it’s worthwhile to push through and talk to someone new, just because it’s nice to talk to someone, and who knows if they were too shy to start a conversation but wanted to talked to you or if talking to you would brighten their day or influence them positively somehow. And I do believe that God wants us to be friendly to people around us. I mean, if we keep to ourselves and never speak to anyone, how can we spread the Good News? I can’t think of the Bible verse right now, but there’s one about getting out there in the world and not allowing yourself to become too set in your ways and isolated (ha! okay, that wasn’t funny, but Isolated … you know …) … if that’s even what the verse meant. I wish I could remember it. :/

        Yes, I like to talk to new people, but I’m not too interested in making friends. I tend to think, “Eh … I’ve got friends …” And then I also just don’t want to bother explaining my weirdness to another person. πŸ˜‰

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      2. Ahaha, good point about why we haven’t heard from the extroverts in this discussion thread yet. That’s right… they’re probably not at their keyboards.

        If you come across the verse again and remember our discussion, please do make your way back here and share it! There’s the great commission in Matthew… and there’s “do not be conformed to the pattern of this world” in Romans 12…? But I think you were talking about one particular passage or verse. Well, let me know if you remember, anyway.

        And PS – yeah I know… I don’t think I’ll ever hear the word “Isolated” the same again.

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  5. Such a timely post, Jordy!

    I shared with you that some of my siblings and I are taking an evangelism class, right? Over the last two weeks, we had an interesting assignment: initiate conversations with at least 10 strangers. In the past, this would have been nearly impossible (due to me being an introvert and my family not going out to meet strangers as often at our last house). But what was very cool is that God lined up this class with everything we needed. I see strangers almost every day now because of several opportunities that have opened up (like school, play practice, activities). God has also stretched me a lot, and I’m not as timid in this area. Because of the assignment, I see people more like you described. People are like a really good book; they have stories to share. Everyone is a potential friend, someone we can influence or be encouraged by. So why not start a conversation?! And, as an introvert, I know how special it makes me feel when someone starts a conversation with me. We can make people’s days by just smiling and offering a kind word!

    I don’t have any “catch lines” to offer, but I’ve discovered how wonderful it is to make a new friend through stepping out of my comfort zone. Keep at it, Jordy! God uses those steps (no matter how little) to make a difference.

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    1. Funny… I wouldn’t have thought you found it hard to talk with strangers. But of course, it’s much different in real life than it is online where, theoretically, we have has much time as we want to formulate a reply. And even though the other person probably doesn’t mean it, there’s an imagined pressure to think of something good and to think of it quick when we’re there in person. Can you think of any ways to just relax and… enjoy their company? Any thoughts that might help us to understand that there’s no reason to feel that way?

      I’m so glad you’ve been pushed and challenged through your evangelism course (I didn’t know that you were doing it together with some of your siblings). Hopefully it’s also grown you in the fruit of the Spirit. What’s one thing you’ve learned from it (it doesn’t have to be the most important… just whatever comes to mind). I supposed you’ve already shared something that you’ve learned – reaching out to strangers – but I’d love to hear another highlight if time permits. πŸ™‚

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