Writer’s note: The writer suggests listening to “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons while reading.
“Is your phone the new Note Seven?” asked the guy next to me on the plane, chuckling.
“Nah, it’s a much older model,” I replied. “Thank goodness.”
When I first chose to get my phone a couple years ago, I wanted to get an iPhone because I honestly just thought the sleek, shiny model looked so aesthetically pleasing.
In the past few weeks, I have had people ask me if my phone was the newest model, and I inwardly laugh, because that’s what I love about Androids: You can’t tell whether or not it’s the newest model.
Similarly, many people may not be able to recognize the updates of a new phone compared to the older versions, just as they would not see how I have changed because I still seem like myself. On the other hand, If I were to upgrade from my Note Four to Note Seven, I would notice the differences, even without being a CS, ME or EE (or any engineering for that matter) major because of my familiarity with my phone over the years. In this way, those that know me well will also be able to recognize the ways I change, a sentiment based on common everyday interaction.
Analogously, we might think that spending time with someone might just be the way to get to know someone well. It happens naturally; relationships grow over time. Yet in reality, relationships require intentional decisions as well. The cocktail of time and intentional relationship building drives the relationship forward.
Within these two realms, different rules come into play. In terms of time, patience often remains key because we may not always be in the perfect place when someone chooses to open up. This past week, I have been fortunate enough to strike up a conversation with a friend that coincidentally led into a conversation about his passion for anime and his discovery of it. He also confessed that he often felt pressured to hide this aspect of himself because he didn’t feel like he belonged to that community. Not only that, he sometimes felt that he should be the type to pick up golfing, or enjoying more conventional hobbies. Although we aren’t that close, I gained this insight simply because I was in the right place at the right time.
On the other hand, I have also had times when I would spend hours with a friend doing work or casually chatting without developing a huge insight into their life. Yet, this is similar to simply getting used to the platform and conventions of the phone. This type of time spent offers a better understanding of a friend’s habits and random thoughts, rather than profound musings. Both types of time spent together build a strong friendship. By intentionally increasing the amount of time spent together, this will strengthen a relationship in both ways.
Just like we each customize our phones by downloading apps, we want to be mindful of how we shift our relationships as well. This requires the intentionality that I previously mentioned. I often do this by asking questions that I find intriguing. I usually don’t think of my own answers because I often have never even thought of it. This ranges from discussing last meals to whether or not my friends thought people liked them better online or in-person. This allows me to explore ideas through others before deciding what I want to say.
Shifting a relationship can also entail making it explicit how much you care about your friend. Just yesterday, I whined to my friend about outing my feelings to a mutual friend. “You can’t just tell him I like him!” However, she has recently become such a fan of being deliberate. As a result, my friend wanted to accelerate my relationship with my other friend because she also agreed that we could be strong friends. Being clear and direct about how much you value someone and want to build a relationship with him/her always expedite things. If they feel the same way, you can grow closer more quickly. If they don’t enjoy your company, at least you know early on and don’t waste time with them. I have found it much more liberating to just say how I feel about other people and it always brings them much joy as well.
Friendships evolve with time, just like you have to update your phone; don’t be scared to try something new and continually shift around things in your relationships. Relationships revolve around growing and changing together, so continue building them as much as you can and when you can.
Contact Serena Lin at serenal ‘at’ stanford.edu.