A few days before I relocated to Nigeria, I wrote a blog post about the fears I had about moving to a new country. I focused more on my fear of demons, (blame Nollywood), but another fear I didn’t really discuss deeply was my disastrous ability of making new friends.
Yes, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had this issue. Despite my choice of career, I am naturally shy and a terribly, annoying, complicated, introvert. First-days are always dreaded days as I picture having to introduce myself and maintain eye-contact, an acceptable level of laughter, witty comments…blah, blah, blah — nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like meeting new people, I just find it quite tasking trying to impress people with my being. That’s in essence what you’re doing when you meet new people — convincing them that you’re worth their time.
Acting as my own personal sales person has made me go through life dreading every new school and job I move to. I’m sure most of you have as well but you probably don’t feel as nervous as I do during these moments. Some of you may even enjoy the idea of making new friends/associates. Unlike any other time in my life, moving first to New York and then to Nigeria, meant that I didn’t have my old friends as a safety-net if making new friends proved too challenging. Now that I have moved to Nigeria, got my dream-job and apartment, it seems I am here to stay. Its recently become incredibly clear to me that despite my amazing boyfriend and the time, shoulder, ears and arms he lends me with ease, I need friends.
There’s no shame in it. Making friends after university is a female dog. Making friends when you’ve moved to a new country….well, it’s not for the faint hearted.
I’ve had amazing conversations in the past few days that inspired me to put this post together. The conversations were all so insightful that I decided I should share them here.
Conversation 1 — I was told after complaining it was so hard to make friends in Nigeria, that I was in fact to blame for my lack of pals. Apparently, my tolerance level for new people is rather low and not compliant with the amount of tolerance needed when meeting new people. I got defensive about that critique but soon realised there was truth in what I was told. When I meet new people and we have misunderstandings or the person does something that really grinds my gears, I easily tell myself, “ergh — to the left, to the left.” I’m too quick to forget that the friends I have back at home in London didn’t become my friends overnight. We’ve spent years getting to know each other, annoy each other, forgive each other and most importantly, love each other. The new people I’m meeting and being so quick to write-off haven’t had the chance to really know who Eno is. I haven’t had the chance to know them either…
Conversation 2 — A bible was brought out folks. There’s no bigger killer while trying to defend yourself than a person armed with this holy book. The topic of discussion was forgiveness. Apparently, another cause of my friend deficit in Nigeria is the fact that I have harboured grudges against people I class as having the same mindset as Lloyd Christmas. It’s not that I’m easily offended, it’s just that I have pet-hates — rudeness and ignorance. Once I’ve marked you mentally as offenders of my pet-hates, it becomes apparent that the marker I used was permanent.
Having the reminder that unforgiveness is poisonous was definitely an unwelcome reminder. Here are the verses I was shown:
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31, 32 KJV).
I know all of this though. I’ve heard it a million times but knowledge of something as opposed to putting it into practice is two very different things. Forgiveness takes humility and although I consider myself to be rather humble in most situations, having enough humility to forgive someone after they have offended me seems to be something I’m struggling with. When I meet someone and they annoy me, I find it easy to decide that the person and I are just two very different people that probably won’t be able to get along. This way of thinking will leave you without friends not only in a new country but wherever you find yourself. Patience is essential when meeting new people. You have to decide to forgive and forget if you’re really serious about adding to your friend bank. If however the person is just a douche-bag then it’s still possible to forgive the person but obviously avoid making friends with someone who will add no value to your life.
This is what I find most difficult — forgiving and still being able to say hello to the person in question when I see them. The person I had the second conversation with that I mentioned earlier has instructed me to greet a person I no longer relate with at all. I seriously shudder at the thought of saying hello to the person — I’m likely to choke with all the humble pie I’ll have to force down my throat to be able to do this. I will eventually say hello and I’m sure this will help me in my new quest to become a more forgiving person. For now, I’m just trying not to roll my eyes when I see the
Conversation 3 — I was told by someone about a friend of his that is having a hard time making friends in her new office because in her opinion she is being misunderstood. People at work have begun murmuring about her attitude and have concluded she is a snob. She has decided that the best way to sort out this misconception about her character is to further seclude herself from people who are in her opinion too judgmental and too difficult to be friends with. I feel her pain because I’ve had the same things said and thought about me for much of my adult life.
A few months ago I went out to cover a story with a colleague. After an awesome day, she told me that she used to not like me. Surprised, since I had never really spoken much to her, I asked why and she told me that she thought I just kept to myself and wasn’t interested in getting to know people. It was good to hear because I’ve always resolved to do just what the lady I have talked about wants to do. I pull further away from people who misunderstand me instead of opening up my heart and allowing them to get to know who the real Eno is. The result of distancing yourself from people who misunderstand your character is the same people further misunderstanding you…duh!
So, my three conversations have made me conclude that in order for me to make new friends in Nigeria, I need to:
1. Increase my tolerance level
2. Be more forgiving
3. Stop secluding myself from new folk
I’ve been putting all three of these points into practice at work and I’ve been taken aback by the difference its made. My life feels less stressful – I say life because let’s face it, most of our lives are spent at work so if we’re not happy at work, it’s likely we’re generally not happy at all wherever we are. I’m opening up and enjoying the changes. Give it a go if you’re an annoying introvert like I am and I guarantee you’ll be a happier person.
There is no guarantee these steps will work for you.