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Don’t worry about who asked who. Ever.

I’ve recently begun writing about friendship – specifically strategies necessary to establish and nurture friendships in your life. My friend, Ann Guo, is researching the subject. Ann wanted to speak to me because she categorized me as “one of the most connected people she knows.”

She has yet to get to know Elysha, who is genuinely the most connected person I know, but she’s not wrong in pointing out that I am blessed with many friends and know many people.

After a long conversation with her and subsequent conversations with a few other friends, I quickly identified strategies I use to cultivate and maintain friendships that may help others.

I think this is important stuff.

The average amount of time Americans spent socializing face to face has fallen 30 percent from 2003 to 2022, and among teenagers, it’s fallen over 45 percent. At the same time, people of all ages are citing increased levels of loneliness and other symptoms of anxiety and depression.

People are having a difficult time connecting to other people, and based on the work of Jonathan Haidt in his must-read book “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness,” the phone owns a large part of the blame.

Rather than spending time with people, we spend time with our screens. Even when we’re in the company of others, many of us are staring at our phones.

Cultivating and maintaining friendships has become more challenging than ever.

One of the strategies I’ve mentioned to Ann and other friends, which seems to have made an impact on them, is simple but important:

Stop worrying about who asked who to do something.

I know so many people who get hung up on the reciprocal nature of friendship. Specifically:

“Why am I always the one making the plans?”

“Why am I the only one initiating the phone call?”

“Why am I the only one keeping this friendship alive?”

I know people who refuse to contact a friend until that friend contacts them first. “I’ve called the last five times. I’m not calling again until she calls me.”

This is all nonsense. Counterproductive hogwash. Self-induced struggle.

The truth is this:

Some people simply possess more capacity and bandwidth than others to initiate, plan, schedule, and organize. If you are one of those people, you should be thrilled about your ability and take full advantage of it. If your friend doesn’t possess the capacity, bandwidth, or even the instinct to initiate contact and make plans but enthusiastically engages in the plans you make, who cares?

The point is to spend quality time in the company of someone you like. It doesn’t matter how that quality time originates.

Are you looking for a friend or a trading partner?

I tend to make most of the tee times for golf. Around Wednesday of each week, I send out a group text to about half a dozen guys asking who would like to play, and within an hour, I have usually assembled a foursome for Sunday.

I’ve never even considered being annoyed or upset about being the only one making these tee times and finding the players. I’m happy to spend two or three hours walking, competing, laughing, and talking to my friends on a Sunday morning.

I also schedule frequent trips to Moth StorySLAMs and other live events and always invite friends to join me. The hours we drive back and forth to New York, Boston, or other locations are almost better than the time spent attending the show.

How often do you get to talk to a friend for four or five hours uninterrupted?

I do this all the time, but I’m almost always the one making these plans, purchasing the tickets, and inviting friends. But I’m never without at least one person joining me for these shows, and the time spent together is precious.

But I’ve never even felt an inkling of anger or disappointment about being upset about being the only one making these plans.

Would it be nice if my friends made more of an effort?

Not really.

As I said, I don’t care how our time spent together originates. Frankly, when I make the plans, I can choose the dates and times that best suit me, so for someone whose calendar would frighten most people, it’s beneficial to be the one planning the future.

This pattern holds true in many other ways:

Dinner with friends
Poker games
Sporting events

I probably do about 80% of the planning and inviting to these social events, but I’ve never once cared. Why am I one of the most connected people who Ann Guo knows? Why do I always have people with whom to play golf, see shows, attend sporting events, and eat dinner?

Lots of reasons, but one is that I don’t get hung up on who asks who.

Instead, I get hung up on spending as much quality time with family and friends as possible.

That, more than anything, should be the goal.