Friends With Benefits

Posted By on Apr 6, 2014 | 13 comments

Over the last few years, the term “friends with benefits” has become fairly common. Although, I think its meaning could be tweaked a little.

I have been blessed in this life to have many friends, and it seems with every passing day I meet another one, sometimes more than one. This usually happens as a result of disobeying my parents’ instructions to not talk to strangers. It seems that no matter where I go, I can always find something to talk about with someone I’ve never met before.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet several new people in a short amount of time. ย Each one of them was uniquely different, with a special perspective on life, work, and play.

I met a man who was originally from Boston, Massachusetts who’d lived in the south for thirty years. His accent was still as thick as the day he’d left New England. I met another guy who wore a fedora, and who was considering becoming a teacher after running his own business for several years. I met a woman who was so interesting, I ended up talking with her until almost one in the morning on a Wednesday night. There were others too. A guidance counselor like me, shared her pad thai so I could decide if I should order it from the Asian restaurant. I spoke with another woman who is an aspiring writer. She told me about how she is studying journalism, and showed me her blog.

The reason I’m talking about all of this is because it seems that everywhere I go, I tend to make friends with people. Bragging? No. You can do it too, no matter how shy you might be.

But how? And why would you want to?

The first part is easy. When I was sixteen years old, someone told me that I walked with my head down a lot. They were right, by the way. I always kept my head down because I didn’t want to make eye contact with other people, especially women. I figured they didn’t want to have anything to do with me so why bother. If I kept my eyes on the ground, I would at least not see someone beautiful and be disappointed when they walked by without noticing me.

When I explained this to my friend, they told me that by keeping my head down, I’m missing out on all the wonderful things going on in the world around us. They also told me that the only way to start meeting people was to pick my head up and start smiling at everyone.

It’s an awkward thing to do if you haven’t done it before. Imagine, you’re walking through the mall, smiling and nodding at everyone you pass. Does that make you uncomfortable?

It used to make me squeamish. Now, however, I smile at everyone I pass. Not only that, the simple action of smiling and nodding at people, bidding them good day, has opened up my ability to strike up a conversation with a completely anonymous stranger.

But what’s the benefit of that?

Yeah, that’s the second question. Right?

It’s really simple. The more people you meet and engage with, the better your perspective of your own life will be. You can glean amazing ideas, thoughts, and innovations from the strangers around you. You can learn about their passions, dreams, and ideals, and through all that you can find a deeper sense of your true self.

I won’t go on pounding this idea. I think I’ve made my point and you have a life to get back to. The next time you’re out in a public place, try giving a friendly smile or a nod to someone you pass, and see how it opens up your world. You might make them feel better, and you may also crack open a world of potential inside of you.

Can you do it? Do you already do this? Tell me about it in the comments. And feel free to share this on Facebook or Twitter. You too Google +ers. ๐Ÿ™‚



  1. Hi Ernest,
    Nice to meet you here..I came from Daily Interview by Eric Gati…
    Reading this reminds me of what happened to me today. I am in Kenya and we travel in some bread shaped things we call matatus where you are squeezed like sardines. I was pushed against this woman and somehow we started talking. She told me how she was rained on ( it rained heavily) and how she has a sick sister and how she went looking for medicine for the sister from a guy who tells you all about your life and charges a fortune. I had to inquire more because it sounded weird….well she was desperate to get her sister well and she could not afford the charges. And in one hour I had known that her mum was sick too, her husband is a drunk and that they are three sisters who do not get along-so she wishes for a brother.

    She alighted and a young girl was thrown next to me and I got to know that she goes around schools talking about contraceptives…who knew!
    I did not think about these events until I read your blog…maybe I should write one myself.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Sandema Sunday..
    I am an upcoming author…will be reading more to see how to achieve my dreams and goals…maybe I should be writing more instead.

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  2. Hello Ernest!
    When I saw- “This usually happens as a result of disobeying my parentsโ€™ instructions to not talk to strangers.”
    I went- Aha!
    This post in every way talks about something I believe in too and have seen the magic of it in my life past few years. Now I feel as if I have a mental collage of all the possibilities and it tends to get a bit overbearing and one also stands the risk of being overwhelmed; so beyond it all now, I find in myself at the moment, the need to stand at a distance and evaluate where I stand among it all and how I see myself to be in this jolly-packed multi-dimensional world we live in~ Perhaps this is an exercise to be practiced more often ๐Ÿ™‚
    So thank you again for a timely post! It surely feels good to know that there are people out there that one resonates with!

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    • It absolutely does. And thank you for adding this! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. What a wonderful way to approach life. Tomorrow I’m smiling at everyone. I’ll let you know what happens. Great post, as always. Thanks ๐Ÿ˜€

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  4. Hi Ernest,
    What a pleasure to read this. I don’t remember the time when you walked with your head down. I only remember that you were always a pleasure to have around. Perhaps it is old age that I don’t remember, or perhaps that we teachers tend to remember the good things about our students and let the other things slip into oblivion.
    You are a blessing, and this is a good reminder even for an old guy like me!

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  5. Great perspective you share Ern. I’ve noticed observing my two kids, 13 and 14 y.o, that the “desire” to engage in eye contact and spontaneous chatting is more natural to some than others. I’ve always treated them equally, including fatherly advice and living the example using greetings to friends and strangers with phrases like “what’s new and good?” or “what’s your story about?”
    My son engages people effortlessly with a genuine curious smile to go with it; for my daughter, who takes after her introverted father, it’s not easy at all. I can see how vulnerable she feels, yet wanting so much for her own thoughts and Self to be validated. Watching her, the joy and gratitude that floods her face when she does say more than hi and gets a positive response is precious.
    Thanks Ern for sharing the positive things that can happen to ourselves and others with just a smidgeon of humility and natural curiosity. Joel

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  6. This brought back one of my favorite memories. When I was in my 20’s, working as a waitress in a small restaurant in the south, wondering why I was in this town and married to that man, I was about as depressed as anyone could be with their life. I was walking home after work one day about as broke as when I went to work, in those days you only got tips and about a quarter an hour pay, and I just felt horrible, a young man came walking down the street smiling and as happy as could be. When we got closer together he tipped his Stetson hat, smiled and said “good morning mam, beautiful day isn’t it?”. He really meant it too. I smiled back and told him that he was right, it was a beautiful day and you know what, it really was. I never want to forget this memory and to this day it still brings a smile no matter how I feel.

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  7. Hi Ernest,

    Thank you for sharing this.
    Well, I sometimes do this when I walk in the mall or somewhere and then after I never turned my head to them so I don’t know if they’re smiling back at me. Regardless, what matters to me is I smile because I feel that I’m happy.
    God Bless.
    I hope to hear more from you.


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  8. Hello, Ernest,
    I also walked with my head down for the longest time, but it was due to an abusive father who had crushed my self-esteem. Now, as an adult, I find that when I am out and about and being friendly, most people do appreciate the gesture.
    One issue I have is with men around my age, give or take 5 years each way. Sadly, they take a smile or a friendly comment as a come-on. Have you ever had this issue with women….or is it an issue for you ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    • Good question, Shelley. Typically, I find that most women don’t take it as a come on. But it’s certainly possible that that has occurred. Guys are different. They think that a girl is into them for the tiniest reasons. It’s a good reason why Hooters has been so successful. Part of their business model is making the male customers feel like they have a chance with the girls, even though they really don’t. It keeps them coming back over and over again despite having below average food and only modest gameday viewing experience.
      So, to answer your question, perhaps choosing your targets carefully might be in order. What do you think?

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