Friday, January 26, 2007

The Motivation of Friendships

Motive, noun
That which incites to action; anything prompting or exciting to choice, or moving the will; cause; reason; inducement; object.

For years I have been fascinated with "intention" and "motivation." That which causes us to do something; the initial impetus that spurs us to action. When it all comes down to it, everything we do has a motivation behind it. Even if I don't think I can explain why I do something (or choose not to do something) often when I think about it, there is some explanation behind it. I had something in mind which guided me to take the first step, make the first inquiry, even if I just thought it would make me a happier person.

But what has really made me think about this has come from my interactions with others. Why is someone kind to me? Why does someone choose to contact me? Why do they make the effort to make friends with me, to call me, to email me and discuss issues that interest me? Do they do so because they expect something in return? Do they stay in contact with me because they feel wonderful when they are in contact with me, because they appreciate who I am, because they enjoy spending time with me, because our discussions inspire them?

And all of the same questions vice versa from my side!

There have been times when I misunderstood pure motivations from someone and consequently failed to follow through with a potential friendship. There have been times when someone made friends with me because they wanted me to do something for them or they were trying to get something via contact with me. And even times when a supposed friendship was a one way street - I was supposed to offer support and listen and be friendly but when I wanted support and someone to listen to me, I was brushed aside. Unfortunately, I usually don't realize these situations until after the fact and I end up feeling very used and hurt and withdraw again into my private shell where no one can hurt me. As with traumatic episodes in general, these are hard to forget and difficult to recover from.

It is hard to know the true motivations of others so I end up just doing my best by trying to pick up on clues that are available. The tone of voice, the purpose for the conversation, the choice of words and the intonation. These all start to form a picture of the person with whom I am having contact (and I assume they do the same with me). Sometimes we walk around one another, taking time to understand the other. Other times we just jump in, take the plunge, open our hearts and minds and souls with the pure hope that the other will protect us as we travel along in our budding friendship.

I will continue to contemplate motivation and its role in my life. And I will continue to allow others into my world, taking the chance that they have ulteror motives but assuming that they have only pure intentions (unless it is proven otherwise). And I will continue to keep my heart open and my spirit full and to offer my friendship fully. I know I run a bit of a risk here but my hope is that others will take as much responsibility for their motives as I am of mine.

Ironically, I have found the most understanding connections and support from people I have never met in person! I sometimes wonder if this is a sign that something is wrong with me - too shy, insecure or self conscious? And I have been known to fall into a sort of love with someone's words, their ability to describe things so exactly and perfectly. Words can be a kind of drug: sweet, heavy, all-consuming and obsessive - always wanting more. Concepts, ideas and perceptions revolve my world: observations, contemplations, discussions. And friendships based on this can be formed via email or telephone or IM in our technologically swollen world.

Thus, until I have proof that I have some kind of personality disorder, I prefer to believe that I have found friendships across continents via cyberspace because finding others who can share in and appreciate my unique idiosyncrasies is hard. Others who wish to communicate with me on all levels sometimes just can't be found in my neighborhood or even in the city where I live. Sometimes it takes a place as big as our world to find others who can understand us well enough to keep us just a little bit more sane.


Juliet said...

This is my honest answer about my motivations and intentions for any firndship. I want to open my heart up to new people. People that can enrich my life and my world. People that I may or may not share a common bond with. Friendships are about sharing happiness, sadness and everything in between. That is all that I want or expect from a friend. No more, no less.

I don't know you very well yet, but I am looking forward to getting to know you better. Now you know why. I hope this eases you worries, at least when it comes to me.

Corey said...

Juliet: You are a true sweetheart! This topic on motivation has been on my mind ever since I was young and I am always grappling with understanding it better. I probably need to see if there are any research studies out there about it, I am sure there must be! I am just very fascinated by what motivates us, on many levels. I remember in school, how children, who were actually very kind individuals, ended up bing cruel to someone because of peer pressure (to fit in and be "cool"). These kinds of situations make me wonder what it is physiologically that motivates us in one direction or the other. There are so many levels to this issue, I have never seemed to have been able to work through them all.

I don't think I ever told you but when I received your beautiful hand-written Chinese characters in the mail (intended for our coloring book which we still haven't completed), my heart melted. At that moment I knew you were an extremely kind-hearted person. In fact, I still have them with me. They will forever be a testament to the kindness of strangers - the true meaning of "random acts of kindness" which I see everywhere on bumper stickers here in Seattle. It is wonderful that we are no longer completely strangers anymore. (((HUG)))

Alice in Austria said...

well, about friendship, what totally fascinates me with our friendship, for instance, is the way you are always able to accurately reflect thoughts and feelings that I have as well (though am half as good as putting them into words) - like this post!! As I read through it I was just nodding, nodding, nodding, yeah, YESS!! right, 100%, absolutely, she hits the nail on the head .. hey, it's like someone's spying into my own brain .. ;) - See, so here we have an answer: birds of a feather flock together! Especially in cyberspace! And the crucial question that you also hint at: would we have the courage to talk like this/ share these feelings/thoughts with our next-door neighbor? I don't think so. We hardly ever get beyond talking about the weather...

I agree with Juliet that whenever we meet people that interest us it's always worth it to open one's heart and go for friendship. That makes us vulnerable also, and sure, we get rejected and hurt but like big players in life we have a lot to win that makes it all worth it...

Corey said...

Alice: Our friendship is just so special to me and I am always amazed with how often you express the exact thoughts that are on my mind. (Also makes working with you on Multilingual Living Magazine so easy and fun and delightful.) And thank goodness you have that spunk to keep me in line when I go wild and crazy with my million and one ideas or my emotional tangents. Your kind honesty makes me trust you even more! Hugs to you... this journey so far has been the ride of my life! Two more years and we'll be on Oprah with our printed magazine, right? :-)

Lilian said...

Yay to us being in Oprah with the printed magazine!!

That's not what I want to write about, though. The timing for this post is so perfect! I just spent the weekend with two of our most cherished friends in the world and it was very interesting to share with them this fascinating "phenomenon" of our online friendships. In my case, blogging and the friendships or even the acquaintances that it brought me did literally change my life as I've written about in my blog. And, incidentally, made me a better friend to my "real life," longtime friends, particularly because these friends are far away and I can only interact with them once every year or twice if I'm lucky.

I feel blessed that I haven't experienced many disappointments, though. Some of these were actually resolved later and I became closer to my friends again.

Well, that's enough and I should go to bed already!

Sarah said...

A lot of what you have to say here resonates with fact, I met my husband online, which turned out to have been a fantastic way to bypass the small talk.

Corey said...

Lilian: Yes, Oprah, here we come! ;-)

Yes, I find the same about having the chance to actually get closer via blogging and emailing. There is something about being able to write in my "inner voice" that allows me to better say what is on my mind. In person or on the phone I often am so focused on the conversation that I forget what the heck I am even saying. Arghhh! I loved reading your blog about spending time with your friends!

Sarah: that is awesome! I hear that more and more now how couples first meet online and then decide to go from there. I mean, if you think about it, it is an ideal way to deal with the initial small talk (which in person is sometimes more difficult) and the opportunity to share what is really important (without scaring them off immediately).

christina said...

This is a great post and I've been meaning to comment for a while. Where we live I've found it extremely difficult to find people I have anything in common with or people who "get" me. I've often had to change who I am to fit in, and that's not a good feeling. On the other hand, I've met some of my very best friends on the internet. Some I have actually been lucky enough to meet in person, others I've been corresponding with for years.

Corey said...

Christina: I know exactly what you mean about changing to fit in. It works for a while but eventually you just want to jump out of your skin and yell, "Leave me alone and let me be me!" But instead we turn on some emotional ballads and sob the night away. Ok, maybe it isn't that bad but you know what I mean. ;-) I totally agree with you about meeting friends via the internet. I still need to meet more to come up with a statistically accurate account of whether meeting them in person matches my hopes or not but so far, from having met Alice in person, I'm 1 for 1! Yippee! In the end, all I know is that I am a MUCH, MUCH, MUCH happier person than I was before I connected with people via the BBFN and the world wide web!