Why I take the Slow-Burn Approach to Friendships (& even Dating!)

Sometimes, emotions are swept up, you’re in the middle of a grand adventure…

And then you meet someone.

Perhaps this person is unlike anyone you ever met before. Or perhaps you’re just being swept up into the adventure of it all. How can you tell?

Time. Time is the only way, of course.

Time and again I’ve been surprised how my perception of someone can shift over days and months. Occasionally, I’ll meet someone who does a surprising 180°, sometimes for ill and sometimes for the better. In the disappointing cases, my intuition will send me a warning signal. Often the signal comes in through the pit of my stomach or as a buzz in the back of my head. But I always know what it means.

So I manage my expectations. I limit how much their choices might affect me or my journey. And I continue to give them the “benefit of the doubt.” Sometimes that feeling in the pit of my stomach turns out to be less serious than I thought, and people have been known to give uncharacteristic first impressions.

The opposite can be true, too. Have you ever met someone who seemed uninteresting or just plain strange at first, only to grow closer to them later? People judge people by their covers just as they judge books, but there are often chapters that change the entire story.

The Slow Burn

All of this is why I like to get to know someone slowly, like a fire growing over time, before I make any assumptions about if and how they will fit into my life. When travelling, I often tell people that I don’t feel like I know much of anything about someone new after just one day, even if we hang out all day. To form a baseline model for someone’s personality, I need multiple data points. I need to see them in different environments on different days.

I read once that people are like fruit. I really don’t get to see what’s inside until they’re squeezed by circumstance. It’s a fun metaphor, and I think it’s not far from the truth. What I’ve learned about friends in times of strife is usually enlightening, sometimes encouraging, and often vindicating. Certain circumstances reveal totally new chapters within the story. I’m not saying you need to wait for these to happen, but they can be exceedingly valuable in understanding a person on a deeper level.

Tips for Travellers & Stationary People Alike

If you want to establish strong, honest relationships with people, take time before you make assumptions about a person. I’ve often been surprised at how good a friendship can get, or how I can pick up certain friendships right where we left off, as if no time had passed at all. I used to think that a long gap in communication was a sign that we’d grown apart, but now I see it as another element in the ever-complex process of growth that we are all taking part in.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “It’s a marathon not a sprint” and connecting with people is no different. So run the marathon with wisdom and trust your inner guide. Watch the scene unfold as a slow burn. You’ll be glad you did.

6 bits on Why I take the Slow-Burn Approach to Friendships (& even Dating!)

  1. It is interesting. With the man I am currently involved with, the love-trajectory has been entirely different than any other man ever… it has grown and grown and grown… and for whatever reason (deep, profound love)I am willing to continue making the best of it with him… forgiveness, compassion, etc.

    We’ve had some problems the last few months and have had many relationship talks and yet, we’re still willing to sit down like a couple adults and work things through.

    Happy to be here from StoryDam!

  2. I like this description. I am an employer in a small business. I have to deal with my help as employees and people. It can be an interesting journey, being a boss and a potential acquaintance.

  3. I like the fruit metaphor… Great relationships take time for their flavors to fully develop.

    Also, the “slow burn,” makes me think about how cozy a fire is once it has settled into coals.

    When I had my coffeehouse, there were certain customers who were really cranky at first, but then mellowed into some of the kindest people you could imagine.

    Great topic for a post. Relationships = fun stuff!


  4. Wonderful to hear that you all got something out of it. This article had been simmering for a while before I wrote it.

    @LM I really appreciate that compliment!
    @Marshall Wonderful to hear it!
    @Renee Thanks for giving me a new angle I hadn’t even thought of!
    @Julie Wow, thanks for the great comment/story!
    @Tui Haha, and the fire is love. 🙂

  5. Nice post, and a thoughtful attitude, too. 🙂

  6. I really enjoyed this piece. Relationships are such a quagmire, so it’s interesting to see how someone else goes about it!