I've been consumed with researching and developing content for my next book, The Intimacy Gap (so cannot wait to share with you what I'm putting together to help us bridge the gap between the intimacy we have and the intimacy we need and want!) which will come out, most likely in the Spring of 2016.
But as I've been focused on what it means to deepen friendships -- really, really, really, deepen them -- it reminded me today that I also need to keep talking about how to start friendships! If you're in a place where you need to be gathering up people to befriend, then here's a quick list of my best advice for creating new friendships!
The 10 Steps to Starting Friendships:
- Own the Opportunity: Value friendship enough to do something about it! Be proud of yourself.
- Use Your Resources: Offer to help someone local host a dinner party with their friends. E-mail your friends from across the country and ask them if they know any fun women in your area they can connect you with since you're new! Look through your friends' local friends on Facebook and introduce yourself. Follow locals on Twitter and see what events they're inviting people to attend. (For more ideas, read chapter 5 of my book.)
- Practice Friendliness: Even if you're shy, you simply have to decide what places feel authentic for you to be practicing friendliness: association meetings, lectures, networking events, the dog park, church, poetry readings, cafes, classes, and so on.
- Affirm Her: No need to talk about the weather! Start conversations with the things you noticed about them: their hair, their outfit, their confidence, their laugh. We like people who like us.
- Invite: Just making small talk with someone in the locker room after yoga is hardly the same as making a friend. As you meet women that you want to get to know better, you have to take the friendly chat to the next level. Try this: "Want to get a drink after class sometime next week?"
- Be Specific about your Availability: The disease of "we should get together sometime" can ruin the best of potential BFFs. Instead, try, "I'm usually available for happy hour most nights or for Sunday morning brunches. What works best for you?"
- Ask Personal Questions: By personal, I don't mean private, but make sure conversation is about the two of you. Don't risk an entire evening wasted on celebrity gossip, the latest movies, and hairstyles-gone-bad. These subjects feel temporarily bonding, but you haven't shared yourself. Ask her why she appreciates where she works, what she's got coming up that matters to her, what she loves to do in your new city, or what her highlights have been in the last few weeks.
- Share the Positive: It's a proven fact that we want friends to improve our happiness and health, not to bring us down. We haven't earned that right yet to cry on each other's shoulders. For now we will be warm, positive, and open-minded--someone she wants to spend more time with.
- Follow Up. If it were a new romantic relationship, we'd be less than thrilled if he didn't call for a week after our first date. Give the same respect to the women you connect with by writing an e-mail or text of thanks, expressing interest in getting to know her better.
- Follow Up Again. If it were for work or romance, we'd suggest the very next opening on our calendar when we could pull off another rendezvous! Why delay for friendship? Let's just say it takes six to 10 times of connecting with someone before we feel "close" to them. Why spread those out over a year if you can make a friend in two months of weekly get-togethers? Momentum helps the bond--keep getting together as frequently as possible.
Hopefully this list helps inspire you to be intentional as you're meeting people and serves to remind you that way more important than simply meeting people is how you treat the people you're meeting and how you're following up with them. Most of us actually meet enough people, we're just not thinking of them as potential friends and doing something about it!
I'd encourage you to pick the step that is hardest for you -- step number one of actually admitting the need? Step number five of initiating some time together? Step number eight of focusing on adding value and joy to your time together? Step #10 of repeating the get-togethers a few more times and trusting that with each time your friendship will feel better? -- and focusing on practicing that one!
Are you willing to share with us in the comment section which step you find most challenging?
This list is an excerpt from my book Friendships Don't Just Happen: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends, found on page 125.