The last six years has seen our family go through a lot of changes…many big moves, three children (with one on the way), schooling and new careers. I would like to think that I’ve learned some things along the way (hopefully). With every big move, we have faced the opportunity (yes, opportunity) to create and build new friendships. This has been challenging and at the same time encouraging through time. There was a time in my life when I found making new friends to be super challenging and intimidating. The whole “process” was scary and uncomfortable, there was risk and at times great disappointment.
In the last few years I’ve come to see the whole idea of making new friends as a dance, a friendship dance if you will. I’ve thought a lot about this and even wrote this post in my head a couple of years ago. Well, here I am again, so I figured why not write about it. Talking about this stuff can feel awkward and weird (especially since some of my new friends may read it), but oh well. I believe in being vulnerable and authentic. And if it helps someone, then it’s worth it. Fall also feels like the season of new friendships with the whole back to school thing and all. Supporting my own kids as they build friendships is super important right now.
I’ve come to see making new friends as a lot like dating (not that I did much of that). Hear me out…I’m at the playground with my kids and strike up a conversation with another mom. At the conclusion of our play time there are always those thoughts in my head, do I ask her for her phone number/ email address? Do I offer her mine (but then she might not get in touch with me). Sometimes I risk it and ask, other times I chicken out and totally regret it when I get home. I can often see that the other mom is feeling the same way. There is this nervous tension, that awkward silence. Sometimes one of us acts on it, other times not.
Then there’s social media as well. I have a conversation with a fabulous new momma friend. Do I friend her on facebook? I don’t want to seem like I’m desperate for a friendship and I really don’t want to appear to be stalking her. Oh the awkwardness…and then she may friend me first. Yahoo! Acceptance in the form of the internet, I’ll take it! Now we’ll message for awhile and hopefully one of us will build up enough confidence to set up a real live conversation/ visit. After all, it takes a whole lot more than friending on facebook for a friendship to actually form.
Here’s another scenario. So I really go for it (or the other momma does) and we have a play date. It’s awesome (I think)! We chat, drink tea and the kids play. I feel so happy inside, a new friend, yahoo me! I try to send a message to thank her for the visit (if I remember in time). Then I wonder how long I should wait until I ask for another play date? Remember that I don’t want to seem super desperate. Some time goes by and I may wonder if said mom really did have a good time or not. Life gets busy, we don’t hear from each other. By this time we’re both having serious doubts. Is it to late to make contact again or should we just let things be? I try not to let self doubt get the better of me. Remember that the mom that you’re connecting with is probably busy with her own family too, don’t take it personally.
Anyways, you get the idea. So I thought I would share what
I’ve learned I’m learning during the last few years…
1. Get Over Yourself.
Yep, just do it. Try to leave your self doubts and self conscious feelings at home. Remember that everyone struggles with this stuff, in the end you’ll just need to try to get over it. It sounds blunt but it’s true. Time and time again I’ve come to learn that we’re all looking for some kind of acceptance and great friends are hard to come by. Reach out, accept and move forward, stop doubting yourself! Just be your real, honest and authentic self.
2. Stop being afraid
Making new friends and facing the possibility of rejection can be scary. Trust me…I know. I still feel that pain of fear inside when I ask someone for their number or extend an invitation to a play date with someone that I just met. Put on a brave face and go for it! So far I’ve never had someone give me a flat out no. Trust your gut, if it feels like you’ve made a connection, act on it. I truly believe that everyone is at least a bit afraid inside and people in general crave relationships. We can just be rubbish at knowing how to go about at at times. Stop being afraid.
3. Be the first one.
Something that I’ve really come to realize over the years is that we all seem to be waiting for the other person to go first. To be the first to ask us over, to start the conversation, to ask for our number. The problem is that someone needs to go first. If you’re the new person in the group, which I often have for many years, it will likely seem like the “more established” person in the group should go first. Us newcomers like to be invited in. Yep, you guessed it, get over yourself and go first. When you go first, you will be able to experience the joy found in relationships waaaaay faster than if you don’t. Take the first step and go first, you won’t regret it.
4. Say yes!
When you are invited out be sure to say yes. If you’re new to a town/ group/ etc and don’t feel like you know the people well enough to go out, get over it. Someone has invited you out, given you their number and therefore “risked it.” The ball is now in your court, accept it. It seems that so many people expect others to keep inviting them out, calling/ emailing them, etc before they will embrace the friendship and move forward. These people are only hurting themselves and this is sad. Everyone is busy and has their own lives, accept invitations when they are extended to you. If you truly can’t make it be sure that you say say how much you wished you could go and try to plan for another date right away (this feels like common sense to me but experience would tell me that it really isn’t). If you don’t do this, don’t expect invitations to keep coming your way. It is essential to affirm the other individual that you do indeed want their friendship otherwise they will draw the opposite conclusion, this is just reality.
5. Take it to the next level
It’s great to join a group of some kind, after all you have to meet people somewhere. If you meet someone new at a group, club, study, team, church, etc, you will need to take it to the next level if you expect a friendship to really form. I was a part of a photography group for moms for years and the women that really became friends were the ones that I got together with outside of the group. Think of the group as a place to meet people, a place of contact. I have met so many women through the years that have made comments to me that they are a part of a PAC, book club, photography group, team, bible study, etc and still haven’t really made friends with anyone in the group. Remember that if you really want to make friends, you have to extend an invitations(s) and get together outside the group. Many people are way more likely to open up in small groups, so going for coffee with one or two people will probably work way better. This all takes effort and time.
6. Be patient
Making new friendships can take time and requires patience. I have found that some friends and I have instantly clicked and the whole friendship thing was super easy. With other friends it has been a more lengthy process, this can especially be true for us mom folk with constant interruptions.
7. Accept the fact that not all friendships are meant to be.
Yep, sometimes it doesn’t work out. This isn’t the end of the world. I have been in some social situations where I truly didn’t feel like I clicked with anyone. This can feel disappointing and almost depressing at times. The fact is that this is just life. Try not to take it personal and move on. It can be difficult to know how long to “try” with a friend. If it really doesn’t feel like it’s working or the other person just isn’t reciprocating at all, it may be time to move on. Remember that God made us all unique, it really shouldn’t be at all surprising that we’re not going to hit it off with everyone. It’s ok.
So there you have it. My little reflection of what I call the “friendship dance.” I am in no way an expert at making or having friends. I am a work in progress. I feel like I continually fail those around me by not getting in touch enough, not encouraging enough or just not being present as I would like to be. I am so thankful that those that know me well understand that it has absolutely nothing to do with how great they are or our friendship but rather everything to do with how busy life is raising kids, being a present/ supportive wife, having numerous friends and just doing life.
That’s it. My two (or seven) cents/ thoughts on making new friends. It felt odd to write but I’ve learned that if something sticks in my head for a long time, it’s probably a good thing to share. At least that’s what past experiences have taught me.
A HUGE thanks to all the incredible women in my life that have reached out to me, accepted my invitations, supported and loved me. You are truly appreciated! So incredibly pumped about all the friendships that have yet to me made, are currently developing as well as those that have stood the test of time. Thankful.
*Photos taken by myself. The kids were at school and I felt like photographing someone. Should have invited a friend over! Next time…