Oct 25, 2009

An adult's guide to making friends... part 3 (You had me at... Hello)

If you are just checking in, I have already covered WHY we need friends, where to find them and today I will be covering the dance that is beginning a friendship.

First let me say that I believe that beginning a friendship as an adult feels very much like beginning a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school.  It's terrifying at times, you have to take risks, and sometimes the other person just isn't interested.  I am not saying this to be discouraging, I am just letting you know that it's okay to feel nervous, and maybe a little awkward when you are "pursuing" someone to be your friend. This quote is true on so many levels:
“Friendship is an art, few people have a natural talent for it.” unknown
First let's start with YOU.  If you are struggling with low self esteem, or come across as someone who has no confidence, people will not be attracted to you.  When I was in high school, I was not the prettiest girl out there, but I was confident.  I didn't run with the "popular" crowd, but I had friends in every different social circle, because I refused to "play by the rules" and talked to everyone, no matter what their "social status" or clique.

If you want to have friends, you have to believe that you are worth being friends with.  Take a second and repeat after me: "I am friendly.  I have something to offer.  And gosh darn it, people like me!"  Okay, now that you're done laughing, consider what I've said.  Could it be that your lack of confidence is holding you back? Do you come across as being too "needy"?  People want to be friends with "calm, cool and collected" people, people who don't "need" you, but rather think you're worth hanging out with.  Be that person.  Be you, but be that person too!

Secondly, let's look at the person (or people) you want to become friends with.  Why do you want to be friends with them?  Let me warn you that if you want to become friends with someone to further your position (social, financial, political), it might not work out for you.   The best skill you can possess is to be transparent, or "real", people don't like to feel like you are trying to sell them something or feel like you are befriending them to "get ahead".  Please don't do that.

Now, let's get back to how to move from strangers to friends.
1. YOU MUST SMILE.  No one wants to be friends with someone who looks... cranky, so smile.  Don't underestimate the importance of non-verbal communication.  If you see the same person every day and they look angry at the world, chances are, you won't want to befriend them.
2. Be available.  Make eye contact, greet other people warmly, do not talk on, text on or play games on your cell phone.  Do not listen to your IPOD, or read a book.  Nothing says "DON'T TALK TO ME" like being busy.
3. Introduce yourself and establish common ground.  "Hi, I'm Alissa, I'm Ben's mom, from Mrs. Smith's class."  If they don't offer, ask them their name.  Make every effort to remember their name for the next time you see them.  If you forget someone's name, please don't be embarrassed to ask for it again, then write it down somewhere (after you are done talking to them.)  If you struggle with remembering names, sometimes if you ask someone how they spell their name, it will help cement it in your brain.
4. Start conversations. The more often you do this, the more likely you'll become friends with someone.  Often the ability to talk to anyone about anything is a skill that is not highly valued, but is incredibly valuable. A good conversation starter is to ask a question about your common area. "How is Johnny doing in Mrs. Smith's class?" Another conversation starter is to offer a compliment, just don't make it too weird.  For example: "I love your hair, where do you get it done" might be safe, while "Wow, those jeans make your butt look really nice" is probably a little odd.  Over time, having a conversation with your potential friend will become easier and easier as you get to know them.
5. Ask questions and LISTEN.  Nothing is more off-putting than a person who asks you a question and then zones out as you are answering, or gets distracted and looks around, or worse, greets someone else and starts up another conversation in the middle of your sentence.  Ask questions you want to know the answers to.  "How long have you been married?" if she mentions her husband. "Do you work outside of the home? What do you do? Where do you work?  What does your husband do?"  All of these will get the ball rolling.  Remember that it's not an interview, leave space in the conversation for them to ask questions too, or answer the questions you ask (after they are no longer speaking).
6. Extend an invitation.  This is when it gets a little hard.  It's not like you can say "Gee, I think you could be my friend, would you like to go have coffee so we can find out if we are compatible?" You have to approach this one with a little more finesse. Once you've established a foundation, and know that you are somewhat compatible, you can take it to the next level by inviting them out to coffee or a drink.  A safer option is to create a group activity, invite several acquaintances at one time to meet up for coffee or something.  If you have their email address or phone number, it's okay to call, Facebook or email the invitation, but if you want to know if they are really interested in hanging out with you, you should invite them in person.  "We should get together sometime for coffee" is a great opening, and not too much risk.  If they respond warmly, "Yes, I would love that", then you can follow up with a specific time and place, if they respond cooly, "I am so busy, I don't think I could fit that in" go more slowly or acknowledge that they might "not be that into you"

Next post I will be discussing the "deeper" issues in developing friendship, chemistry, compatibility and knowing when to give it up.
Do you have any suggestions for first "date" activities with new friends?


  1. Great advice on friendship. It's hard sometimes to nurture those relationships when you are a busy parent.

  2. Yeah, I'm good right up until extend an invitation. Then I run away.

  3. You are an expert friend maker! Sounds so easy!!!

  4. Oh man, #5 is the WORST and I know I have been guilty of it. We really need to be LESS SELFISH and other's minded... then we will actually make the time to LISTEN!

    Great post! Nice to meet you, I'm now a follower!



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