Making friends as an adult is hard. I mean, seriously. Not only is it tough to meet people in general — hello dating for friendships — you have to navigate to find those you want to spend your free time with, those you feel comfortable confiding in, who will be there with you through the up and downs, and those where you build each other up.
I moved my fair share growing up, and in the past 12 of so years since moving to the West Palm Beach area I’ve spent considerable time finding my crew. It’s not easy, and I talk to friends all the time about the challenging in how to make friends, whether you are new to an area, or looking to find good, honest and sincere friendships.
Unless you’re a social butterfly who loves meeting new people, it takes time and real effort to connect with other women, especially after college days and perhaps those immediate post-college years where weeknight happy hours were a tradition instead of a rarity. While I seem outgoing I can also be insanely awkward where I get clumsy — both in my physical self and tripping over my words — or I’ve realized can maybe come on too strong because I’m ready to move past dating and onto serious relationship too soon (who has time for games, right?).
There are different stages of friends. When you’re new to an area, you might have “starter friends.” Sounds funny but it’s not a bad thing. When you’re new it’s great to connect with people who could become life-long friends, or simply an entry way to meet those who are destined to become your true friends. It’s also important to understand how friends serve different purposes or are in your lives for different reasons. When I was going through a really hard time with friendships 2-3 years ago, a friend told me, “Friends are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” I have to confess that those wise words honestly broke me of a lot of heartache (ok, along with some counseling!). It hurts when you get broken up with, and thinking of someone in my life for a reason or a season, and perhaps not for a lifetime, gave me intense perspective.
I’ve learned so much about creating and fostering friendships, and while I’m absolutely still a work in progress, here are a few key ways to start building quality friendships… because remember, in this scenario, quality of quantity wins every single time.
- Find common interests. The easiest way to meet people and strike up a conversation is with those with common interests. For me, that’s the Florida Gators and that I’ve always volunteered with causes tied to my religion. When we moved here, I immediately sought out the local UF alumni club, and nonprofits close to my heart. We immediately had weekend plans — college football, anyone? — and met a ton of great people, many who we are still close to. It also made it really comfortable for me to go to events solo. And, every mama knows that babies are friend magnets: go to a baby & me gymnastics or music class, find a stroller fitness, or make a point to sit near another mom at your kid’s basketball game. Ask these moms to meet for a playdate, grab lunch before any event, take the kids for ice cream, whatever works.
- Volunteer. There are a gazillion nonprofits out there. Find one meaningful to you and you’ve already created an instant connection with whoever you meet. Attend one of their events, ask if you can serve on a committee — or offer to lead one if it doesn’t exist. I helped establish the young alumni group of the UF alumni because it didn’t exist. Make it happen and people will join.
- Be Understanding… but invest in friends who invest in you. When you’re anxious to make friends, you could be trying to connect with a really cool potential life-long friend who simply has hit a crazy work patch and isn’t ignoring you on purpose. My Type A personality wants to immediately make plans, but making friends is kind of like dating (unfortunately). I’m not one for BS but you also don’t want to come on too strong. Just find the balance and don’t be in such a rush that you push someone good away.
- Don’t be too quick to dismiss. I’ve been guilty of this along the way, if we’re being honest. Unlike dating, just because you don’t have a sudden spark doesn’t mean it can’t become a serious relationship. 😉 I have a friend, for example, who when I first met I thought she was a little too loud and aggressive. A few hangouts later and it was transparent what an incredible warm, compassionate and incredible person she is. She’s now one of my favorite people and we have so much in common. I could have really missed out.
- Ask for an intro. Once you start connecting with women, it’s likely she’s friends with more women like her. No, you’re not looking for a homogeneous group of friends but those with a commonality or two is great. Don’t be shy about saying, “we should plan a fun girls night and each invite a friend or two” or “I’d love to meet Becca, she seems like such a sweetheart! Would you be open to introducing us?”
Image above with a few of my college besties (though definitely one or two missing!), and the ultimate girlfriends below…