How do you stoke the fire of friendship if you did not “click” at first sight?
Friendships that happen in an instant are awesome, but there are many friendships that develop at a more leisurely pace and become just as awesome over time. Some of us are may be slower to open up to new relationships. Our reasons may vary quite widely, but may include, among others, poor early modeling by parents, past experiences of being hurt, innate shyness, or simple social insecurity. Regardless of your personal reasons, it is still possible to build new relationships. However, this may require that you step outside of your comfort zone, as well as risk rejection.
Four Easy Steps for Building a Friendship that Provides Enduring Warmth
Step 1: Gather the Wood
If you are tired of being lonely or feel like you are in need of new, more relevant friends, the first step is widening the pool of potential friends. Is there an online “meet-up” you would like to attend? An upcoming opening of a new art gallery? A 5K for a charity about which you care? A new exercise class or writer’s group? A community enrichment class? A new church group? If the people you generally have around you are not likely candidates for building friendships, you must find a way to meet new people – friendships cannot happen in a vacuum!
Step 2: Lay the Fire
The next step is beginning a conversation with a potential friend. If you are painfully shy, look for someone else who seems to be on the periphery of the group. This person may be relieved, or even thrilled, that you made the first move. Make a comment about the event you are at or the setting you are in. For instance, you might open with something like “Wow, the instructor sure makes eagle pose look easy!” or “I’ve only run in one 5K before – how many have you completed?” or “This book was a tedius read at first, but I really got into the story midway through.”
Step 3: Strike the Match
If the potential friend responds warmly and you believe you are both enjoying the small talk, you may want to take another step. If you are in a class or other setting in which you will be meeting again, you might wait until the next meeting before trying to fan the flame of a friendship. If this is a one-time deal, and your gut tells you this might be a friendship in the making, you may use a different tactic. Find a way to determine if this person shares your interest in the type of event you are at and then assess whether you feel that you would like to begin building a friendship. For instance, you might say, “Wow, this has been fun! Are there any other cool art exhibits around town now?” or “I am so glad that I was able to fit this “craft fest/salsa night/event name” into my schedule this week! Do you often attend these, too?”
Step 4: Keep the Friendship Flame Burning
If you and the potential friend feel a mutual willingness to take the relationship a little deeper, tentatively mention a potential second meeting. Or, perhaps, continue the first meeting. Say something like, “So many cool ideas were shared at this writer’s club, do you want to go get coffee and continue our conversation?” If you get rejected, you can cover with something like, “Yeah, you’re right – I didn’t realize how late it was! Maybe we can touch bases again next month? Or we could meet up before that meeting?” You are showing your interest in continuing the conversation and establishing a friendship, but not pressuring the potential friend.
If the “continued conversation” happens and you still have good vibes about the potential friend, allow yourself to reveal a new layer of yourself. Friendships grow as the investment of interest and shared self-disclosure deepen. Don’t rush in, however. This can overwhelm some people. Coming across as being “needy” is a quick way to scare off potential friends. Be cool, be confident. Know that we are born to crave companionship, and let others into your world at an appropriate pace.
If the Fire Doesn’t Burn
If the potential friend doesn’t return your warmth or interest in a friendship and then falls back into the “acquaintance” or “stranger” category, that is OKAY! Not everyone is going to be your new best friend. Some salespeople remind themselves that it can take 10 “No’s” to get to a single “Yes.” So, tell yourself that you are one person closer to your next new friend!
Whether you and a new friend hit it off instantly or build a relationship over time, the value of good friends never diminishes. Be willing to take risks. Accept that while rejection can be painful, it is not a permanent condition. Keep your momentum moving forward and remember that not everyone can be your friend, but that good friendships are worth the risk.