Jul 4, 2017

An Update on the Friend Finding Mission

I know I've talked about how difficult it is to make friends as an adult.  (I can't find the post but even if I did, I'd probably hate it because don't we all hate our posts from more than 2 years ago?)  I attended Meetup Groups, tried a friend finding website, and generally struggled and felt isolated for a long time.

Then I forgot about it.  Until a couple days ago when I was talking to Ryan about my new "graphic designer friend" and he said, "Which one is this?"

Guys.  I have enough friends that Ryan can't keep them straight.

This is huge!

But it's also different from what I thought it'd be.  I think I was expecting to find one or two good friends.  I thought I'd find a tiny, core group of people who were just like me.  People who could be my end-all be-all, and nerd out over Lord of the Rings after we finished attending a business function together.  Who could give me business feedback, and would want to watch fantasy movies with me and go to figure drawing and on and on and on.

I was looking for me.

The problem with that is that no two people are exactly alike and share all the same interests.  Even if I did find my lifestyle doppelganger, my own interests change and I can't expect another person to mirror that.  It's ridiculous.

I don't know exactly when I figured it out, but I started accepting that each friend fits into one part of my life.  And that's plenty!  I have more variety this way and I get to know so many awesome people that I would have missed out on before.

I have an art friend, a business bestie, blogger friends, old high school friends, nerd friends, graphic designer friends, and a TON of acquaintances.  I have a brunch group, a book club, and I'm working on some new mom friends, and hopefully a new workout buddy since I lost mine.

In addition to accepting that people are different (staggering revelation, I know), I think I've also accepted how transitory it all is and I've stopped being so selective in how I apply the term "friend."

You don't need to prove yourself or pass some imaginary gauntlet to be my friend.  All you have to do is say yes occasionally when I invite you out somewhere.  If you invite me out, even better!  I can really see this going somewhere.  (I'd like to add an innuendo there but my brain isn't working with me.  Pretend I said something funny.)

I have maybe one ride-or-die buddy, a couple of closer friends who will do one-on-one activities with me and who actually answer my texts, and enough special-interest/one-dimensional friends that I'm not going to try to count them.  It's more satisfying than I would have expected it to be and I don't even mind that a lot of these relationships will never become deeper friendships.

Some of these people I will only hang out with a handful of times and then we'll drift apart.  Being temporary doesn't mean they didn't contribute to my life in some way.

Now, let's stop rambling and get down to practicalities.  Here's what I've tried.

Places to Make Friends


1. Meetup Groups - C

I can't honestly say I've made any friends from a Meetup group that I then spent time with outside of that group.  BUT if you're lonely and haven't made friends yet, a Meetup group can provide a fairly satisfactory social substitute.

My favorites: pretty much any dog group (you can also just go to a dog park - talking to other dog people requires very little effort because you already know what your common interest is), Girl Develop It (women in tech), MOMs Club (ditto to the dog group comment but don't tell the moms I said that), and my feminist book club.  This last one I have the highest hopes for turning into real life friends but even if that doesn't work, I'm enjoying the discussions so much that I won't be too upset.

2. Friend Finding Websites - F

I think the one I used was "Girlfriend Connect"?  I'm not sure.  In any case, while I went in determined to make light of "friend dating" I think it did, in fact, feel too much like dating.  Awkwardness ensued.

Note: I've seen some people legitimately use dating website to look for friends.  I was always too suspicious that they were actually looking for threesomes or kinky sex things so I never tried it or responding to it but I'm curious.  If anyone has done this or knows someone who has, I'd love to hear how that worked for you.

3. Special Interest Forums - F

I think I really only tried online groups for graphic design and books.  While I like blogging book linkups, online book clubs don't really do it for me.  The conversation gets too disjointed.  Asynchronous group conversations are not my thing.

4. Blogging - A

I don't have to tell you guys how effective blogging is for making friends.  The ironic thing is that when I started I didn't realize that would happen.  Which is great because it means all the friendships I have made have been totally organic!  I even have a couple people I meet up with occasionally so it's made the transition from "online friends" to "IRL" friends.

The only downside is that the majority of my blogger friends are too far away to see in person and Delaware doesn't have a ton of bloggers.  So it's a limited pool to work with.  (For me - it could be very effective for someone else.)

5. Networking Groups - B

This one surprised me.  But it makes sense!  If you pick a group and go regularly, you'll see the same people over and over again.  People in networking groups are often better at reaching out because they have a stronger drive to "make connections" and they're not going to give you the side-eye if you invite them out for a coffee.  Overall, I've made more "business connections" than friends, but I have some of each and networking taught me the MOST important tactic, which I'll get into below.

Friend Finding Tactics


1. Reaching Out to People

Yes this is the most important one.  Let me apologize for how obvious this must seem.

When I started this journey it was a struggle to text or email or Facebook message someone just to say, "Hi.  How have you been?"  Inviting someone out to do something if I didn't know them well seemed impossible and incredibly awkward.  I have a theory that this is harder for women because, for the most part, we didn't have to take the lead in dating and so we never learned this skill.  (Feel free to debate me on that - I'd be interested to hear opinions!)

Regardless of other people's skills or lack thereof in putting themselves out there, I didn't have it.  I didn't realize it was necessary.  Going to a coffee shop with a stranger?  How terrifying!  Someone from the friend finding website actually invited me to do this without any preliminary conversation and I thought she was crazy.  Turns out she got it and I didn't and I probably missed a good opportunity to hang out with an experienced socializer.

In any case, networking events quickly taught me that this is not only normal, it is essential, and after bumping into a high school acquaintance at a couple of events, I invited her to brunch.  I got lucky with that, as she was an enthusiastic bruncher, knew a ton of graphic designers/artists, AND was an experienced networker.  My semi-monthly creative brunch group is all due to that one contact and, as I invite these new acquaintances to things, I'm realizing most people DO want to do things.  But most of us don't have time to plan and maybe, like me, are a little scared to do the reaching out.

So I reach out now.  When I meet someone I like, I ask if they're on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/etc.  Do they have a business card/an email/a phone number?  When I think of an activity that reminds me of our conversation, I invite them.

Sometimes that old awkward feeling does resurface and it's not always easy.  But I force myself to do it anyway and, more often than not, people are interested.  I've even just posted to Facebook, "Who wants to do ___?" and to my great surprise, people answered!  I got a totally random group together for Harry Potter Escape the Room and it was a fantastic time.

But it doesn't always go that well and sometimes people don't answer or they're "busy," which leaves you wondering if that's code for, "I don't really want to hang out with you."

Here's my next secret.

2. Don't Take Things Personally

People flake, potential friends ghost, close friends drift apart.  So what?

Back to the friend-finding website.  I had one really good potential nerd friend.  I was far too excited about this.  Every email that I sent her or thing I invited her to was terrifying and I had no idea how to handle it if she said no.  After going to a couple things I invited her to, she stopped answering me.  I reluctantly let it go.  It felt like a personal rejection.

And maybe it was.  Maybe she didn't like me as much as I liked her.  Maybe she thought my activities were boring.  Maybe I was way too clingy because I had so few potential friends at that point.

Or MAYBE her life was too chaotic.  Maybe she moved back home.  Maybe she didn't have as much free time as I did.  Maybe she was more introverted, or had a bigger group of friends already.  Maybe she just forgot.

It literally doesn't matter.

Something we often lament as adults in need of friends is how busy everyone is and how hard it is to get people to do stuff.  That's true.  But it's also true that if you keep reaching out, you'll find the other people who feel the way you do and who are just as determined to find some new friends.

Don't waste time on the ones who don't respond and don't waste time agonizing over whether or not they're going to respond.  Next point.

3. Use a Wider Net

When I invite people to things now, I'll often forget I sent the invitation because if they don't answer, there's someone else who will want to do something.  Plus, between the business and the baby, I'm busy too!  I don't have time to waste feeling awkward or scared and anxiously waiting to see if people reply to my messages.

One huge benefit of having a wide net of acquaintances vs a core group of friends is that I'm not as tied to specific people's schedules.  If my schedule and another person's schedule don't match up, that's fine.  We'll do something in a month or two.  In the meantime, I'll find someone with availabilities that match mine.  And if one person doesn't seem as receptive, I can let them go and focus on others.

4. Be Enthusiastic But Don't Wait for Other People to Be

Some of my best friends are the ones who make it very clear that they like me.  I never have to worry about whether they want to do stuff because if I say, "Do you want to go to ___?" They respond immediately with, "YES THAT SOUNDS AWESOME!"  I have friends who literally say, "You're amazing" which is about the best feeling in the world.

But not everyone has that personality.  I don't even have that personality.  I have to remind myself to tell Ryan that he's awesome.  I literally have a calendar reminder.  I had to make an executive decision to be a "hug person" because my natural inclination is more, "Meh, I don't really need to be touched right now."

I do this because I've noticed that while I might not want a hug at the time, I do feel closer to the people who are "huggy" people.  I also pump up the exclamation points and the visual indicators of enthusiasm because I don't want people to think that me being more laid back means I don't like them.

On the same token, I don't expect everyone else to spew sunshine and excited emojis.  If they do - great!  I know they're on board with our blossoming friendship and that I'm in the clear to say things like "blossoming friendship."  If they don't, it doesn't necessarily indicate lack of interest and I'll continue to invite them to things until they stop accepting my invitations.

It's also ok to literally tell people you like them.  Sometimes I text all my close friends (aka the ones I have a recent text conversation with) and tell them a thing I like about them.  Some people will question you but most people will appreciate it, because we all need reminders and support.

After all, isn't that what friends are for?

What tactics have you tried for making friends?  How did you become friends with the friends you have now?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

2 comments:

  1. Love this! So many people struggle with this. Glad you found your groove!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am still working on meeting people. It's getting easier now that I'm starting to really know what it is I'm looking for.

    ReplyDelete

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