For several years I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with Shasta Nelson, a motivational speaker, CEO of GirlfriendCircles.com, and a former preacher! Although she lives on the west coast and I live on the east, I guess you could say we have become girlfriends over the years.
I was delighted when I heard that Shasta was writing a book that could make an important contribution to the practical literature on friendship. I hope that my interview with Shasta will whet your appetite for reading her new book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen (Turner Publishing, 2013).
Why is it tough for adults to make friends? Are there any self-defeating behaviors that compromise our ability to make friends?
I’ve found that the biggest obstacle to friend-making is our own fear. Fears about whether it’s possible to find good friends, whether they’ll like us, whether they have enough in common with us, if the time will be worth it, and if they want it as much as we do.
We worry that we’re the only one who needs new friends, assuming everyone else already has enough. (Which couldn’t be further from the truth since research shows that we’re all replacing about 1/2 of our friends every seven years– all needing to make friends on a pretty regular basis with job switches, moves, relationship changes, etc.)
Indeed, it is still hard for many women to even admit they want new friends because we fear that to admit that might be misunderstood by others as meaning that we have no friends, we’re unlikable, or that we don’t know how to maintain friendships. We carry guilt about the friendships that didn’t last a lifetime and heartache about the ones who disappointed or hurt us.
Simply put, the journey to better friendships starts with us just coming to peace with the fact that we need new friends and can trust the outcome to be worth the fear.
If someone feels like she’s given up on making friends, perhaps because she hasn’t been successful in the past, what advice would you give that individual?
At the risk of sounding too simplistic, I’d say, “Try again!” Just as we wouldn’t want to give up on dating just because we’ve had some bad dates, we must trust that friend-making is worth the practice. It’s not without awkwardness or fear, but we want to keep focusing on how much healthier (i.e. lower stress, longer lives, greater happiness, less sickness, faster recoveries from surgery) and happier we will be in community.
It’s also worth noting that there are five different types of friends that I outline in my book and it’s helpful for us to know which type we are actually wanting more of because the strategy for each is a little different. For the most casual type of friendship (where we have to begin when we move to a new city and are just out there meeting people) the path includes being strategic about where to meet the type of people we’re looking for; whereas for the most intimate type of friendship (the BFF we can just hang out with effortlessly) the path includes learning how to be more vulnerable and consistent with each other. And the truth is that all of us will find some steps of the friendship path easier than others, but we’re called to practice all five of the steps.
Are there any foolproof ways to making friends? If so, name three!
Foolproof? Probably Not We can’t make people love us if they don’t want to or aren’t willing to take the time to.
But certainly I outline steps that start with how to meet friendly people and how to then turn them into friendships that matter to us. I’ve found that for most people the problem isn’t that we don’t know enough people– we seem to be more networked than ever!– but the challenge becomes that we don’t know how to foster those potential friends into meaningful friends. And that’s my passion. Not just that we know how to go out and meet people, but that we know how to create supportive and mutually beneficial friendships in our lives.
Three of those steps that are helpful to new friendships are:
- Be open. Too many of us are dismissing potential friends before we have really taken the chance to get to know them.
- Initiate. Too often we want our time together to “just happen” but usually we need to invite the other person to events several times.
- And, add consistency. I’ve found it takes most of us 6-8 times with someone before we’ll feel like we’re actual friends not just two friendly people. So if that’s true and you only get together once a month then it’s going to take 6-8 months before you’re likely to feel that friendship. Whereas, if you can get together more often, say bi-weekly, then you’ve cut that time in half!
Many people who are seeking friendships say, “Don’t tell me to join a group.” If people tend to shyness and aren’t comfortable in groups, what steps can they take to initiate friendships?
I wrote a section in my book specifically for introverts who tend to be phenomenal friends but get more exhausted out by the beginning stages of becoming friends. And while I include tips and ideas, it really does come down to either initiating or joining. So if they don’t want to join a group, then they will need to put themselves out there and be ready to invite others into more shared moments. Two of the suggestions I make for going that route is to:
- Do it your own way: Just because you’re at a big event doesn’t mean you have to go meet everyone. Look for another introvert along the edge and go engage in a more meaningful conversation. Or try to only attend smaller events. Or just set up one-on-one coffee dates with women you’d like to get to know better. Figure out your style and be at peace doing it in the way that works for you.
- Restore yourself: It’s not that you’re not good at meeting people and being friendly, but rather it’s that it might drain you or increase your stress… so make sure you do what you need to do before and after that event to help you feel rejuvenated. This can mean spending a quiet hour before going out or it might mean reading a book when you get home.
What’s important to know is that there are some parts of the friend-making process that you’re better at than extroverts. We all have some skills that we can lean on and others that we simply have to practice and trust that the awkwardness will pay off!
What is the main message of your new book?
The main message of my book is that we have to be intentional about creating the friendships we want and need. They don’t just happen to us. We will never just happen upon or discover a best friend! (We may “discover” someone we like, but that doesn’t make it a friendship!) We have to show up over and over and over with the same people to actually develop a healthy friendship. My book not only breaks down the steps and qualities and stages of friendships, but it also does it in a way that expands and grows each of us into a more loving, accepting, and forgiving person since no relationship can be emotionally healthier than are the two individuals in that relationship.
Click here to order: Friendships Don’t Just Happen
“Friendship by the Book” is an occasional series of posts on The Friendship Blog about books that offer friendship lessons.
Category: MAKING FRIENDS