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There is something about adulthood that makes it incredibly difficult to make new friends.
In elementary, middle and high school, you’re forced to see a particular cohort of folks a few times a week, forced to do activities and projects with them. Inevitably, some of those people you’re forced to interact with become friends.
I wasn’t always the best at making new friends. In fact, I was always the lonely-looking girl standing awkwardly by the punch bowl at every conference or event. I didn’t know what to say so usually, I said nothing.
Even when someone would come up to me (you know, after you accidentally make eye contact for 5 seconds or more) and start small talk. They’d ask me about my day and on the inside I’d start to panic.
I wanted to be the person that always said the right thing… the cool thing… the witty thing. I wanted so desperately to make a connection that I often said nothing.
Through sheer stubbornness and persistence, I kept putting myself in these awkward situations (re: punch bowl, eye contact) until they started to feel normal and I mustered up the courage to start makin’ some friends.
The followings tips come from lessons I learned on my journey and some of the best practices I’ve ever received to build deeper, more intimate relationships with other women as an adult.
Send Handwritten Notes... for any reason.
I met a young lady at a networking event and she asked to follow up with me on a call later that week. We talked about her business and what she could do to grow. At the end of the call she asked for my address. I gave it to her and completely forgot about the ask, since no one ever really sends anything in the mail.
A week later, I got a postcard thanking me for my help. I couldn't believe it! I honestly felt warm on the inside.
She immediately set herself apart from anyone else I've ever met in my entire life. To this day, we've done two partnerships and we've become great friends.
I started to send handwritten notes to friends and family at least once a year. I notice they’re always just as surprised as I was to receive that first note.
Handwritten notes are cool because you can be authentic, personal and long-winded (if that’s your thing). It’s also a keepsake that they could hold onto for years.
Call, Don't Text
I know, no one uses the phone anymore… and that’s exactly why you should be! Instead of sending a text to check up on friends, call them up. Listen to their problems and be fully present in the activity of catching up.
When Facebook sends that daily email letting you know it's someone's birthday, call them instead of writing on their FB wall. They'll remember that phone call for the same reason that people remember a letter. Most people aren't doing it.
You can call for any reason:
Life event (wedding, family death, kid’s baseball game, etc.)
Invite them out for drinks/coffee/lunch/dinner/hangout session of some sort
Just to say hi! (gasp!)
Calls are highly underused these days. That’s why you should be using them to deepen your relationships.
Join Social Groups (where people meet in person)
If you have a hobby, try to find groups of people that enjoy that same hobby.
When I was transitioning into analytics, I joined every meetup group on meetup.com that talked about the topic. I eventually found 2 groups that I liked and started going to the meetings every month. After about 3 weeks of seeing the same faces, I started to make friends.
It doesn’t matter what your hobby is, there are usually people nearby that enjoy doing the same thing. When you meet up based on a common hobby, you already have things to talk about and a basis to connect on.
Meet the people you talk to online in person
I spend a ton of time on the internet (mostly Facebook) talking to the people I meet in groups. If you're in a large group, it could be helpful to announce "Hey guys! I'm in DC, would anyone want to meet up in person for coffee?" You'd be surprised how many people say yes!
The one common theme I think in all of these is to make an effort to get away from the digital world and talk to folks in more personal ways. The more people you talk to, the more chances you have to find and build a great circle of friends.
Keep “putting yourself out there”
The phrase “putting yourself out there” typically means taking risks - and that’s what you’ll need to do if you want to make some real friends.
Even if you’re uncomfortable, you’ll have to start talking to people. That’s the only way they’ll get to know you and your personality.
You’ll have to ask them to meet up in a social setting. If you want intimate relationships, you must create a space for intimacy.
Finally, you’ll have to keep trying. Sometimes you’ll find someone you think is cool, but they decline every invitation no matter how many times you invite them out. Don’t take this personally. They could have a million reasons (that have nothing to do with you) for why they can’t hang out.
In that case, let them tell you when they’re free (which might never happen) and find someone who does have the time, interest and capacity to spend time with you… because you’re worth it.
I hope the future leads to some amazing friendships for you! (And if you're in the DC or NY area, we should totally grab a drink!)
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Chantl founded Thrive Lounge to give women the kick in the pants they need (lovingly, of course) to uncomplicate their goals, stop making excuses, get productive and start living the life they always wanted. Her book, Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams, gives women a step-by-step guide to create, plan and achieve their grandest goals.