Have you ever felt like your life needed a few more friends in it? Several years ago my best friend began a full-time job, and I was a stay-at-home mom with two kids. I needed some day-to-day mom interaction. Instead of waiting and hoping another best friend would fall out of the sky and fall in like with me, I decided to venture outside of my comfort zone and go find her on my own.
Making new friends is hard.
It takes time, persistence, a dash of bravery, and knowing where those potential friends are hanging out. I wasn’t sure where to look. I’d graduated from MOPs (mothers of preschoolers), wasn’t currently in a church, and didn’t have a job outside the home.
Where, oh where, was I going to find those new women friends who would laugh at all my jokes and know that I’m always hungry and really like to talk about food?
Right out of the gate I discovered something that was a real game-changer: being friendly, smiling at people, and just saying “hello” works amazingly well!
It may be old-fashioned, but most people just want to be noticed. I think a lot of women probably want to chat. It’s how we connect, and oftentimes we are just waiting for someone else to initiate it. But you can be that brave soul and be the one who steps up with a smile and says, “hi.”
I’m naturally an introvert, so choosing to continue in a conversation that feels awkward and uncomfortable is hard.
My trick? Ask people about themselves.
I’m not good at small talk. It bores me and I tend not to listen very well if someone is talking about the weather. But people love to talk about themselves. Ask where they are from if they have a great accent. Or what they’re making for dinner (maybe they’ll invite you too). Just kidding, that’s bad advice. Don’t follow that one.
The best venue I found for meeting friends was at my daughter’s school. Instead of dropping her off curbside, I parked the car and walked her inside. She loved this. And it was a great way to meet people. You instantly have something in common with all the other parents there: the school and the children. Easy pickings for your first conversation.
The gym, church, meet-up groups, dog parks, or your local pub are also excellent breeding grounds for friendships.
Making a good friend takes time.
Close relationships aren’t built in a day. So even if you don’t think you will mesh well with someone, try to keep an open mind. There are people you will connect with right away, but just because you don’t feel instant rapport doesn’t mean the relationship can’t happen.
It can be scary reaching out to someone only to be rebuffed if they don’t notice you or they don’t seem like they want to talk. Give them a second chance. Sometimes we moms are distracted by our kids or that crazy list that is going around in our heads of all the stuff we should be doing instead of standing around watching Junior go down the slide for the tenth time. Don’t take it personally. Try again.
We’ve probably all had the experience of wanting to engage with the group of moms hanging out by the park or at school after drop-off. They all seem to be chatting and having fun.
Recently I walked up to a group of gals by my daughter’s preschool and started chatting. It’s still a little intimidating for me to do this when I don’t know them well. The moms were talking about gymnastics so I asked a question or two as a way to get involved in the conversation. Shortly afterward, I made a joke that fell flat and momentarily felt like a big dork. My immediate assumption was that this group was not the group for me. Maybe I’m right. They may indeed not appreciate good humor when they hear it. But I’ve been wrong before too.
The first time I met quite a few of my friends, I immediately dismissed them as potential soul sisters, but we ended up being kindred spirits ala Anne of Green Gables and Diana Berry.
Be Passionate . . . About Something.
I love to hang out with women who inspire me. Positivity is a plus. Don’t be the Eeyore of the group. It’s a turn-off. We are all attracted to other people who make us feel good about ourselves and who get excited about things. Even if they aren’t our things, joy is contagious.
For example, I have a friend who runs marathons. Every time I’m around her I vow I’m going to start running. This lasts about twenty-four hours. I do one run and decide that I am happier being a non-runner and hearing her running stories. She inspires me even if I never run another mile.
When you have young children at home having a posse, be it big or small, can mean the difference between loving life or merely gritting your teeth and bearing it.
Maybe you’ve got an amazing baby daddy around the house, and I’m sure he’s a huge help, but if you are the one at home all day long, no one else will understand the monotony of the day-to-day like another mama. If you are in a season of friendlessness, or you just want to expand your connections, take the initiative and reach out. You don’t have to be a brilliant conversationalist. A smile is a good place to start.
Originally published July 2017