I’ll just say it.
Making friends doesn’t come easily to me.
I know a lot of people, but taking it to that next level just doesn’t happen with regularity. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, maybe it’s because it’s uncomfortable, maybe I’m afraid of rejection.
I can’t say exactly, but what I do know is that while I crave deep, meaningful, supportive friendships, the truth is that I don’t really know how to make them happen.
I have some friends who are super amazing at developing relationships. They introduce me to a new person and I ask, “How do you know her?” and they respond with something like, “We met one day when we both took our kids to the same park.”
I have absolutely no clue how two people go from being at a park together one time to being joined at the hip in the span of a week and a half. This is completely foreign to me.
I’ve been reflecting on this over the last year or so and I’ve realized a couple of things. First, many of the friendships I have are with people who I described above – ones who are adept at developing relationships and have grabbed me along on the ride with them, not deterred by the way I hold back. And second, I’ve realized that I have developed those close friendships I longed for.
They’ve just grown slowly. Very, very slowly.
And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But if you’re struggling to find your tribe and you don’t have the patience to wait ten years and see which friendships grow deep, I’ve got a few suggestions on how to speed up the process.
Let go of the idea of soulmates. Just as in marriage, friendship takes work. If you’re feeling like you haven’t found your bestie because you haven’t found someone where sparks flew immediately, you might want to consider that you’re looking for the wrong thing.
Stop looking for greener grass. Cultivate your current relationships instead of hoping to find a new person who will meet your needs. Sometimes after getting to know someone you realize you don’t necessarily click, and that’s okay. But you don’t really know that until you spend some time with them.
Recognize your responsibility. Mama, I mean this is nicest, most gentle way. Because I’m not only writing to you, but to myself as well. Being self-reflective is part of the process of growth, and growth can touch some uncomfortable and tender places. But if you’re painfully lonely and struggling with friendships, do you have some responsibility in that? Are you waiting for an invite in order to get to know people better, or are you taking steps to get to know others? Which brings me to my next point…
Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Call someone for a playdate. Ask someone to go get mani-pedis. Instead of waiting to be invited, take the initiative. It can be scary, but it’s worthwhile. It helps to relieve the awkwardness if you invite someone to go do something instead of just hang at your house or go out for coffee – which can put a lot of uncomfortable pressure on you to keep the conversation going. Also, spending time in groups of three rather than one-on-one might feel more comfortable.
Let your guard down. Let others see the real you. Friendship grows deepest in the imperfect places, and if you’re busy wearing a mask of perfection, it will be hard for others to relate to you or trust you with their own imperfections.
Be the kind of friend to others that you wish you’d had. As you start to cultivate your relationships, remember your journey. And if you notice someone else drowning in the pool of loneliness, reach out to them the way you wish others would have reached out to you. There’s a lot of discussion of tribes lately, but the problem with tribes is that sometimes they can be exclusive, closed, and clique-ish. Once you find yours, keep it open with plenty of room for new members.
Do you struggle with cultivating authentic friendships? If not, what advice do you have for those who do?