How do I initiate and maintain friendships?

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“If people approach me to be friends, I feel I have nothing to offer to maintain the relationship. How can I initiate and maintain the friendship with conversation and common ground?”

I got this email over a week ago and sat on it.  I’ve thought about it every single day and I’m still not sure I have the right answer.  So, y’all may need to help a sister out and give some additional thoughts/comments.

Here’s what I know.

1. You are not alone. 

There are so many other people who feel like you do, who wonder how to make friends, who feel lonely.  We all go through seasons like this.

2. No matter what stage of life you’re in, you have to continue to pursue people and continue making friends. 

You do this when you start college; you do it again when you start your first professional job.  You do it again when you move; you do it again when your best friend moves.  You do it again when you get married and look for couple-friends.  You do it again when you start graduate school.  We are never in a phase where we can stop working on making friends.

3. The first step to finding friends is knowing who you are. 

What are your values and beliefs?  What are your interests?  How do you like to spend your time?  You need to know these things about yourself.  Yes, we are constantly evolving.  No, I’m not saying you have to have everything figured out.  But you have got to feel comfortable in your own skin.  It’s really hard to make friends with others when you aren’t comfortable with yourself, or like the great Julia Roberts’ chick flick, Runaway Bride, when you don’t know how you like your eggs.

4. Look for like minded people.

Once you’ve figured out how you like your eggs, or to skip the analogy, who you are and what you like/dislike, then you look for like minded people.  I’m not saying you can’t have friends who are polar opposites from you, but you start with people who are similar.  You have to find people that you’re comfortable around and who encourage you to continue being you.

Now, to address several pointed statements from this email.

“I feel like I have nothing to offer to maintain the friendship…”

That is a big, fat, hairy lie.  What you have to offer is your friendship.  If you have to be or do something specific to maintain a friendship, it’s not a real friendship.  Move on.  Find people who just enjoy being around you, because you are you.

“How do I initiate & maintain the friendship?”

You initiate by getting involved in things you like to meet like minded people.  You initiate by being bold and asking classmates out to lunch.  When you are sitting across a table getting to know someone, ask them every question you can possibly think of to learn about them.  I asked two friends about this over dinner the other night.  One friend admitted to having googled “get to know you questions” before.  Pretty smart if you ask me.  People love to talk about themselves.  Show interest in them and they will love being around you.  If they’re a keeper, they’ll ask you the same questions.

“How do I act and converse at a party?”

Smile, say hello to everyone, and ask them about themselves.  However, the bigger questions is– are you even comfortable at a party?  Is it your scene?  I do much better with a small group of people or just one on one.  Showing up to a big party with lots of people is not where I am at my best, my most authentic self, or where I am able to make new friends.  My friend, K, thrives in settings like a big party.  She can attend a party with 20 strangers and leave with 20 best friends.  That’s just how she’s wired.  Not me.  If I want to actually get to know someone, I ask them out to lunch.

Bottom line, take heart.  Take this opportunity to get to know yourself and decide what kind of friend you want to be.  Then pursue others who you can just be yourself around.

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