No matter the stage or age we’re in, having great friends is a coveted circumstance. Finding a squad of authentic friends who appreciate you in spite of your quirks (hopefully even because of them), put up with your lateness, call you on your crap, go all ‘Thelma and Louise’ with you when completely necessary, and even share food with you at a restaurant (this is the holy grail) is a basic need along with shelter and survival.
During different seasons of our lives-childhood, early adulthood, and the rest, we form circles of friends that we think will be in our orbit forever. These are “your people” and it’s hard to imagine ever doing life without them. But more than likely your friend circles are going to change as you get older. This makes sense, since you change, too. We don’t stay the same so we can’t expect our pack to either.
We outgrow some friendships.
It’s like the series finale of a long running TV show. You have been part of it from the start, you let the characters into your heart and you root for them through the good and the bad. Eventually it comes to an end. There just isn’t anymore to the story.
This happens with us, too. Maybe your kids’ activities are finished, or you find yourself on a new job path. Maybe it’s a bigger shift and you are growing into a bold new season. Sometimes your friends don’t understand it or just aren’t along for the ride.
Keep your Ride or Dies.
Listen: you’ll always have your core who would be there in a minute if the walls came down, but opening yourself to gaining new friends (think: people to text during the Bachelor with cheers and jeers on the rose ceremony winners) is healthy and important. You’re not replacing your Ride or Die. And don’t pressure yourself to manifest the Pink Ladies, the Friends’ friends or the Golden Girls, depending on your decade.
Just be prepared to adjust to the shifts – find your unique set of one or two, or even three people who trust to let in, who support you, and who will go see bad movies with you and sneak candy (or egg rolls, if this is your case) in their purse.
If you’re like me it looks daunting, but you know it will be worth it. Here’s a few tips to get going.
Cast a wide net.
There is a one in 10 rule of hiring in business. Prospectors often need to interview ten people to find one good, lasting employee. The same can be true for friendships, although it’s not quite as cut and dried. The point is, think outside your current sandbox.
What about those friends you really connected with, but haven’t seen in awhile for various reasons. Work and kids require enormous and well-spent amounts of time, but when those commitments change, they may have for others in your sphere, too.
I made a literal list of people that I put in the ‘newer friends / friends I like but haven’t seen in awhile / well-liked acquaintances’ category.
You may not know some of these people that well, but if you can see yourself laughing over a latte and not checking your watch constantly, they’re on the list.
Put yourself out there.
My dearest, beloved fellow introverts: I am deep in the trenches with you on this one. Keep your eyes on the prize. Repeat after me: We can do hard things.
You have to give of yourself in order to get someone to reciprocate. It’s just the way it is, and it’s also in the right order.
Your friends are busy. But they’re also skimming Netflix to zone out and avoid things. They feel insecure sometimes, too. It might not be a season of tribe-building for them. That’s okay. You are trying. Take deep breaths. Initiate the text, make the plan, confirm the date, show up.
Don’t trust your first instinct.
Hear me out on this one. If I immediately put people into a column based on my first impression I wouldn’t have some of my very best tribe mates.
I am not the greatest ten-second first-impression judge of character. I also struggle with a witchy inside screamer that insidiously jeers, “you’re not nearly as pretty, vivacious, accomplished, dynamic, good-haired, well-accessorized or naturally outgoing as she is. Forget it.”
If you are drawn to someone this is usually a sign that they are your people. Start a conversation, ask a few questions, and give it more than the first meeting.
Be the friend you want to have.
This is the golden rule of friendship. It can also be the hardest to adhere to.
We are hardwired to think about our needs first. But the key to making and keeping good friendships is putting ourselves in somebody else’s proverbial Jimmy Choos. Or in my case, orthotic walkers. You get my point.
We all want a date for the prom–we want to be wooed and told we are great and funny and inspiring and fabulous. Our friends want this, too. Pour into them. It doesn’t have to be from a pitcher if you can’t give that right now–even a sip counts.
Check in once a week if you haven’t talked to or seen a friend in a bit. It can be as simple as this: Hey friend! Just thinking about you today and wanted to see how things are going.” Don’t put a timer on a response. Don’t even expect one. You’re not giving to get — you’re giving to care. A small “note” to someone to let them know that they are on your mind is like the feeling the sun gives when it comes out from behind the clouds and melts the chill. So if you’re spilling over: give the compliment, drop off the magazine and chocolate bar, make the date.
Accept the change. And the challenge.
Ultimately it’s not always someone’s fault when friendships wither. There is so much truth to the cliches about having friends for a season and a reason.
And it’s really not worth spending precious time on keeping score. What does count in finding the people who appreciate you.
Friends are better for us than most things-money, career success, being right. These relationships are worthy and worth doing the work for. It can feel like dating sometimes, but ultimately there’s less pressure. So put in the work, it’s totally worth it.
You might feel worthless to one person, but you are priceless to another. Don’t forget your worth. Spend your time with those who value you.” -Unknown
For more thoughts on building friendships read this article.