Making friends is hard. Building meaningful relationships is harder. Sometimes it even feels impossible; but it’s not.
We’ve all been the new person at some point in our lives. We’ve been the only one in the room who doesn’t know anyone. We’ve scanned a sea of faces hoping to be met with a reciprocated smile. We’ve shown up at events we didn’t want to attend in hopes of meeting someone else who was in the same boat. We’ve all been in need of a new friend.
Whether you’re a military mom or a civilian mom, a mom of teenagers or a mom of a newborn, a working mom, a stay-at-home-mom, a married mom, or a single mom, chances are that you’ve been a mom in search of a friend. For most of us, friendships take time. Acquaintances slowly become friends. Friendships slowly grow into meaningful relationships.
But if you’re a military mom who moves around every few years, time is a luxury you just don’t have.
That’s why I’m going to share with you 5 tried-and-true steps to building meaningful relationships in every season of life … and how to keep them!
Step 1: Choose Your Common Factor
There’s not a single person in your list of friends who you don’t have something in common with. You went to school together. You live on the same street. You go to the same gym. Something. So, if you’re looking for new friends, deciding on that something is the place to start.
You may simply be desperate for any friend right now or you may be wanting to make several different kinds of friends, but either way, you get to decide where you’re going to find your friends. Do you need mommy friends? Do you need workout buddies? Are you looking for someone you can share a bottle of wine with or someone you can go hiking with? Choose the common factor that you wish to have and go on to Step 2.
Step 2: Utilize Social Media
Say what you want about the downside of social media, but I’ve found it to be an amazing tool for connecting people. Before our last move from Missouri to Florida, I knew that I did not want to waste any time looking for new friends. So, I didn’t.
For me, the common factor I was seeking was church, so I googled churches in the area until I found one that matched our core beliefs and had a Facebook page for its women’s ministry. I introduced myself, said I was moving to the area, asked a few questions, and made a handful of instant friends. By the time we flew down to look for a house, I already had friends waiting for me at the door of the church with smiles, hugs, and all kinds of helpful information about the area. Many of them had kids similar in age to my kids and they were instantly matched up, as well. Moving sure is easier when you already have friends waiting for you in your new town.
For you, it may be your job, a spin class, a book club, a play group, your school’s PTA, or a local charity where you’d like to volunteer. Whatever it is, find them on social media. Introduce yourself. Tell them you’re coming, tell them you’re new here, or tell them that you’re just looking to make some new friends. But put yourself out there.
Don’t expect them to come find you. You’re amazing and deserving of beautiful friendships, so let the world know you’re ready to make them.
Step 3: Go
Go. Just go. Go to the spin class. Go to the library. Go to the church, or school, or park, or cafe. Go.
Getting up the nerve to go somewhere new all by yourself is usually the hardest part of the entire process, but it’s the only way to make friends quickly.
Sure you could stalk someone online for weeks and THEN meet them, but nobody has time for that. So, go. If you utilize social media like I suggested above, you’ll feel like you already know a few people when you arrive and that makes the situation less daunting. Besides, if you tell them you’re coming, the extra accountability is a great way to make sure you actually show up.
So, be brave. Step out of your comfort zone. Go!
Step 4: Introduce Yourself
It seems rather obvious, but I’m amazed at how many people have told me that they’ve attended an event and walked away without any friends. When I ask who they talked to they say, “nobody.” Well, that right there is the problem.
You do have to talk to people to become friends with them and the best way to do that is to introduce yourself.
Knowing who to talk to can be the trickiest part. If you’ve made connections through social media, you’ll want to look for those individuals. But if you skipped that step, your best bet is to look for someone else who looks new or alone. Many friendships have formed simply because two people were alone and chose to be alone together.
Another good option is to scan the room and look for someone who is willing to make eye contact with you. I’ve found that if someone makes eye contact with me and smiles, that person is usually a pretty safe person for me to be able to strike up a conversation with.
I know it can be awkward, so here are a few of my favorite introductions, depending on the circumstances. You can choose the one that feels most natural for you.
“Hi. I’ve seen you at my daughter’s school, but we’ve never actually met. I’m Heather.”
“Hi. I’m going to be flat out awkward and just tell you that I’m new here and I’m looking for a friend. I’m Heather.”
“Hi. I promised my husband that I’d try to make at least one new friend tonight. I’m Heather.”
“Hi. I’m sorry to interrupt, but you have the cutest bag/sweater/sandals/hair cut and I think we absolutely should become best friends.” (Say that with a fun laugh, not a stalkerish one.)
Think of these as the cheesy pick-up lines of friendship, but guess what! They work!
And yes, a bag/sweater/sandals/hair cut can be the foundation of a beautiful friendship. I once hired an assistant because she was wearing the cutest pair of boots, and I knew from her taste in footwear that we could be great friends. Eleven years later, we’re still great friends. So compliment someone and make a friend for life.
Step 5: Follow-Up
The follow-up is just as important after meeting a new friend as it is after a first date. If you meet someone at an event, your opportunity to talk might be limited. So ask if she minds swapping phone numbers, ask for her social media handle, or trade email addresses. Just make sure you have a way to follow-up with her and then do it.
Follow-up can simply be thanking her for making you feel welcomed, asking her for the date of the next meeting, or suggesting a play date in the future. All that matters is that you’re talking and building a relationship.
There’s obviously a difference between the friend you chat with at the playground and the friend who holds your hand during childbirth, so how do you make meaningful friendships in a short amount of time?
The answer is simple but do not underestimate it. Just be the kind of friend you want someone else to be for you.
Yes, the Golden Rule applies to adult friendships just as much (if not more) as it applied on the playground. If you need the kind of friend who will keep your kids overnight, so you can have time alone with your spouse, then offer to keep someone else’s kids overnight so they can have time alone with theirs.
If you need the kind of friend who would drop everything to help you, be ready to drop everything to lend a helping hand for them.
I’ve found that friends are way more likely to offer to babysit, help you paint, pick up your kids, or bring you dinner when you’re sick if you’ve already done something similar for them. So, don’t sit around waiting for someone to do something nice for you. Do something nice for someone else and set the tone of your new friendship to be one of helpful consideration for each other.
I had a friend come in the middle of the night to take my newborn because I was too weak from being sick to even hold her. I had another friend who quickly stripped my toddler’s sheets off the bed while I rushed her into the bathroom as she projectile vomited strawberry milk all over everything. And I’ve been the friend who helped comb lice out of someone’s else’s daughters’ hair because I know exactly how overwhelming and exhausting and daunting that task can be.
Mommin’ ain’t easy, but it’s definitely better (and often more comical) when another mom is at your side.
So, take a deep breath, put on your big girl pants, and step out of your comfort zone. Raise the bar on friendship. Life is so much sweeter when you have people to do life with. Go find your tribe and love them hard. They’re worth it. And so are you.