I’ve been binge-reading your blog and very happy I discovered it. I think what you are saying mostly makes a lot of sense, but I’m struggling with something: It is so very hard to meet people who are open to new friendships. On the rare instances that I find people who seem like they are, it’s almost impossible to find people who have the *time* to get together regularly. It’s hard to move friends down the pipeline, so to speak. Everyone seems just so very busy. I can’t find anyone to say yes regularly enough to build meaningful friendships. Heck, it’s hard to get anyone to say yes at all. What do you suggest in situations like these?
Dearest Willing to Make the Time:
First, kudos to you and your awareness, intention, and willingness to foster friendships! It's awesome and it WILL serve your life. I promise! Guard that commitment-- don't let others who are less aware steal it; don't let anyone saying no rob you of it; and certainly don't let apathy drain it from you. What you know to be true: that friendships are worth the time, will benefit YOUR life. Regardless of the outcome or of anyone's responses-- you know the truth and it will bless you. Stay with it.
In fact it's your super power! Not everyone knows they have it. You're lucky you do. SO many women are lonely (and the busier she is often means the lonelier she can feel!) and they don't have the energy, know-how, or motivation to change it-- but you do! The ability to initiate repeatedly is a super power that will ensure you build meaningful friendships.
What Won't Work
Let's just be clear that what you secretly hope for isn't going to work:
- Their schedules aren't just going to open up. If I could wave a magic wand for you, I would, but it doesn't work. So we can't wait for them to "not be busy."
- Just because you initiated last time doesn't mean it's their turn. A thousand potential relationships die every day because someone believes this myth.
- Taking their silence, their no's, or their forgetfulness personally will never lead to friendship. And the good news is that in the early stages of friendship-- we don't need to take these as a sign that the person isn't good friend material. No one can make everyone a priority in their schedules. As your time together (even if it's at your initiation every time) becomes more meaningful, so will it get easier for her to commit her time to it.
- Resenting them for not "stepping up." You're not initiating for their sake, but for yours! It's not a gift to them, but to yourself! So you don't ever need to resent them for not reciprocating-- this is your goal and need so you just keep leaning into friendships... and you will get what you crave.
- Focusing all your energy on 1-2 people isn't enough. Cast a net, not a fishing line, and be open to who might surprise you as a great friend down the road!
Ideas to Try for Building Friendships with Busy People
Instead of hand picking a couple of people and casually asking them to do something "sometime" and then hoping that *poof* a friendship will develop from that-- what we need to do is try everything and anything that will help us connect with as many women so we can eventually see who is responding with their occasional yes:
- Extend an invitation to everyone you know for a standing girls night every Tuesday and be happier with the few who show up each week than disappointed with the many who don't. But keep inviting the whole group each week (and tell them to bring a friend with them if you want more there!) and you'll see that those who show up most often will feel most close by Christmas!
- Start a 4-week book club (long enough commitment to develop some friendships, but short enough for no one to feel stuck) as the excuse to gather everyone together. (My first book has a free 4-week guide, is written to help the group get to know each other, and has the extra bonus of reminding everyone how important consistent time is together!)
- Ask for a commitment from a friend who says no. If she can't make the time we suggest, then follow it up with a "When works best for you? Give me a date or two and I'll do everything I can on my end to make it work." Don't let the ball drop.
- Build a relationship with unscheduled time. She's too busy to commit? Then just make a note to randomly call her every so often-- call her the first time with a follow-up reason: "Just wanted to call you real quick and hear how x went!" Another time call her "I'm just on my lunch break so only have a few minutes but was thinking of you and wanted to just catch up and hear how x is going!" Another time: "Hi! Hopefully this will just take a few moments but I had a question for you..." Keep the calls short, ask a specific question to get the conversation started, and let her know you're thinking of her. This does facilitate bonding and can ultimately make get-togethers more meaningful.
- Try for spontaneous. I've found that a lot of my friends feel overwhelmed with their schedule when they are looking at their calendars a week or two out, but that my odds go up if I am willing to try for day-of opportunities every so often. Text her-- "Hey any chance you're up for a 30 minute walk after work tonight? I'm feeling the need for some fresh air and friendship!" Or, "Hey, I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow near your office-- any chance we can sneak away for a bite to eat before or after my appointment?" Or, "I know this is so last-minute... but just thought I'd try to see if there was any chance we could just stick our kids in front of a movie tonight for 45 minutes while we drink wine in the kitchen? Ha! You in?"
- Invite on social media. We may not want to post "I need friends. Help!" but we can certainly post to our local friends: "I want to do x next week, anyone up for joining me?" Or "I'm tired of my walking route and am looking for someone who will take me on theirs! Ha! I'll drive to you!" Or "I'm thinking of having a decorating cookie party this holiday season-- who wants to come?" This helps expose you to possible friends who may not be on your radar, helps you see who might make the time, and shows you as an open and fun person who values friendships and enjoys life.
Do you see the patterns in those ideas? Initiation With Many + Repeat As Often As Possible, with a Sprinkle of Fun and Lightheartedness = You Soon Having Friends.
The more we can call you "Making the Time" the sooner we can call you "The Girl With Healthy Friendships!"
Good luck, much love, and thank you for being a woman who prioritizes friendship!
Update on 11/5: For more on this subject, in part inspired by some of the comments from this post, see the follow-up post: "If my friend really liked me then she'd initiate more..."