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Making Friends… A Follow Up

Dana & Kristen

I was totally surprised and completely overwhelmed by all of the responses to my post about how difficult it is to make new friends as an adult.

I received messages from total strangers, acquaintances, good friends, old friends, new friends (the few I’ve managed to make), and I appreciate every single one of you for reaching out and sharing your experiences too.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone.

Making friends as an adult is hard. It takes effort. It takes time. It’s trial and error. It takes putting yourself out there, venturing out of your comfort zone. It takes being vulnerable and facing the possibility of awkwardness, disappointment, and rejection.

First let’s get one fact out of the way: Some social groups are already established and they really don’t have room for anyone else. It is what it is, there are just some people who form cliques and decide that nobody else is welcome. Quite a few of us have experienced this phenomenon. Oh well, good for them and their superiority complexes… and also, screw them.

I’ve mostly used Facebook groups to meet new people and it always strikes me as odd that sometimes women act so welcoming online, but when I actually meet them I feel like I’ve been led on. I show up all excited and end up sitting there feeling invisible because I can’t get a word in edgewise.

Um, where are all of those super friendly gals who couldn’t wait to welcome me into their sisterhood with open arms?

The truth is, being the new person in an established group sucks. A lot of us have been there. There is no getting around it. Attempting to join an established playgroup or showing up at any event with a lot of women you don’t know is  intimidating. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and weird.

You struggle to figure out where to jump into a conversation so you’re not just sitting there like a mute. You’re afraid that when you do speak up you’re going to ask the wrong question or say something stupid. Then, you finally think you’ve got the perfect thing to add, and just as you’re about to have your moment, someone’s kid throws a toy and all parenting hell breaks loose and the conversation is derailed.

Everyone says “just be yourself” but I never feel like myself in these situations! I feel like a shy, reserved, unintelligent, witless moron with nothing to offer. I also feel like the longer a conversation goes on with me saying nothing, the more awkward it’s going to be when I actually do speak up. Half the time when I finally do say something I feel like I’m cutting someone off or someone cuts me off. It’s just not fun!

If you’ve ever thrown yourself to the wolves by showing up at one of these big group events, you deserve a huge amount of credit. It can be very scary and a lot of women won’t even try. And I’m not saying that all groups of women are wolves, but it sure feels like they are when you’re the new girl!

Here are a few suggestions:

For the new mom in the group… Three things.

First, overcome that fear of speaking up and kick it’s ass. You know you’re awesome and if they’re not the best at including you, it’s probably not personal. We all know how easy it is to just keep gabbing away when we’re comfortable, so don’t assume you’re being left out on purpose. Jump in.

Second, try meeting up with one person or a small gathering first. It is so much easier to get to know people when you’re not overwhelmed by a group. If it’s one-on-one you’re going to get to know each other because there is nobody else to talk to. Duh.

With a small group of only 2 or 3 other people, you’re not going to feel like everyone else is chatting it up while you’re left out. For the most part, the one-on-ones and small get-togethers have been the easiest on me.

Third, follow up after. Even if you didn’t say much or you don’t think you really clicked with anyone, send a nice message to the hostess to thank her. If you talked with one or two people for a bit, message them too. Maybe you wanted to add something to the conversation but didn’t think of it at the time, maybe you’re wondering where she got her son’s outfit, don’t be afraid to reach out to the people you just met.

If you are a member of a group that is already established, here are a few things you can do to help ease things for the new girl…

Go out of your way to include her in conversations. Ask her questions, give her an opportunity to talk. It’s not easy to speak up when a bunch of people you don’t know are having a conversation, so you can ease her anxiety by inviting her to join in. If you’re all talking about your husbands leaving their dirty socks on the floor and how it drives you nuts, ask her about her husband. She’s probably sitting there just waiting for the right moment to jump in.

Invite her back. Even if she can’t come to the next one, invite her again after that. If someone is already feeling anxious about making new friends, an invite to come again could really ease some of that. A lot of people I talked to mentioned how they feel like if they can’t make it to one event, they never get invited again. I think this happened to me with one little group I had started getting to know… I went to a few things and then couldn’t make it to a few… and then they stopped inviting me. Of course you don’t have to constantly invite someone who clearly isn’t interested, but extending an invitation to a few more gatherings will give her the opportunity to say yes when she can make it.

Another thing that came up quite a bit in my conversations over the last couple of days – the people we meet don’t know that making new friends is all that important to us. The women who reached out to me had no idea I was struggling with this until they read the post. If you’re feeling like you want to start forming some new bonds, let people know. Ask them to invite you, tell them you’d love to join them next time.

This leads me to my next point, and this is a big one…

I need to try harder too. Of all the messages and comments I received there was only one person who said that I need to make more of an effort. She pointed out that I never said that I attempted to arrange a night out or organize a play date. She noted that I didn’t seem to follow up with people I’d met either. Maybe they all assumed I didn’t want to see them again? Maybe they were waiting for me to make the next move?

At first I was a little annoyed by her comment, clearly it’s not MY fault that I haven’t made friends… But you know what, she’s actually right!

But what’s been stopping me from asking any of these ladies I’ve met if they want to get together again?

Insecurity.

I have this “if she liked me she would ask me out again” mentality… Like I’m dating and I should just sit around and wait for the boy to text me? Friendships are a two-way street and if I want to see someone again, I should just ask!

So here’s what I learned about myself as a result of writing that post…

I am not nearly as un-friend-able as I think I am. A woman who has been here for 5 years messaged me after she read my post. She’s also struggled to make friends here. She’s dealt with snotty playgroup moms and didn’t seem to click with PTA moms. She has one friend she talks to a lot, but overall feels the same way I do. She has 2 boys, one of them is Rocco’s age and the other is a little older. We ended up meeting at the park on Saturday and chatted for 2 hours. It went really well so we’re going to do a girls night soon.

I also received a message from one of the women I met through the Facebook group last year. She told me she enjoyed my company the few times we got together. She asked if I wanted to come over for a cook out soon. She told me she’s had to reschedule the “girls night in” at her house several times and gave me the new date – it’s next month. I’m totally invited. She said she appreciated my candidness and my ability to be real and say how I was feeling. She’s also working now so her time to socialize has been limited. I’m excited to get together with her again and now I know – it wasn’t me.

I am not defined by my past nearly as much as I think I am. I don’t really want to get into this one too much… But one of the messages I received came from someone who knew me at a difficult time in my past. It was many years ago, but I still hold a grudge against myself and feel like I continue to be judged by people who knew me then. This person’s message was supportive, kind, and pretty much the complete opposite of what I presumed her opinion of me would be. I know I am not that person anymore, and now I realize that people actually don’t continue to see me that way. It makes sense, we all live, learn, move on, and become better, but sometimes we continue to beat ourselves up over things long after other people have stopped thinking about them.

You know what I didn’t get? I didn’t get one single comment or message from anyone saying, “I make new friends very easily, and here’s how I do it!” I know these people exist. I know some of them. I guess they don’t want to give away their secrets? Or maybe since the post didn’t apply to them they didn’t bother reading it?

Thanks again for reading… The new website layout is in the works so make sure you “Like” my Facebook page and check back for new posts!