Meeting Friends

Nothing Kills a Potential Relationship Faster

Momentum.  The lack of it can kill a relationship quickly. A romantic relationship would never get off the ground if the two of you went out for a date, then ended the evening saying "That was fun... we should do it again next month."

When it comes to love, we clear our calendar for possibility. And yet for friendship it somehow seems normal to only see each other every couple of weeks or months? We schedule her several weeks out, even if for him we'd make it 2 days later. The irony being that the women you meet for friendship have a higher likelihood of actually being in your life longer than most of the men you date.

momentum

We understand momentum clearly in romance.  But why not for friendship? Is it for lack of prioritizing our female friends as important? Is it because we need the assertiveness of the testosterone to initiate? Is it because we don't know how?

Why We Lack Momentum

My guess is that it is partly due to priority and partly due to fear.

The priority part is easy to see.  We are inundated with wanting to be chosen by a romantic partner our entire lives.  We will give up almost anything for "love." We think there is someone out there who will complete us.  We are accused often of neglecting our friends once we start dating or get married.

But the other part is fear, I think.  Almost every hesitation in our lives can be linked to our fear of being rejected in some way, a fear of not being totally loved and accepted. No one wants to feel embarrassed in any way.  Therefore, we erroneously think that to have time/desire to meet you again next week might somehow communicate that I'm desperate, lonely, needy, or unimportant?

Oddly enough, if a guy were were interested enough to see us next week again-- we'd be flattered.  But we're unwilling to give that same gift to a platonic friend.  We don't want to appear more interested than they seem to be.

Interest Is Contagious

But here's the honest truth: we like people who like us.

With romantic dating, we know how to flirt and show interest.

With friend dating, we all too often show up with a reserve that says "Prove that you're interesting first."  We put up our guard until they appear valuable to us.  And if they mirror the same wait-and-watch attitude, then momentum rarely happens.  We feel judged because we're judging.

What would happen if you showed up without fear?  If your self worth weren't attached to how a stranger responded, or didn't?  If you could show up-- give love, interest, compassion and kindness before they "earned" it?  We all want the other person to be that way, but few of us are willing to be it first.  Remember the golden rule.

How You Can Contribute to Momentum

If you're in the GirlFriendCircles.com community, receiving invitations to ConnectingCircles, one easy way to contribute to momentum is simply to RSVP immediately.  You would all completely laugh if you saw how many customer service emails Maci receives from women waiting to see if anyone else is going to RSVP to an event before they do.  Imagine a bunch of women all waiting for 1-2 others to sign up before they feel safe doing so-- and it getting cancelled because none of them actually took that risk.  (And what's the real risk anyhow?  You're in a community where the only people who can see it is other women who are also signed up to meet new friends!)

The worst case scenario? You sign up and no one else can-- the event gets canceled. But that isn't a reflection on you-- except that it shows you're confident, and willing to actually put a wee bit of action behind your intention for meeting new people.

And the best case scenario is well worth the risk of the worst case, in my opinion. For what usually happens is that as soon as a local event has 1-2 women signed up... the rest of it fills up.  And now, because you started the momentum-- 5 or 6 women have the chance of starting a friendship.

This plays out true whether we're talking about ConnectingCircles or any other events.  Be the initiator!  Don't attach your ego to it.... write again, invite for a different date, follow-up.

Our friend dating doesn't have to look like our romantic dating where we schedule something every 2-3 days for several weeks... but can't we at least give 20% of that same energy and intention to people who actually have a higher probability of being in our lives a year from now?

Give the gift of momentum to one of your friendships.  What you crave is a meaningful and comfortable friendship.  Put in the momentum to get there!

Stages of a Friendship

I'm trying to find vocabulary that increases our awareness of the stages of becoming friends. Romance Stages and Friendship Stages

When it comes to marriage, we know that there is a lot of ground between being interested in someone and getting married to them.  We have terms like "going on a date" which we know is different than "dating."  We implicitly acknowledge that it takes time before we can both simply assume that we're hanging out this weekend without asking each other.

With female friendship we lack non-romantic language to articulate those stages.

Our expectations also seem to be a bit skewed of how fast we should progress. We appear to be at great risk of thinking we need to feel like BFF's within the first couple of conversations, forgetting that there are stages. We neglect the evidence in our memory banks that show us repeatedly that most of our friends developed over consistent time together (i.e. work, school, weekly gatherings).

In romance we know that, on average, it takes 1-2 years from meeting to marriage, but there are always some couples who elope after knowing each other for 2 weeks and others who date for ten years before getting married. In friendship, it's more-or-less the same.  There will always be exceptions due to personality, life timing, willingness, etc.  But more-or-less-- we'd be wise to set our expectations for the journey, even if it means it may take a year before I get to where I want to be with someone.

5 Stages of Friendship.  In Rough Draft Form....  :)

So here are five stages that I've identified so far.  I'd love your input on whether you think this helps capture the process?  What stage am I missing? What has been your experience, over the long-haul with your friendship development?

  1. Curiosity. This is where every friendship begins.  There has to be something that attracts you, gives you a sense of willingness and increases your desire to have more. It doesn't have to be conscious or obvious to us, but at this stage we have to have reason to lean in, even a little, if the stranger we're meeting is going to have a chance of becoming a friend.
  2. Exploratory. Every potential friendship requires time together.  For some of us, that time happens automatically (at a play group, a choir rehearsal, yoga class or work), but for many of us, we'll have to initiate it and pursue it.  For it doesn't matter how much attraction you may feel in that first stage-- if you don't show up for time together-- a friendship it will never become.
  3. Familiarity. This is the stage we often want as stage one.  :)  We frequently want to experience this comfort level with someone upon first meeting them, forgetting that it takes time to build.  In my experience, I find that it takes most women 6-8 times with someone before they reach this stage.  Of course that depends on what you're doing during that time and how you're sharing, but at some point you reach this familiarity.  A trust that you can assume she wants to talk with you when you call.  An ease where you're okay just hanging out spontaneously together without it taking two weeks to schedule.  A sense that you are beginning to be able to predict how they will respond to different life events.
  4. Vulnerability. This stage is tricky since there is a ditch on either side: rushing to it too quickly or avoiding it all together.  Some women rush to this stage early on because they feel closer once they have shared their pain.  But healthy friendships need the commitment to grow in conjunction with the intimacy. We should not be emotionally vomiting on someone in order to feel closer.  It should not be our expectation that friends who are in the first couple of stages need to prove themselves and be there for us in extreme ways.
  5. On the other hand, at some point of consistent time together, if you're not willing to share beyond your PR image, laugh at yourself and express insecurities-- the friendship will stall or disintegrate.  This is where we earn the right to "cry on each others shoulder."   This is where we are bonding in deeper ways, increasing our commitment to each other.

  6. Frientimacy. This last stage is for those who are your BFFs.  And notice that I made that plural.  :)  Best doesn't speak to quantity as much as quality. It's like when a magazine says "Best moments of last year" and lists ten.  There is enough research out there to suggest we need between 3-7 people in this category. Don't limit yourself.  On the other hand, not everyone you interact with needs to move into this last stage.
  7. This Friendship Intimacy stage is my category for the people I trust implicitly.  We trust each others boundaries, have proven to show up as emotionally healthy people for each other and are willing to go out of our way for their benefit.  We love them.  This stage takes time.  Lots of it. For most of us, while you may see the potential and some of the benefits of it 6-12 months into the relationship, it may take even longer than that to really build the required trust and intimacy.

While few of our relationships will ever have clear lines between these stages, does it help to visually see that friendship is indeed a progression?  Is it valuable to differentiate between seeing the potential of a BFF and putting in the time and vulnerability required to foster it?  In general, does this align with your experience? And, if this were true, how could you see it helping you as you start new friendships?

 

Pushing Through Nerves to Meet People

Trying to fall asleep last Thursday night, I felt like a school-age girl on the eve of a new school year.  Intimidated. Excited. Fearful. Hopeful. Insecure. Anxious. The cause of my tossing-and-turning? A three-day conference starting the next morning where I knew no one.

On the one hand, its kinda silly to feel that pressure.  I mean, it wasn't like I was the keynote presenter or anything!  All I had to do was show up, sit in workshops and learn. Nonetheless, I felt the anxiety of possibly feeling left out because I didn't know anyone.

On the other hand, those insecurities make perfect sense. Walking into any group, crowd or community where you're not sure you'll fit in is the perfect backdrop for our greatest fear: rejection.  We all want to feel chosen, to feel likable, to feel known and to feel like we belong.  To not know if those needs will be fulfilled, it's normal to feel hesitation.

And you've got to know that I am a confident extrovert who likes people. And more often than not, they like me back.  Nevertheless, I felt nervous. So I can only imagine what it must feel like for those who are shy, who aren't practiced in meaningful conversations, who are drained by interaction, or have felt previous rejection or ostracism.  It's safe to say, we all know the insecurity when we don't yet know if we belong.

Why the Fear is Important

I jokingly said to my husband "Do I have to go?"

To which he replied "No, you don't.  But is it important to you to go?"

And I knew it was.  I wouldn't have signed up otherwise.

In fact, I'd argue that we feel nervous because it does matter to us.  The fact that you feel the fear is a sign that you want something.  The fear serves to remind us that we want what is on the other side. The fear inspires us to recognize that what we're stepping into is indeed significant.

  • We feel fear before a date because we value the possibility of love.
  • We feel fear before a job interview because we value the possibility of finding a place to contribute our skills.
  • We feel fear before a business risk because we value the possibility of success.
  • And, in our cases, it would be natural to feel fear before meeting new friends because we value the possibility of participating in consequential friendships.

An Invitation to Push Through the Nerves

Many of you, my readers, are currently trying to foster more friendships which means there will be quite a few strangers and awkward conversations on the road ahead.

I invite you to not allow fear to prevent you from stepping into what you crave.  We can't wait until the fear subsides to move forward, as it never will.  Courage isn't the absence of fear but the awareness that something else matters more than the fear. And friendship should be one of those things.

Take the risk! Show up for a ConnectingCircle, attend a Speed-Friending event, or simply initiate contact with a woman you want to get to know better.

I'm not saying it's easy.  I'm little Ms. Outgoing who frequently feels shy and uncertain about walking into groups of strangers.  Fear aside, I made a new friend and looked forward to seeing her the following morning for Day Two.

May you feel inspired knowing that the following night when I went to bed, there was no tossing and turning. Only excitement to get to know her more....