The longer I live, the harder it is to make new friends. Ever feel that way? Like you can go to grocery stores, walk around town, play at the park with your kids and say scarcely more than a hello to another adult all day?
As I prepare to fly to North Carolina next month for the She Speaks conference – where I’ll be in a room with 600 people I’ve never met – I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes it easier to meet new people.
How can we go into those interactions with confidence?
Remember you’re amazing.
According to Gallup’s Strengths Finder program, an assessment that helps you discover and understand your natural talents, the odds that another person on Earth has the same top five talents as you is 1 in 255,000. The odds that they have the same strengths in the same order of prevalence as you is 1 in 33 million. Let that really sink in. This means if you live in a big city like me, there might be ONE other person who exhibits the same strengths as you, in similar ways to you. Layer your experiences, education, and personality on those and you can’t help but come to this realization: YOU ARE A TREASURE, and you have a unique role to play in life.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Remember you are equals.
They have people-y issues: dreams, challenges, hopes, fears, joys and setbacks. They wake up and look at themselves in the mirror and see things they like and don’t like. They need to know they matter. They need others to truly listen to them. They crave love and belonging. They hold to hope. And like you, they are one-in-a-million in their unique strengths, experiences, education and dreams. Because of this, we can come to any relationship from the perspective of an equal.
Even the smartest, most inspirational, and most revered people are just that… people.
Take one for the team.
Self-deprecating humor or simple honesty about a mistake can really break the ice and set the tone for the interaction you’ll have with a new person. Everyone’s a closet geek in some regard. Give them subtle permission to embrace that, and lend a dose of relaxation to the conversation with some humor. Let them know you’re a safe person to be real with, and over time as depth and trust build, it keeps the friendship genuine and honest.
Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects. – Arnold H. Glasow
Learn from the best.
Notice how someone you admire behaves with you and other friends. What could you learn from them? I had a chance to do this recently and it was such a gift! My sister, whose gifts are in relating with others, lived with me for 2 months while she started a new job. Every day I noticed ways she invests in people. She is in the moment, she really sees people, she gets excited with them and mirrors their energy, she’s playful, and she prioritizes people over anything else. Being with her daily reminded me how to rest, slow down and enjoy everyone around me in ways I hadn’t considered in a while.
It isn’t how little you know that matters, but how anxious you are to learn. – C. Newland
If nothing else, make friends to show your kids how to do it.
Which is actually a decent strategy since your kids need to see what you say: that they have special things to offer and don’t need to worry what other people say about them. Just like we all secretly hate spiders but act like we’re pillars of fearlessness when our child finds one, we have to do a little of this as we push ourselves out of the comfort zone in making and growing friendships. If nothing else motivates you to say hi to that new mom in your child’s class or that Land’s End catalog model at the park, let your child’s need for a role model spur you on!
What helps you make friends or bridge that awkward first moment in a group of people?