Sunday, October 29, 2017

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 1: The Friendship Funnel

There's an art to making friends as an adult. Many studies and articles have been written about how easy it is to make friends in school because you're in constant proximity, but as adults we get busy with life – work, travel, the kids' soccer games, family commitments, etc. Our social circle (I'm talking about real friends, not social media followers) get smaller and smaller, and before you know it, your life has somehow become more isolated and, well, boring.

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 1 - The Friendship Funnel

Starting from Square One

When Mr. Gamer and I moved to another state to be closer to family, I was suddenly dropped into a world where I worked from home and knew no one except my husband and parents-in-law. Video chats with my old friends back home weren't cutting it; I was painfully lonely and desperate to meet new people. Over the course of three years, I developed a systematic method for finding and making friends when you're starting from zero.

Obviously, this technique may not be for everyone. Full disclosure: I am an introvert by nature that merely endures big gatherings and favors hanging out with friends individually. (In group settings, I feel like conversations stay in the shallow end of the pool and tend to be dominated by the most outgoing speakers.) I hate talking on the phone (so awkward) and prefer spending time doing fun activities or having face-to-face conversations. Unfortunately – as a working professional, wife, and now mom of young kids – it seems really hard to find other women who are willing to take the time to have a one-on-one meeting for the purpose of having fun.

The Friendship Funnel

Have you heard of the "sales funnel"? In the business world, it's the strategic process of converting a potential customer who's never heard of your company into a paying customer who can't live without your products. It's also described as a funnel because you may start off with a ton of prospects, but a lot of people will drop off along the way until you have just a handful left by comparison. In the same way, the friendship funnel is the relationship process of meeting people, finding out who you connect with, pursuing them, and then investing in the relationships that stick.

Friendship Funnel - How to Make New Friends as an Adult

1) Meet People

When describing how to make friends, I use a lot of dating analogies because they both have similar goals – you're actively trying to find good people who have something in common with you and might be worth forming a relationship with. In the book How to Get a Date Worth Keeping (which Mr. Gamer totally used to catch me), the author says you can't just pray for a spouse to magically drop into your lap and then stay in your house all day doing nothing. Unless your future partner happens to be the mailman, making friends and dating require you to get out there and meet new people. And honestly, it's a numbers game because the more individuals you meet, the more likely you'll find someone you really click with.

In Part 2 of this series, we'll dive into the best ways to meet people.

2) Filter People

Not everyone you encounter is going to like you (and vice versa). Remember that here in our imperfect world, you will inevitably run across people you don't get along with, so expect it and don't take it personally. Whether or not someone appreciates you and your awesome idiosyncrasies has no bearing on your worth in God's eyes.

Even if you and another person instantly connect upon first meeting, that person may not have the same need or time for friendship as you. In the book Friendship for Grown-Ups, the author describes people who happen to be in very different seasons of life. One woman may be looking for a casual workout buddy, while another may be needing a close confidant. One man may be recently retired with plenty of time on his hands, while another may already have too many commitments and a full dance card. So don't be hurt or offended if your "potential friend" doesn't have the same expectations as you. Just chalk it up to a mismatch in compatibility and move on.

3) Invest in People

As you gradually convert your list from "people I've met once" to "people who want to be friends," remember that it takes time, money, commitment, and emotional investment to maintain a healthy friendship. It's surprisingly easy for time to fly by and life to get busy until, before you know it, half a year has passed since you last talked to your "friend." Luckily, you won't need to invest an equal amount of effort into everyone. It's only natural that different people will fall into the buckets of Acquaintance, Friend, or Close Confidant. As your friendships develop and mature, you'll start to find your hangout buddies, couples friends, friends for a season, and so on.

In Part 3 of this series, I'll specifically address how to move an acquaintance into the friend zone (the good kind).

4) Repeat

The reality is that people change and sometimes relationships run their course. Your friends will move, find new jobs, get married, have kids, or just plain get weird on you. You may have a random fight and then nothing's ever the same again. The other person may stop texting back for no reason. On the other hand, sometimes life gets insanely crazy for you both, and you grow closer and stay best friends forever.

In Part 4 of this series, I'll cover a few real-life examples of my own friendships and how they've weathered over time.

Bottom line: don't let life get stagnant on you! Keep meeting new people and add them to your "friendship pipeline," no matter how old you are. Who knows, you may be lucky enough to meet your new BFF in your eighties and nineties. ( ˘⌣˘)♡(˘⌣˘ )

Question:
What tried and true ways have you used to make new friends as an adult?

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