Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 3: How to Turn an Acquaintance into a Friend Worth Keeping

In this series so far, we've talked about the Friendship Funnel and how to make friends by meeting, filtering, and investing in people. Part 2 focused on where and how to meet potential friends. Part 3 explores what it means to filter and invest in people. These two steps go hand in hand because in order to determine if someone is a friend worth keeping, you need to invest time to really get to know him or her.

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 4 - How to Turn an Acquaintance into a True Friend

Spend Time Together

If you've met an individual several times in group settings and your personalities seem to click, now it's time to test the waters and find out what kind of friend she is. For me, that involves hanging out on a one-to-one basis. Conversations tend to deepen once you get past the small talk and you find out what the other person actually thinks about his boss, spouse, and even political and religious views.

Take the Initiative

You need to make the first step, not wait on the other person. People get busy with life and may not make friendship a priority, so it's up to you to text, call, and arrange a meeting. And to avoid the back-and-forth phone tag of "I dunno, what do you want to do?" – have a plan. Give them a choice between two fun options, such as going on a hike, grabbing lunch or a cup of coffee, arranging a playdate, or catching a movie together. The more you get to know each other, the better ideas you two will have for next time's hangout.

If you've extended the invitation to meet up and haven't gotten a response after a couple of times, don't be hurt or offended. It takes two to tango, and not everyone needs more friends in their current season of life. Just assume that they're not interested or don't have the time right now. You can try again in the future to see if their schedule frees up, but in the meanwhile, move onto the next person.

Be a Person of Integrity

At the risk of sounding like your mother, here are some rules of common courtesy that all good friends should keep:
  • Confirm the meeting with your friend the day beforehand – they may have forgotten entirely.
  • If you agree to meet, then keep your word. Don't leave your friend hanging while you're waiting to see if better plans come along.
  • Along those same lines, don't say "We should totally hang out next week" when your schedule is already booked or you have no intention of doing so. It sounds polite at the time, but it sets inappropriate expectations.
  • If you have to cancel for legitimate reasons, cancel responsibly and reschedule a new time. Give the other person plenty of advance notice so they have time to make new plans.
  • Show up on time or even early to the meeting, and call or text if you're going to be late.

Schedule Regular Meetings

After a few one-on-one hangouts, you'll naturally start to sort people into different categories. In general, people have a core group of confidants, a bigger circle of friends and hangout buddies, and then everyone else in the world, ranging from acquaintances to networking connections to complete strangers. The key is to really invest time into those best and good friends. Unfortunately, it's all too easy for many adult friendships to fizzle out from a lack of effort and organization. To prevent this from happening, make your closest friendships a regular commitment that you both agree to.

two girls' hands with friendship bracelets
"Do you pinky promise that we're going to meet every third Wednesday of the month?"

Scheduling repeating meetups may sound really corny, but it works! I video chat with my long-distance best friend every Saturday morning before the kids get up, and I have a weekly playdate with another mom of young kids. For my regular friends, I loosely schedule a hangout every two to three weeks and then rotate among them. Even Mr. Gamer has a regular Thursday guys night with his best friend at their fav Mexican restaurant, and if they can't meet for three weeks, Mr. Gamer makes sure to follow up as soon as his friend is back in town because it's so easy to lose that habit.

Bottom line: spending time together is the glue that keeps friendships going for the long haul. Given how long it takes to find and develop a really good relationship, it's certainly worth the extra effort to keep it going. For some friends, that means getting up at 5 am every morning to run together. For others that may live far away, that may mean writing a huge email twice a year to catch up. In Part 4 of the series, I'll show you a few real life examples of my friendships, how they developed, and where we are today.

Question:
How did you meet your closest or oldest friend?

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