Preschoolers have it made. If you find another kid who like playing play-dough with you, you have a friend. Hate broccoli? Let’s be friends! Love coloring? Let’s be friends! It’s as simple as that in their innocence. She’s mean; I am not her friend. He’s silly; we’re friends. Pretty straightforward. Adulthood isn’t nearly as simple is it? There’s judgments, both spoken and unspoken. The “I would never…” and “I can’t believe she…” statements that are said to our faces and behind our backs. The feeling that those things are being said, even if they’re really not. We have schedules and meetings and appointments and all the things interfering with our friendships. Elementary school friends don’t write each other off just because they didn’t see each other all summer. They pick back up and move on. But we, as adults, assume that person has moved on, is just too busy, or has enough friends if they don’t text or reach out in a week or less. And that, friends, is why our generations are some of the loneliest.
Cigna released a study in May 2018 saying that young adults age 18-22 are so busy working and achieving that they aren’t making true relational connections. The Wall Street Journal, just last month, ran an article about how adults age 50 and older are aging alone without spouses or family around which can result in health issues and decreased longevity. YIKES!!! Social media isn’t to blame. That’s the easiest thing to target and blame. However, it’s more than just a phone or a few apps causing this widespread epidemic of loneliness. The breakdown causing loneliness is with a severe lack of connecting to one another in any form.
Connections can take place online and often do in this generation, so again, don’t blame technology. But simply scrolling and mindlessly liking images isn’t the same as connection. A greeter at the front of the church is not the same as connecting with visitors. Saying “hi” to a familiar face in the halls of preschool is not the same and developing a friendship. Connections take effort. Friendships take work. Developing these relationships can be awkward. But, as with many things, the risk is worth it all. But HOW do we start? WHERE do we begin? I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Many times I just want to run in a hole instead of putting myself out there. There are a few things I’ve learned though, and I’m happy to share.
HOW DO I KNOW WHO TO CONNECT WITH?
Great question! My suggestion is always look at your fringe friends. If you’re new and haven’t heard me talk about fringe friends it simply is my term for the acquaintances who piques your interest. We all have fringe friends - people you don’t necessarily run in the same circles with, but you think they are totally relatable, fun to be around or could push you to be better. Think of the other mom you share side glances with when Quinoa Betty starts mom-shaming anyone who feeds their child anything other than 100% organic foods. Maybe it’s the neighbor you see walking about the same time as you every week. So far you only smile or wave in passing, but she seems to walk at your pace as opposed to Marathon Millennial who runs rain or shine every. single. day. like her life depends on it. (No offense if you are either of those people - running and organic foods are totally important, but you know what I mean. If you are Quinoa Betty, connect with Kale-lovin’ Kathy, etc…there are fringe friends for all!)
WHERE DO I BEGIN THE CONVERSATION?
“Hi.” “Hey there!” “Good morning.” All of these are great ways to start a conversation but that’s probably not what you mean. It’s hard to put ourselves in a place where we could be rejected.
Start small. Ask them if they’d ever want to grab coffee. Get their phone number - don’t rely just on FB Messenger or DM’s. Stop and talk to them in the halls at church instead of just smiling as you pass. You can be 5 minutes late to wherever if it means gaining a friendship!!
Text them, vox them, send them gifs, tag them on social media. One of my friends and I have bonded over the awkwardness of smalltalk at playdates & coffee. We started texting each other over our need for caffeine and such, but now text regularly about all sorts of things. Another friend & I live roughly 550 miles apart, but because we use Voxer (a free walkie-talkie app that is my FAV!!) we talk several times a week! Whenever I see a hilarious “mom post” on Instagram, I try to tag one or two of my friends who I know can totally relate.
These are small things, but every conversation and connection is a block in the building of a true friendship. Sometimes connections won’t be reciprocated or will only be seasonal. That’s ok!! It’s like gardening (or so I’m told - I have a black thumb)…you have to plant more than one seed because not all of them will take root.
Be vulnerable and authentic. Listen, some women scare the mess out of me because they always seem to have everything perfectly under control. Their hair & makeup is flawless, kids are dressed cute and matching, car is clean and crumb free, etc. But not a single one of us is perfect. Her hair may be flawless but she may have 3 times the amount of dirty laundry that I have. Her house may be magazine-ready, but she may not have cooked a meal at home in 3 weeks. Not a single person has every facet of their life perfect all at the same time! Don’t try to pretend you do. If hair and makeup is more important to you than laundry folded and put away - go for it! If you care more about home-cooked meals than a spotless kitchen - rock on! Own who you are and accept how others are.
Be open in the areas of “weakness’ and ask these new friends for the low-down of how they make it work for them. Vulnerability and authenticity are disarming. It takes the pretentiousness out of situations and allows for a comfort level to form. Ask “how are you doing?” and mean it.
Open up your home. Our spaces are things we hold tight to I think. We worry that if the house is messy, people won’t feel at home. If our decor is lacking, people will be silently judging. If there’s laundry or toys out in the open, people will think someone actually lives here!! But in all my years of opening up my home, from the 600 sq ft “drawer” of an apartment to the 1900 sq ft home we have now, never once has anyone said my home was too small, too dirty, or too far away. People still come when we invite them! So, invite the fringe friend over for a playdate with another friend of yours (to help out if the conversations gets awkward). Or ask them to join you and some other friends for a relaxed movie night after work. It’s in these moments of hospitality and intentional living that friendships move from superficial to meaningful.
Friendships don’t happen overnight. And, unfortunately, sometimes it takes numerous attempts before you find a true friend among the fringe friends. BUT! Just because it may take a while, doesn’t mean the process or attempts are in vain. If nothing else, as we actively seek out friendships, we become bolder and more confident in who we are, and what we have to offer. We learn the things we value in a friendship and we learn how to be more of the type of friend we wish to have. God created us for community. He designed us to have friendships. Ask God to lead you to those people you need to pursue. Trust Him to provide the friendships as you are faithful to be authentic and practice hospitality!
What do you find hardest about making friends as adults? Do you have any tips or tricks that help you connect with new people? I’d love to hear in the comments!!