Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Make Friends and Influence People? Seriously, does anyone know?

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other one is gold.” That was the song we sang when I was in the Girl Scouts back in the mid 1970s. I don’t know if they sing it anymore, having ended my association with the Girl Scouts back in 1978 or so. It’s a catchy song, and being only two lines, easy to remember. One problem, though – it doesn’t explain exactly how to do it. Make the friends, that is.

Most of our lives, we’re put in situations where friendship occurs naturally. There’s school – K-12, sports teams, Girl Scouts of course, drama club, yearbook, church youth groups. College, with roommates, dorm mates, sorority/fraternity sisters and brothers. There are friends you make at the office and colleagues you socialize with outside of the office. Then you get married and suddenly you have twice as many friends. (Hopefully you’ll like them.) Then you have a child, and he has friends and sports teams, and now your best friends are the parents of his friends. Who else understands as well how horrible the new math teacher is?

When Tom and I moved to Florida, I realized this friends thing was going to be an issue. The only person we know here is his father, who’s only in Florida about four months out of the year anyway. Tom either works from home or flies to a client site; not exactly the best situation for him to make colleagues into work friends. Besides, he’s too busy working to care about making friends, anyway. “You make friends,” he told me, “and then we can hang out with them and their husbands.” If only it were that easy.

My friends-making strategy has been this: Be extra friendly to everyone I meet in the neighborhood while I’m out walking my dog. Join “Meet-Ups” of like-minded individuals. And join “Social Jane,” which is for women who want to make friends with other women.

The results have been mixed. Mixed as in, I have made one new friend (through a “Meet-Up”) So, score one for the meet-ups. The other two strategies are not having any results. Social Jane, despite being featured in the New York Times, does not have a large number and wide variety of women looking for friendships. Perhaps, no one really wants to be friends with someone who has to join an internet site in order to make friends. The neighbor thing hasn’t worked out too well either. People tend to look at you a little strangely if you’re too eager and friendly.

So that leaves the Meet-Ups. This week, I’m going to two different Meet-Up events with two different groups designed solely to help women make friends, or at least have other people to go out with. Is this the best way to make friends? I don’t know. The only thing we have in common is gender and the desire to make friends. Hopefully when I get there, I’ll meet some women who share other things in common with me – like my addiction to TV and movies, or an obsession with Democratic politics.

I’m also going to a neighborhood pot-luck tomorrow night. This is going to be a bit more challenging: Tom is out of town, so I’ll be going alone. I’ll have to introduce myself around and try to force conversation. And I’ll be bringing chicken fingers that probably no one will want to eat. Hopefully I’ll meet a few friendly people around my age. It would be even better if they have boats.

This is hard. Not as hard as running for president, but it’s hard and I am in the ring. It’s tough putting myself out there emotionally and hoping to make a connection. I have made one friend. But I’ve also issued invitations to others and been turned down. That’s painful. I don’t know if they’re just busy or uninterested. How hard should you try? I’ve decided that if an invitation declined isn’t followed up on, then it’s not going to be a friendship. Maybe I don’t try hard enough, but I don’t want to be a pest.

It would be so much easier just to stay home by myself. I have a movie theatre in my house, after all. But I would like to share it with another movie-obsessed female. (Tom doesn’t like movies.)So I guess I’ll keep putting myself out there, going to these events, and smiling broadly at every neighbor who compliments my dog. (“She is pretty. Sorry she’s barking and growling at you!”) Hopefully I’ll meet two or three likeminded gals, and then when I go to these Meet-Ups, I’ll be going to hang out with my friends.

In the meantime, I do have the new Titantic on Blu-Ray to watch.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jami,
    I have the same problem. Since leaving work a little less than two years ago, I've struggled to establish new friendships with women. It doesn't come naturally to me in the first place. My work colleagues were my "friends" (not really - they were my employees, so we were more "friendly" than "friends") so once I wasn't seeing them anymore, I was kind of at sea.