Are We There Yet?

Last week, a blog reader sent me an email with a question that’s been on my mind a lot. (For the record, I absolutely love it when readers contact me. Please excuse my not just listing my email here, but I’m told that’s an invitation to spammers.)

Reader wrote: “I’m on a similar quest to find new friends and put down roots in my new community. I have never been shy about initiating a conversation or offering an invitation to someone who could become a friend, but I find that it is difficult to make the leap to a fully established friendship. [How do you go] from ‘first dates’, to building a more solid foundation with a new friend?”

I wish I had a definitive answer to this question. I, too, am now well-versed in the first girl-date. But how do you take it to the next level, so you’re not just friends who go to dinner once a month, but capital F Friends. The kind who talk about the deep stuff, act goofy together, and call each other just to say hi?

I’ve read that self-disclosure is the game-changer. That the first time you say “Can I talk to you about something?” might very well be the moment you move from friends to Friends. And it really is flattering when someone confides in you. It means they trust you. That you are their Friend.

Ultimately, the BFF quest is about putting yourself out there. I know that sounds really Sex and the City, but it’s true. If you want to lay the friendship foundation, but don’t know when self-disclosure becomes appropriate, use your best judgment and just go for it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that people want to create new friendships. I really thought the opposite would be true—that we lived in a self-involved world where people are wary of friend-seekers—but since throwing myself into this quest I’ve realized that everyone wants to be friended, it’s just that nobody wants to do the friending. It takes actual energy.

So maybe you have something you’d love to talk to a new potential BFF (perhaps we just call them PBFFs) about. Don’t wait for a signal from above that your relationship has reached some arbitrary place in which self-disclosure is suddenly acceptable. If you think you click, just go ahead and tell her about the monster under your bed. If you want to go to a movie tonight, but don’t think you’re at the spontaneous-movie-date place, just give it a try. Cliché as this is, it’s true: The worst she can say is no.

I’ve had so many conversations with Matt where he says,  “Why don’t you call X and see what she’s doing?” and I respond, “Oh, I don’t really think we’re there yet.” The only way any of us will get “there” is if someone makes a friendship advance. Otherwise, we could all be staring at the phone for a while.

Now if I could just take my own advice.

Can you pinpoint the moment a friend became a Friend? What do you think my reader, and I, can do to take our new friendships to the next level?

30 Comments

Filed under The Search

30 responses to “Are We There Yet?

  1. Chloe

    would it be horrible to say that a night of excessive drinking helps? there is nothing better to take things to the next level with a PBFF than a Sunday morning re-hash phone call about all the crazy things that happened the night before and/or calling to see if she’s alive

    • Lisa Z.

      Haha to Chloe – yes, another old friend and I still attempt to put the pieces of a night 4 years ago.
      Anyway, I remember that my now best friend one day came over to say hello and I wanted to know what she wanted. She is very intense about maintaining her friendships so she has lots of close friends all over the country. So, yes, it seems to take a lot of initiative, energy and persistance. I guess it is easier to make friends when you are younger, too, by a certain age every woman has learned that the ways of communication with men are quite different. Maybe that taints the process.

      Also, I met another woman from GirlFriends Circle and we see each other pretty regularly. You might like her too Rachel. She is very interesting.

    • Horrible?? No, it’s honest. And I totally agree. The next-morning recap phone call is my favorite kind.

      Also, a little alcohol makes it a lot easier to do the whole “I totally have a girl crush on you” “No, I have a girl crush on YOU” thing.

  2. Leanne

    I think I realized my best friend and I were BFFs one day we both recall well. We were with a bunch of other people on an IKEA excursion. We ran around that place like kids in a playground. Then we went to a burger joint and we all ate together. But for some reason, he and I just clicked more than ever that day and suddenly we knew it was special. After that, we were inseparable.

    I guess the thing that was different about that day was that we spent time somewhere strange shopping for odds and ends and laughing at some of the stupid stuff they have at IKEA. Also we had all the time in the world that day, it seemed. Neither of us had to run to do something else so we just kept hanging out. Nowadays I think if I hang for more than 1/2 a day with someone, I am outstaying my welcome or something…

    I hear that doing something unique and scary is often a bond-creating thing. (Think Vienna and Jake on the Bachelor bungee jumping, to put it in TV terms)

    Maybe that is the thing to do to to help things along with potential BFFs.

    Zip-line, anyone?

    • Yes! This reminds me, I actually met with a professor who does loneliness research (less depressing than it seems) and he was saying that going out of your comfort zone, on adventures, is a really great way to bond two people. Then you share this great memory — like, “we’ll always have roller skating.” So, is there a local zip line?

      Thank you for putting it in TV terms. You speak my language (though I don’t actually watch the Bachelor…)

  3. Ooh, I like the zip-line idea!

    This is tough. I do think sharing personal information promotes deeper friendship (not that you have to spend an entire “date” delving into the details of your messy divorce, or that time you punched the postal worker).

    Asking for help solving problems is good, too — sometimes just saying, “Hey, I’d like your perspective on this work situation” is a good way to forge genuine connection and make the PBFF feel like you value and trust her opinion.

  4. Marie

    Going one step further on your finding friends tip “Join, Join, Join” … I like to invite potential friends to do exercise classes. I’ve bonded with many Friends over yoga, pilates, tennis lessons, and even pole dancing classes!

    Many of my current Friends moved from friend through out of town trips. It’s not realistic to think you’d invite a potential friend to go away for the weekend just the two of you (a little creepy), but you could invite her to go as part of a group.

    • This is a GREAT idea. Road trip! It’s like Boys on the Side. Well, wow, I actually hope it’s nothing like Boys on the Side.

      More like Oprah and Gayle meets Little Miss Sunshine. Amazing. Thanks Marie!

  5. Confiding in someone always takes the friendship to another level. It signifies that you trust that person enough to put yourself out there.

    Other than that, I am not sure when defines the next step of a friendship. It seems like friendships just sort of evolve. Sort of like dating relationships. It seems like, in dating, the ‘define the relationship’ conversation doesn’t really happen anymore – so maybe the same is true of friendships?

    • Cathy

      I’m the one who posed the question to Rachel and have been very interested in the responses. I do not agree that confiding always takes us to another level. In this “Age of Self-Disclosure,” it is common for women to confide very personal things to me early on, but I have not found that it leads to “Friendship.” Conversely, I have thought relationships were far enough along for me to ask advice or make a small confidence, but that has not always led to a closer friendship, either. It’s not that these confidences killed a budding friendship–they just didn’t move things forward. I am middle-aged, so perhaps making friends is different or more difficult. At my age, it seems to take deliberate thought and effort to make friends. I have not had a friendship just evolve since high school! So I am very grateful for Rachel’s article and those who have commented and offered concrete suggestions and experiences. I have some new ideas now. This has been a wonderful and thought-provoking discussion. Many thanks!

      • Hi Cathy, I’ve been thinking about this more, and I really think that aside from putting yourself out there, it’s just about consistency. The more you see each other, the more you will be top of mind when the PBFF is looking for someone to grab a bite with, or cry to, or laugh with. Obviously that’s not easy (you don’t want to stalk!) but I think it’s just about familiarity. Which starts with just extending an invitation. Thanks for starting this conversation, I’m getting great ideas too!

        • That’s exactly what I was going to say. The two new girl friends I’ve made in the last year evolved over doing things together frequently, alone and in groups, rather than by making confessions or getting drunk (although a good bit of both happened, too!). I’m realizing that being out of the corporate world now makes it easier to make friends because you have more time for more casual, lower-pressure get-togethers, like coffee or whatever.

  6. It might just be because I’m hungry, but PBFFs sounds like a sandwich. Peanut Butter and French Fries. Actually, that sounds like a great combo, haha.

    I agree, it’s tough to go from “Hi, I’m ___” to “Let’s go get a mani-pedi!” I don’t really know the answer, but I’d love to know it anyone else does.

  7. Donna

    Someone has always got to be willing to put themselves out there to get from friend/acquiantance to Friend. When I was 6-ish a neighborhood girl knocked on my parents door and asked if they had any little girls she could play with – we ended up BFFs all the way through school. Then, when I was 19 or so a casual friend (we never hung out) from HS showed up at my door and asked if I wanted to hang out, we’ve been BFFs since. A few years ago when I was new to the DC area a guy I worked with a few months at an IT company (and barely knew) emailed me to say hi after I’d left the company and we became fast friends and ended up working our way through every ethnic restaurant in town until we both got jobs to distant from one another. All three friendships evolved from a shared experience – same neighborhood, who to hang with after HS, and working at a company that sucked respectively.

    I’d never really thought of it this way until reading this blog (thanks Rachel!), but I was “picked up” by three of my most enduring BFFs. Looks like I need to work on being the “picker upperer”. lol

    • Oh, I love this. It’s totally inspiring. Both that they were brave enough to just “pick you up” and that you were always up for hanging out, rather than being suspicious of their motives (I always have that nagging fear that people will think I’m after something).

      And how fabulous–and flattering!–that you are generally the pickupee rather than the pickupper…

      • Donna

        “Always up for hanging out” gets harder and harder as life gets busier, and I think corresponds with your earlier posts about the work that goes into initiating, growing, and maintaining friendships. As for people’s motivations – you never know until you know, so might as well go for it (and hope they do the same). Maybe we should make it easier on ourselves and just get t-shirts printed up that say “BFF Free to a Good Home” can’t be much clearer than that.

  8. Wow! I found this link from my sister Lisa’s (LisasYarns) blog. Some of the statements you made couldn’t be more accurate of me. I moved across the country 2 years ago with my husband. I moved from “College Girl in a sorority surrounded by 40 girls 24/7″ to “Newlywed in a cute, family-oriented Suburbian neighborhood”.

    Although I have met people here and there, I have still not found a girlfriend that I have confided in. And there are so many instances where my husband will encourage me to initiate a friendship with someone, and the exact words from my mouth are “Oh…I don’t think we are that close yet….”

    Thank you for your words of advice – and maybe I do need to just “put myself out there”. However, I am definitely not one to do that.

    Crazy how accurate this is!!!

  9. One of my best friends and I “took it to the next level” when she asked me to proofread a paper of hers in college. She said she valued my opinion and knew I was a smart cookie. Deal: sealed. (As they say, flattery will get you everywhere.) =>

  10. I think you move from friend to Friend when you’re able to make last minute, casual plans with someone. It’s the idea that you no longer feel like you might be imposing on someone you don’t know all that well … and rather, you’re calling up a Friend to see what he/she is up to.

  11. Love the pondering Rachel! And love the encouragement to just take the step!

    My answer to the same question is always two things: consistency and sharing.

    Sharing without having some consistency behind you is awkward at best (no one wants to hear all about the divorce on the 1st date or be called for help by someone they feel like they only know casually!)

    And having consistency without sharing is boring, repetitive and feels shallow after a bit.

    The key is to move forward on both. And sharing doesn’t have to be “big” to be bonding, it simply needs to be sharing beyond the area you have in common, about different subjects, broadening the repertoire! :) So that when the stress happens– there is a foundation for it.

    Love, love your ponderings and I keep referring women from my site who are on a similar journey to witness your awesome articulation of it!

    Shasta
    http://www.GirlFriendCircles.com

    • Thanks Shasta! I really appreciate you sending them my way, hopefully we can all figure out this journey together. And your comment is of course spot on. Sharing and consistency–one without the other makes the attempt fall short.

  12. This is a great question! I moved to a new town for work after graduation and found it really tough to meet friends. I usually make friends well, but I hate calling someone and asking them to hang out, I’m insecure about ‘imposing.’ I’ve made some friends here through Twitter, which lead to a foodie Twitter meetup and there had casual suggestions of meeting up someplace turn into friendships (still blossoming.) I also had a chance encounter with a friend of an acquaintance really work out. We hung out one night after running into each other and luckily she asked for my number and called me the next day to hang out again! I think it really comes down to just asking to meet up.

  13. Nicole Larsen

    I find that something completely embarrassing pushes a PBFF over the edge to bff-hood. For example, last weekend I rented a cabin in Park City for my bday, and invited several “friends” of various types. Interestingly, only 2 came, both of which are only at PBFF status. Well, a clumsy tumble down the stairs (I’m ok), a few hundred (thousand) tears, a few hands to help me off my feet, and then wine and laughing about it, did wonders for our friendship! Not only is it a great opportunity to see people’s true nature (i.e. “OMG! Are you ok?”), but it is a superb ice-breaker for months to come. ;) Neither party will struggle to think of the first thing to say, just to initiate a conversation. “SO, how’s the bum?” seems to flow off the tongue rather effortlessly… :)

    • That is hilarious! (Assuming you emerged unharmed…) Wine is such a great friend in those moments.

      Now I just need to gather all PBFFs in one place, and hurl myself down a flight of steps….

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  15. Laura

    I’m not sure where the line is to make the leap from friend to Friend. To a degree, discussing more personal topics than TV is a definite step, but some people reveal way too personal information in that initial disclosure. For example, a PBFF (who never made BFF) early on shared how she got “oops” pregnant and miscarried earlier that year and other sex stories fairly soon after meeting. Eeek. Tales of heartbreak, okay; your sexploits, not so much so soon.

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  18. Emily

    I stumbled onto this blog via a facebook “friend” and thought, “wow, is she in this situation too?” I was instantly disapointed in myself for not “picking her up” when we lived near each other. But we’re two from a long line of women who undoubtedly run into this problem every couple of years or so . . . military wives. Many people that have commented thus far have picked up and moved away from their BFFs, but what do you do when you do that every three years?

    I’ve often found myself resorting to a “share fast, and share often” technique when time is of the essence in aquiring friends. There’s nothing worse than finally finding a gal, or a couple-friend, only to have them move to a new duty station a few months later.

    Moving somewhere new always brings an anxiety about this subject. I’m of the married without children type. So like you Rachel, I don’t always mesh with the wives that have children. And in a male-dominated world, there aren’t many single gals that need a BFF. If you turn to the local gals from work, then you run the risk that they have local friends and may not readily fold you into their mix.

    I don’t really have good advice for moving to the next level, but this post seemed like one to highlight our plight!

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