On Saturday, Matt and I went to dinner with some couple-friends. In between samosas and chicken tikka masala (yum!) these friends shared a story about their botched attempt to befriend their next door neighbors.
The story goes something like this: The neighbors moved in, and my friends realized they seemed relatively normal. Cool, even. Sometimes that’s all you need. They talked about asking the neighbors over for a drink, but never really got around to it. They didn’t see much of each other, though with a bit of detective work my friend realized the female half of the couple works in web production, as does she. She still didn’t say anything.
Months turned into a year, and that year turned into two. There were nods in the hallway, friendly waves, but nothing more. During the big Chicago blizzard, they saw each other outside and exchanged those classic “we should get together!” pleasantries. And yet again, nothing.
Now three years have passed since the neighbors moved in, and my friends say they’ve missed their shot. The befriending window has closed. They’re perhaps a little regretful, but as my friend said, “The neighbors are equally at fault.”
I told my friends they should just bite the bullet and invite the neighbors over for a beer. “You probably both meant it when you talked about getting together,” I said. “It just sounds like one of those situations where no one ever got around—or everyone was too embarrassed—to do the asking.”
Oh, didn’t you hear? I’m a regular friendship therapist.
I get the sense that my friends and their neighbors will carry on as usual. That the moment has passed and the relationship won’t be pursued.
I know that I’ve been studying friendship for over a year now, so my take is different than the average Joe’s, but I say there’s no time stamp on friendly overtures. I completely understand where my pals are coming from—the invitation would probably require some recognition of the passage of time—but I hear plenty of great stories of people who went to school together for four years before becoming friends at the end of senior year, or ladies who lived in the same building for a decade before becoming BFFs.
I get the sense, through emails and the like, that many people who read this blog go through the same thought process as this couple. You have someone you’ve always wanted to befriend, but since you didn’t move on that friendship at the get-go, you feel like it would be awkward now. I’ve been there. During my year of (aggressive) friending, I emailed people I had met 12 months earlier but never had the guts to contact. And more often than not, the response came back like this: “It’s so great to hear from you!” Or this: “What a pleasant surprise” Or this: “I’m so glad you got in touch.”
Just saying, people like to feel liked, no matter how long it’s been.
Thoughts? Do you shy away from reaching out when you feel like you’ve missed your window?