Friend Finding 201: Say Yes

In the introductory session of this course, we briefly covered 10 tips for meeting new people and turning first girl-dates into second ones. Today we’ll be giving our full attention to one vital word: Yes.

So much of making new friends is about being open. It’s about saying yes to the invitations that come your way, no matter how far out of your comfort zone they may be.

This comes with a caveat, of course: Only say yes if you mean it. Making a habit of saying yes when you actually mean no is a pretty good way to lose friends. Today we’re in the business of finding.

Even after months of dedicated BFF searching, my first reaction when I get an invitation is usually “I’d rather spend a relaxing evening on the couch.” Until I remember that the couch is what got me here in the first place. So now, unless there’s a scheduling conflict, I accept the invitations that come my way. So far this policy has led me to, in no particular order: A fortune teller, a cookie-making party, a 2-year-old twins birthday extravaganza, dinner with a pair of strangers, dozens of bottles of Pinot Grigio, more pieces of spicy tuna than I can count and countless other exploits.

Adventures like these are the fast track to friendship. Doing something you’re bad at, as long as you’re willing to be bad at it in front of someone else, will earn you insta-memories. And I must say, a trip to the psychic is a faster route to “Remember that time?” than even the most riveting book discussion.

And sure, my days are crazier than ever. I have fewer intimate evenings with the remote control. But I don’t have kids to tend to. I have an understanding and supportive husband who encourages this local quest. And while the hectic schedule can be exhausting at times, the new connections give me enough energy to make up for it. In fact, a 2004 study found that “when compared to time spent with relatives, children, customers, colleagues, or bosses, time spent with friends is rated as being the most enjoyable. On average, time spent with friends ranks even higher than time spent with your spouse.”

In her article “The Year of Saying Yes,” Patty Volk writes, “There isn’t one thing I said yes to I’m sorry I said yes to. And look what I would have missed. ‘No’ means safety and the numbing stasis that implies. I’m changed. The change has to do with the joy of being available to chance. There is a thrilling difference between being comfortable and being too comfortable.” I second all of that. Even the time I got stood up—she never showed!—I’m glad I said yes. What a great story!

I’m only a few months into this search. I don’t have all the answers. I hardly have any answers. And I haven’t found The One. I have found The One Word, though, and that’s got to count for something.

When it comes to plans with friends what do you say more—yes or no? Do you ever force yourself to say yes when you’d rather run in the other direction? Are you usually glad to have uttered the new magic word (“please” is so old school) or do you usually wish you’d stuck to your first instinct?


Filed under The Search

36 responses to “Friend Finding 201: Say Yes

  1. Karen

    Great Post Rachel. It is so important to say yes, and to follow through. Some of the best memories are rooted in those outing where you say “what was I thinking?” but being with a new or old friend turns even grocery shopping into a potential laugh out loud memory.

  2. The findings of that study about time being more enjoyable with friends than with family, co-workers and even spouses isn’t surprising. We CHOOSE our friends. The others, even if we choose to spend time with them, I think there’s a sense of OBLIGATION to that time, too.

    And I totally agree – being open to opportunity is definitely the way to meet friends. I look at the diversity of my bridesmaids as proof. Met them through marathon training, being neighbors, being co-workers, meeting through mutual friends and meeting through our hair stylist!

  3. Oh, I’m a big fan of Patricia Volk! I’ll have to check out that book! It sounds like a book I need in my life.

  4. Lisa Z

    I say yes too, although sometimes the pull of WE (Women’s Entertainment) and my couch are a strong ones. Lately it has been hard, because my Grandma passed away recently and I have been in New York and have been sick. For example, I bailed on Friday night drinks because I wasn’t ready to mix and mingle and I certainly got an earful from my co-worker. However, I am now back and ready to SAY YES! to potential and existing friends which should be easier now that the weather is supposed to be nice, eating al fresco is always a delight, especially in these early months of summer.

  5. I say yes most often when invited to do something. But it’s a struggle sometimes not to cancel at the last minute when the couch or my bed looks so inviting. But I rarely regret having said yes when I actually go out and do it…

    Another great post!!

  6. Rachel,

    I’ve been saying yes more lately because I’ve realized how much I’ve missed by saying no. I think I over analyze things and that sometimes leads me to lead a less carefree life. I’ve realized yes can be empowering and a gateway to new experiences.

    • I’m SO the same way with the overanalyzing… Sometimes it’s better to stop thinking and start doing, but that’s easy for me to say from behind my computer screen…..

  7. I admit that I say no more often than I say yes to social opportunities, but it’s for a different reason — one I’d love for you to address in a future column. Money!

    In these times I can’t possibly be the only one who has to decline plans because I can’t afford what’s being suggested — but I feel like I am! Even the people I know who’ve been laid off have no issue with dropping a lot of cash on social plans. I’ve tried suggesting less-expensive or free entertainment instead of whatever’s being proposed, but people usually aren’t interested. They want to go to the fancy bar, the expensive concert, the hot new restaurant, etc. So I often end up sitting at home because I just can’t come up with the cash.

    It’s a sticky situation because on one hand I don’t know that I want to discuss my finances with potential friends I don’t know well. On the other hand, I don’t want people to think that I don’t want to hang out with them. What to do….

    • Emily

      You are absolutely right, Darlene! That is such a huge problem, and I have no idea what to do about it. It seems like a total lose-lose situation: either you spend money you shouldn’t spend (if you go), overshare and receive uncomfortable pity (if you decline on account of money), or make people think you don’t want to spend time with them (if you decline without explanation). If anyone has good suggestions for how to handle this issue, please share!

      • Hi Darlene and Emily — Someone actually asked me to adress this topic just last week! And I will be in the next few weeks for sure. As you say, it’s frought with akwardness! Remember the Friends episode where Phoebe only ate lettuce and then they split the check??

      • April

        This is a tricky situation. I would give a brief disclaimer when invited out, such as, “I would love to, but because of finances, I really can’t swing the admission/dinner bill.” But if it’s just out to a “fancy” restaurant, just go! There is no rule that you can’t just have a salad and drink water. At least you’re going out! Just make sure your companions know that you won’t be available to split the bill. This doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for you if you just handle it with a smile!

  8. Sometimes saying no – especially to the kids – is easier than saying yes, because often those “yes” answers involve me getting off my butt and doing something! But those are always the most worthwhile “yesses.”

  9. Pieces

    I have the same money dilemma–it was the first thing I thought of when I read this post. Just going out to lunch with someone can cost $15 or $20 and, as much as I love the opportunity to sit and visit, I just can’t afford it.

  10. These comments are making me feel better about life, especially the money issue. I almost always say yes to invites and often wish I had not when I see my bank account slowly dwindling. The little things — lunches, movies, group shopping — do add up, but I don’t want to be the one saying no.

    (To be fair, there are other areas of the budget that could take a hit if I were THAT committed to socialization. But choosing between a new book and a night out with friends is just cruel!)

  11. Great post and great comments! It is my natural instinct to want to say no, but your comment about laying on the couch hit home. I can’t complain about a lack of friends if I’m turning down invitations! I’m trying really hard to say yes to things, even tupperware parties (not my fave!). I always do feel happy that I went and grew a potential connection.

    Darlene – maybe you could plan something and invite people for a potluck bbq or to meet at a free reading at a bookstore or explore Sunday afternoon open houses? I know it’s still sticky a lot of the time. But if you set up the plans every once in a while, you might be able to control costs part of the time!


  12. The money issue is something that stops me as well. Something I have been trying is inviting people over to lunch or dinner. Much cheaper and I don’t have anxiety about what I should order.

    I do enjoy hanging out with friends but if I were to choose friends over husband, I would choose husband. His time with me and the kids is so limited that I couldn’t justify spending time away from him.

    I guess the good thing is that I don’t usually have to make that decision!

  13. This has REALLY got me thinking. Lately, I’ve been missing my friends “from back home” or those who’ve moved away and realized that I just haven’t done much to acquire new ones.

    And that’s because when an invitation comes by way, you’re right, I tend to pick the familiar, the comfortable “No, I’d rather stay at home and blog”. Seriously – and I wonder why I don’t have a social life outside of my family anymore.

    But it wasn’t always this way. And now I know – all I need is more YES and fewer NO…and I will get back to where I was. Actually halfway there is good too.

    • Halfway is definitely good too. And it’s so easy to do what’s, well, easy… Even after all this time I still default to No. Just tonight, after a long work day I had to force myself out to my girl date. I came so close to bailing, but it was this post that forced me out. No one likes a hypocrite…

  14. Eva

    Rachel, this is just the perfect intersection of making friends and saying yes. How can I expect to find new friends if I don’t go out, expand my circle, try new things?

    I do love my couch and comfy nights at home with my husband. So maybe a compromise? One or two nights a week out, the rest at home?

    I often think about how odd and funny it is: I grumble and complain about social obligations, happy hour with friends, going to a movie, Pub Quiz and baseball games. But once I get there I have a great time, and wonder why I hesitated in the first place. I just need to force myself to say yes and get out of the house, and the rest is easy!

  15. Ana

    Great perspective. You are absolutely right. In my younger days I RARELY if ever turned down an invite for anything…why stay home alone (or with an annoying roommate)?
    As I’ve gotten older, the comforts (and obligations) of home (and the husband, dog, kid that I’ve acquired along the way…) are harder to leave.
    As practically everyone stated above, its ridiculous for us to whine about not having enough friends, but then turn down invites left & right. Even if its not necessarily a new friend that is initiating the outing, there is always the possibility of meeting new people—at least more of a chance than you would have on your couch (or my couch, anyways, I don’t know about your situation exactly 🙂

  16. I used to say yes to any social invitation. Then my calendar was filled up 4-5 nights a week. At the time I was in grad school at night & working full time, and it just got to be way too much. So I limted myself to 1 week day yes & 1-2 weekend yeses. I realize that makes me sound extremely structured, but I am a math/finance person… 😉 So structure is kind of good for me…

    I still sort of follow those ‘rules’ and try not to over-book myself. Otherwise I get overwhelmed – even when it’s social stuff… And there are times when I say yes to something and really don’t feel like going but similar to what you said – I never regret it once I’m there!

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  17. I’m really makign an effort to say Yes more. No is easy and it really isn’t a problem for me. But Yes is where bonds deepen. I want more of it.

  18. It is so very important to say YES!! I’m a natural “no thanks, I’m busy” person… but that hasn’t gotten me very far… saying yes is so much more fun in the long run.

  19. I wholeheartedly agree that saying YES! is the gateway to life experiences. I have a family member who is alone – she has very few friends, no close friends, and spends all of her time at work or at home. She refuses invites and opportunities all the time. The situation provides endless frustration for us, because we want her to be happy and she is not (she admits this – I’m not making assumptions). So any time I want to say NO, I remind myself of her situation, and then I say YES!

    I agree about meaning it when you say it, too. One of my favorite sayings I use on the kids is “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.” My husband and I try to be deliberate in our yesses and nos, too. We make a conscious decision and move forward.

    Great post!

  20. I read that first quote to my husband while sitting on the couch together and he said, “You can’t make out with your friends.” And gave me a smooooooch. While that’s true, I understand the time spent with friends being incomparable. I have a huge family so my close friendship circle is 3-4 girls instead of 20 but that’s all I need. And I’m trying to say “yes” to all my new mom events. Bit me in the ass the other day at a failed playdate but I shall try again!

  21. P.S. You’ve interviewed Yoko Ono? I want to interview you about your interview with her. I took a Music History class at UCLA where I wrote in my notes “Yoko Ono TOTALLY broke up The Beatles.”

    Just thought I’d share this. I’ve had a few glasses of cab.

  22. I completely agree with you. After I had my daughter, my circle of friends sort of blew up. I was faced with either feeling “on the outs” or getting out in the world and finding a group of friends who suited me better. 3 years later and I’ve done that — but it took lots of uncomfortable yeses and being the only one in the room who didn’t know someone else. It grows your soul, though, because you realize nothing bad will happen. People will like you, or they won’t, but at the end of the day, the world is still standing.

  23. Oh that quote. That quote, that quote. It’s perfect, isn’t it? It’s what we all need to find. That one little place of YES to changing ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, backing AWAY from the couch.

    While I DO have kids to run after, a business to attend, a job to juggle, and countless loads of laundry scattered on the floor of my home, I am still (always?!) on the lookout for my own local BFF.

    There is no one. It is me and my family in this town that I love, and my good friends are far away. It gets lonesome. But I can say, as a testament to your post here, that in saying YES to random offers (Church fashion show/auction for this decidedly NON-CHURCHY girl) I have come closer to that kind of friendship. And even when it HASN’T worked out (read: man, there are a lot of people out there who just aren’t going to jibe with me), I’ve still been happy about the fact that I jumped in with both feet.

    (Not sure what’s up with my parentheses this morning. Apparently my subconscious is doing a LOT of talking. :))

  24. Nicki

    I try hard to say yes! when a friend or a new acquaintance asks. That is how I got on a softball team. LOL!

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  29. Anonymous

    I find that when I say “yes” because I want to say “yes,” those mostly turn out to be good experiences. When I say “yes” because I’m not sure, or when I say “yes” because I think I should, those rarely turn out well. I don’t know if it’s because my level of enthusiasm doesn’t carry me through it, or if it’s because I recognize (at some level) that the invitation either is perfunctory or offhand, and it’s not something that the other person/people is/are very invested in either.

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