Yesterday I got this email from a reader:
“I’ve spied (stalked?) a few potential friends and I don’t know how to get past the smile and small-talk stage. Take the cool chick who works at the fish counter at my local grocery store. There is frequency and regularity—I buy fish at least once a week and ask her questions and engage in small talk (‘Wow, that heat wave, huh?’) but how do you get from that to, ‘We should grab coffee some time?’ without coming off as, um, weird? Any tips for even getting to the first girl-date?”
This is, without question, the hardest part of making new friends. I’ve struggled plenty with what to say to potential BFFs (remember my curly hair comrade?) in order to get from “how’s the weather?” to an actual friend-date. I’m still feeling it out. Still working up the nerve to ask out the salesgirl at my favorite boutique.
When I started here, I asked readers for advice. Four months later I have tips of my own. Progress!
The hardest people to befriend are often those who exist in a specific context—the girl at the gym, the coworker, the woman at the fish counter. Here’s my fabulous script for wooing the boutique owner: “I know this is super random, but would you maybe want to grab lunch sometime? I’m working from home today, so would love to get out of the house for a bit.”
Or maybe, “Do you want to grab a drink sometime? Even though I’ve lived here for three years I still feel sort of newish in town, and I basically feel like I know you, so…thought it might be fun?”
Eloquent, I know.
The key is acknowledging that “this may sound weird but…” It recognizes that you’re uncomfortable, but trying anyway. If she thinks it’s totally odd, so do you.
There are definitely people out there—better, braver people than I—who’d just say to the fish-counter girl, “You’re great! We should totally be friends.” She’d probably find that flattering. But it takes a specific kind of person (the not-at-all shy or self-conscious kind) to just come out with it so boldly. For me, being honest about ‘Okay, I know this may seem bizarre, but I don’t know that many people and you seem cool,’ eases the tension.
The other thing I’ve been known to do is give someone my card or ask for hers. I can write a better email than I can drop a pick up line.
Sometimes we just need to accept we might sound weird and go for it anyway. (If it goes horribly awry, you can always find another fish counter.) This is so cliché, but afterwards you’ll be glad you did it. We always feel stranger than we sound in these instances, anyway. So when all else fails, try “want to grab a coffee?” and hope she’s flattered.
What do you think of these ideas? Got any of your own? Sound off below!