The First Step

I spent yesterday afternoon with a friend who has just moved to San Francisco. She’s been here two weeks and is in the early stages of her own BFF search. Plenty of her friends are willing to set her up with pals in the Bay Area, she says, but she doesn’t have the easy, go-to BFF that I set out of search of a little over a year ago.

Walking around the city with someone who’s in the same place as I was when I first moved to Chicago, I felt like I’d traveled back in time. Except this time, I had all the friendship weapons in my arsenal. Back then I was a JV friender, now I’ve made varsity.

When I first started this search I felt really lost about where to even begin. I was so overwhelmed by the vast ocean of potential BFFs in Chicago that I missed perfectly good friendship opportunities right in front of me. I didn’t always recognize the opening. When I did, it made me nervous. Matt would say, “You should talk to her. You could be friends,” about women with whom I chatted in a bar or a clothing store. I was sure he was crazy.

A year later, I’m super attuned to every friendship opening, however small. Like in Lulemon yesterday, when a salesgirl mentioned she was new in town. “You are? So is my friend!” I said to get the ball rolling.

I’m a regular Patti Stanger.

During that same Lululemon trip, my friend remembered that she and the assistant manager, another recent transplant, had a mutual acquaintance. “You have to introduce yourself!” I said.

She didn’t. (I understand this. Making friends is a lot of work, and when you’re out window shopping with an old pal, it’s fun to pretend said workload doesn’t loom like the storm cloud over Eeyore. It’s a welcome break.)

My immediate reaction to the seemingly innocuous observations that the salesgirls had recently moved to San Francisco was to pounce on them for my friend. Some BFF radar went off in my head. I contained myself.

I didn’t have this friendship reflex last year. It’s further evidence of my belief that friending is a muscle. It needs to be exercised, and the more you practice, the stronger you’ll be. Plus, you need to train your brain to recognize a friendship possibility when it presents itself.

If you are someone looking for new pals, challenge yourself to recognize how many times a day small interactions occur that could be spun into friendships, or at least-girl dates. You don’t need to take the “relationship” any further, just train your brain to spot the possibilities.

It’s a first step.


Filed under The Search

6 responses to “The First Step

  1. Brandy

    You should write a book about this. I think it would help a lot of women. It’s difficult to make new friends.

  2. From here (safely behind my computer screen) I’m urging your friend on: stop being a wimp, what’s the worst that could happen, she’s probably into dance or yoga or something which are fun.

    In reality I’d be like “hmmm maybe tomorrow, she’s probably busy and wants to move on to the next customer.” I get nervous around people I think are cool and not awkward, in the same way most girls get nervous around cute boys. Probably because I spent most of my teen years trying to make closer friends, while most girls spent their teen years thinking about cute boys.

    I’d most likely buy your book when you write it. Put it next to The Renewable Energy Handbook and the DVD of Avatar.

  3. I don’t have any particular insights to offer here. Just wanted to say that this is an important post with an important message. Thanks for offering it – a wonderful reminder indeed!

  4. Lorrie Paige

    It goes both ways. Why should you ALWAYS be the first to make something happen? Sometimes I feel it’s best to let others approach first, so in this way it’ll show they REALLY DO want a friendship. If you go first, they may respond positively to be polite, but really are not interested in a friendship. That’s one of the reasons why many early friendships fizzle out, I think.

    I’ve been the first to approach for decades, and now I’m stepping back from that role. If a person is seriously interested in starting a conversation with me for a possible friendship, they will approach me. I always show an approachable behavior (smiling, approachable posture, etc.). Let others make the first move–at least sometimes.

    Sort of like placing an ad and saying “Serious replies only”. By letting them move first, it makes for a good test of screening to show the serious ones.

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