When Charlotte Mata moved from California to New York three years ago, she left behind a close-knit group of friends she’d known since childhood. Although starting over can be intimidating, Mata’s outgoing personality helped her win over a new group of friends—and even fiancé—before long.“When I moved, I met friends at work and I went around and ate at restaurants in the neighborhood to meet people,” said Mata. “I started conversations with people I felt would be interesting to talk to and worked on joined community projects to meet people with similar interests.”
Unlike Mata, many women are more timid when it comes to introducing themselves to others and struggle with forming lasting friendships. If you’re looking to meet and keep new friends, here are some tips from Shasta Nelson, CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com, a women’s friendship matching website and author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends on how to foster these friendships:
It’s important to get out and meet people, just as Mata did and still does. You can’t expect to make friends by staying at home. Instead, you need to hit the town or engage in community activities. “It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t have the friends they want and yet never choose activities and environments that help them meet new people,” says Nelson.
“A huge piece of this step too, is being open to who you do meet,” suggests Nelson. “Research shows that you don’t need to have religion, economics, relationship status, or political views in common to bond; you only need to eventually find a few areas of commonality.”
Mata often invites friends out for a night on the town or hosts charity events as a way to get to know new people, but not all women will do so in return. “In an ideal world, someone else would do all the inviting, scheduling and planning for the two of you to connect,” says Nelson. “But in this world, some of us are either more motivated to do it at certain times, have more time to do it, or have the skills and gifts to do it.”
Ultimately, if you want to make friends, then you’ll need to put forth the effort. A mutual relationship doesn’t mean you both initiate evenly; it just means that as the friendship progresses you both end up contributing in different ways that are meaningful, according to Nelson. “But a friendship can’t get off the ground without time together and that means it has to be initiated repeatedly to give it momentum for you two to get to know each other.”
Keep It Positive
Nobody wants to be thought of as a ‘Debbie Downer’ or someone who brings down the mood of those around them. Keeping a positive outlook and knowing how to have fun will make others want to be around you.
“No one woke up this morning wanting one more needy, complaining and exhausting person in their life,” says Nelson. “In the beginning stages of a new friendship, you need to make deposits of laughter, affirmation, fun, hope and generosity before you can someday make withdrawals of favors, complaining, and tears. Make it your goal to have people leave your presence feeling better about themselves and their lives for having spent time with you.”
Increase Your Vulnerability
Over time, it’s important to let new friends in as we begin to trust them more; this is vital to strengthening the bonds we share. “We can show up with authenticity from the very beginning, but that’s different from vomiting our story on someone we don’t know well,” says Nelson. “Hearing our hearts is the role of a very good friend. If we don’t have that in our lives right now, we must build up to it without confusing the difference between what we expect from new friends versus established friends,” advises Nelson. “We increase our vulnerability as the commitment to the relationship increases. We should share incrementally, see that it’s received well and that sharing is ultimately mutual before going too much deeper.”
However, before we can allow ourselves to become vulnerable around a new friend, we have to be able to trust him or her completely. This is something Diana Young learned several years ago while making new friends after moving to Alabama. “Meaningful friendships are based on trust; trust means that a friend will be there in your time of need and that you can depend on them for even the smallest of favors,” says Young. “Trust also means you can divulge your deepest and darkest secrets—and while a friend won’t judge, they will be completely honest with you.”
It’s important to keep in mind that no friend will ever be perfect or do exactly as we expect. “We’ll disappoint each other as we learn how to dance with each other,” says Nelson. “We’ll find qualities that annoy us, choices they’ve made that we disagree with and expectations that they didn’t live up to, but one of the most important roles of friendship is to practice forgiving those around us for not being perfect.” It’s impossible to build a long-lasting and meaningful friendship without some disappointment and forgiveness along the way.
In the end, just remember that creating new friendship begins with you. “It starts with being honest with yourself and who you are—and accepting yourself as you are,” says Mata. When you can be genuine to yourself, you can then treat each other with the utmost respect and kindness. It’s about being open to learning about others and even learning more about yourself. Every relationship—even friendship—takes work. Understanding this helps make a friendship more meaningful. “It’s also about taking the good with the bad and simply loving and enjoying every step you take with each other.”