Welcome back to our exploration of ways to build relationships and make friends as an adult. In the first post, we talked about how often adults find themselves feeling alone because life has morphed into something different than we remember from our care-free days of hanging out with friends we organically acquired. With sweeping life changes, responsibilities, and simply moving on, many adults find themselves lacking connections to others. I found myself in that space after moving to a new state and while my social life still isn’t everything I want it to be, I’ve come a long way and it’s time I share the things I’ve learned to help someone else. These posts are not for the confident social butterflies who are basically walking people-magnets. Its for the socially awkward, the people who get inside their head, or the ones who are unsure of how to turn on their social graces because work, children or shyness had made them about 3 steps from being hermits; people like me.
There are actually a ton of ways to get to know new people these days but the problem is that it’s intimidating. It looks like everyone else already has their tribe established and it can be daunting to try to create that for yourself or break in to an already established cohort. Its like dating but without the possibility of sex spurring you forward. I don’t know what it says about me that I think it’s easier to have sex with someone than it is to engage in small-talk, but I digress. The first rule of finding your people is to get out of the house. Seems like a no-brainer but stay with me. Don’t just go the the mall or a bar or coffee shop, hoping that someone talks to you. That doesn’t work. Don’t even bother thinking that group exercise classes will do the trick if you’re not a naturally chatty person that will seek out small talk and conversation. What you need is a whole group of people that already has the specific intent of socializing through some sort of shared activity. If someone you know has mentioned a club or organization that they are in, tell them you’d be interested in checking it out. Putting yourself in social groups increases the odds that you’ll find someone to connect with. Make yourself available.
Someone I met mentioned that she was involved in a local Moms Club. Having 4 daughters, “mom” is of course something that speaks to a huge part of who I am. One day she invited me to a wine night they were having. Sure, she said the magic word, wine, which won we over but, I am that person that says, “Ooh that sounds like fun. I’m in,” and then when the day comes I’d rather shoot myself in the pinky toe than to get dressed, leave my house and go talk to people. Nothing pleases me more than cancelled plans. When I accepted I was full of hope and optimism. I’m a new person today and I’m an uninterested piece of trash. Deep down I knew I needed to get out and be around other people so I squelched my hermit instincts, tossed on whatever made me feel halfway decent and got ready to go.
An unexpected caravan of mommies picked me up at my door and whisked me about a half mile away from my house for a night out. Turns out these women were delightful. When picking me up they were able to bear witness to the gigantic dinosaur skeleton statue that one of my neighbors erected in their front yard about a month after we bought our house and promptly went right for the, “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT???” Right then, I knew I was in good hands.
The rest of the night flowed with wine and laughter. There were a ton of people and my claim to fame became, “This is Rachel and she lives next door to a house with a giant ass dinosaur skeleton in the front yard.” Every time, the person receiving this information would get that say what? look on their face and I’d explain how my neighbor put this 8 foot beast in the front yard and hung seasonal decorations from it. He donned a Santa hat for Chrismas, held a sparkly heart for Valentine’s day; you get the picture.
“Where do you live? I have to come see this?”
“But why tho?!”
It wasn’t hard to find my group of women in the crowd that shared my sense of humor laid back attitude. I deliberately stayed away from the person I already knew so I could force myself out of my comfort zone. As we filled up on snacks and booze, I realized some of these women could be my people. After that night I promptly joined the Mom’s Club as an official member and still make it my business to attend every event that I can. They have mom events as well as events to take the kids to, but I only attend the grownup fetes. I work from home and spend all friggin’ day with my kids. I don’t need more time with children. I’m in it for the time I get with other adults. My relationships continue to grow and I enjoy the time that I spend with these women.
Maybe you don’t have someone to introduce you to a new group. What you can do from your very own couch is start joining local online groups. Facebook is a perfect place to start. Go into the Groups section and just type in your city and/or surrounding neighborhoods to search what’s available. You’re bound to find SOMETHING that piques your interest. Consider it your version of online dating. Request to join groups and start taking a read through the posts so see if these feel like your people. Search the Events button to see if they ever meet up in person. Click a few of the events to see how many people attended. If you like what you see, start with a friendly introductory post to say hello and that you’re new to the group and looking forward to having some peeps to get gardening tips from (if that’s your jam). Once you’ve found a somewhat decent group it should be easy to interact and you’ll slide right in. Practically everyone is a social butterfly from behind the keyboard. Date around. Join a bunch of different groups and drop out of the ones you don’t like anymore, but stay open-minded. Once you feel like you’ve found a decent group, or a few, GO TO WHATEVER EVENT THEY HAVE. Make the space in your life and get going.
Once you find a group, a good way to begin cultivating your space within it and building your own sense of community is to give as much as you take from it. No good relationship should be one-sided. The Mom’s Club has a Facebook group (it’s private so no I can’t invite you to it if you aren’t a member) and I contribute to discussions, lead the White Elephant gift exchange for this year’s holiday party (that was so much fun!), and most importantly became the unofficial spokesperson for summertime drinking. Hoping to hang out with people in a
lazy relaxed kinda way, I thought it would be a good idea to sometimes have some people over for a drink on my deck and shoot the shit without having to do all the work of hosting. I suggested that once a week during the summer we go sit on the porch or deck of each other’s houses in the evening to have a few glasses of wine and chit chat to get to know each other better. No dressing up. No cleaning houses. A few bags of chips and bring bottles of whatever to share. It caught on and that’s when I really got to know people a lot better and began to form friendships. Feel free to steal my Porch Wine idea this summer if you have any outdoor space for entertaining.
The bottom line is to get out there. Not every group is going to work out and that’s ok. I’ve done MeetUp groups that were a bust. It’s deflating, but this isn’t about the friendships that don’t work. This is about creating ones that do. Be open with people and those that vibe with you will open up as well. A “meet cute” is unlikely to happen with grown people that suddenly become friends. We have to be more intentional now. The older we get, the more closed off we all are as we get set in our ways and distracted by our obligations. That doesn’t mean we have to stay stuck in our lonely space. Your new tribe is out there. Find it.