It is no secret that making friends as an adult is difficult. Rachel Bertsche knows. She wrote a book about it. I read Rachel’s book, MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend, last November and since then I have thought about it a lot. (You should read it.)
I’ve never really had to work at making friends; friends have always just been there. That’s a real, social psychology thing. It’s called the proximity principle and it explains the tendency of people to form relationships with those who are physically nearby. I went to school with the same people from elementary school until the end of high school. BAM — friends! When I started college, I got lucky and randomly ended up with a roommate who quickly became (and stayed) my buddy. BAM — friend! Plus, I have a sister who is my built-in best friend and safety net. So when everyone moved away after graduation and I needed to start actively pursuing and building relationships, I didn’t know how. Without proximity on my side, what was I supposed to do!?
For a year or so, I was very much of the mindset that if I just went places, like the gym or the coffee shop, friendship would just happen. But if I got anything out of MWF Seeking BFF (and trying my “just be there” approach), it’s that that is not enough. There’s more to it than that. Here’s the thing:
You’re going to have to get over the fear of rejection. Everybody wants friends. That’s pretty clear from all the research that’s being published on the topic (and all the Google Search results). But the reality is that someone has to make the first move. It might as well be you. Extend an invitation. Do it.
Just go for it. I hear from a lot of women: ‘Oh, there’s one woman, and I always thought we could be good friends but I’m too scared to reach out.’ I say, Do it. She’ll probably be thrilled to hear from you. And the worst case scenario is you don’t hear back, or she says she’s busy — and that’s really not the end of the world.
– Rachel Bertsche
You don’t have to click with everyone. I think one of the most important things that Rachel explores is the fact that you’re just not going to be friends with some people. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean they’re not nice people, or that it would be terrible to grab a coffee every now and then. It’s just that you’re allowed to have preferences when it comes to making new friends.
Not everyone will click with you. Remember that other people are allowed to have preferences too. It’s hard, but don’t take it personally.
You have to be willing to go. I know, it’s so tempting to say no if you’re even a little bit not in the mood, but go. Say yes. Meet people, go new places, try new things. You will (probably) enjoy yourself. And if you don’t, you don’t have to go next time.
You’ve got to say yes to all the invitations that come your way. The more you say yes, the more invites you’ll get. You have to follow-up with all those meetings where you say ‘We should totally get together!’ instead of just saying it to sound nice.
– MWF Seeking BFF
Obviously, I’m not an expert. I’m working on my friend-making game. I’m trying to extend invitations and accept them when they’re offered. I’m trying not to take the whole process so personally. One step at a time, friendship will be miiiiiiiine!