before, but I'm back on it because the more I've written about it, the more conversations I've had and a sense of loneliness appears to be a common experience for many women.
My experiences with making friends, is, well, I've always managed to make a few friends wherever I've been. I've moved around a lot - both as a child between countries and many different schools, and as an adult. I've been the newbie as both a child and adult many times. There have been some contexts which have been very hard - living in a suburb where all the mums worked full-time, made it very tough to make friends when I was at home full-time with small babies.
And I don't feel I'm great at it, because I've seen some women who are incredible at initiating friendships and I've often been on the receiving end. However, for someone who is naturally shy, I've learnt how to just jump in and give it a go. I find it hard work, but I make myself do it, because the alternative isn't much fun.
Last time I wrote about this topic, I suggested that we need to be careful that we're being realistic about the type of friendship we're looking for. But aside from that, I've been reflecting on what else you can do to foster friendships.
So here my top 5 tips for fostering new friendships (please add your own suggestions - I love hearing them):
1. Learn to be confident and comfortable in your own skin. For many years I felt embarrassed about my childhood, my insecurities, my failures, my stay-at-home 'mumness'. I think it sometimes came across as rudeness when there were aspects of my life that I felt uncomfortable to share with others. I also think that once I became more willing to be open about things I was worried about/insecure about, it became much easier to connect with other women.
2. Remember they are going to be your friend, NOT your psychologist (you can pay money for one of them). So, on the flip side of point 1, don't share every insecurity and failure straight up. For your own sake you need to be confident that you can trust the other person with your 'stuff'. And for their sakes you don't want to completely overwhelm and freak them out! Sharing all your deep neediness in early interactions can be scary for others and push people away.
3. Avoid using gossip as a connecting point. Why not I hear you cry? It works so beautifully - women have refined the art of gossip from a young age. And a common enemy is so 'connecting'. But if the only thing that unites you in a friendship is a negative putting down of someone else, it's going to be hard for your new friend to trust that you won't do the same thing to them when they're not around.
4. Listen carefully. Remembering a past conversation you had with someone - so you can ask them questions the next time you see them - is super important. Asking questions about someone else is the easiest way to keep a conversation going. It shows that you find them interesting and like talking to them. I like people remembering stuff that I've said - it makes me feel valued. I do find it a little creepy when people can quote back vast chunks of stuff I've said, but hey, I still prefer to be heard, than talked over and forgotten.
5. Initiate, initiate, initiate. Don't be passive. Don't sit around and say 'O I have no friendships' and do nothing. Think of excuses to invite people to your home. Think of excuses to start a conversation. Think of reasons to get a group of people together that you're vaguely connected with. Work out common interests, so that your friendship becomes about sharing something you have in common.
'O, you like the Tour de France? Want to come around to my house and watch it with me?'. 'You like knitting? Want come and knit with me at my place?'. 'You have a kid. I have a kid. Want to go to the playground?'. 'You like op shopping? I don't know many people here because I'm new, perhaps we could go op shopping together sometime?' 'You like coffee? I like coffee. Maybe we could get a group together and go out for coffee one day?'.
If so many women are feeling lonely and feel disconnected, you need to assume that eventually your gentle efforts at connecting with others will be reciprocated. Women sometimes appear more connected than they often feel and even if they are connected, are often happy for a fresh friendship. And frankly, if the person is too busy or not interested - take the hint!