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ruthless compassion
09 August 2012 @ 03:47 pm
I'm reading this article on the NYTimes about the difficulty making friends as an adult, and it reminds me that I've been thinking about the logistics of friendships.

There are lots of different kinds of friends, right? There are the friends you knew years ago and don't see or keep up with, but when you do see each other every few years, it's a delight and leaves you wanting more. There are friends you see all the time, and friends you see occasionally, and friends you are friends with circumstantially rather than through any particular intention.

In the 2011 confessional, contessagrrl wrote a fantastic comment about being a better friend. Relatedly, I've been thinking recently about how you turn an acquaintance into a friend.

I can't count how many times I have said to someone, "Hey, you're awesome, it's been so good to meet, let's totally get together sometime soon!", and had them agree enthusiastically, and then neither of us follow up. This is totally okay, if disappointing, because in any given instance, we mutually drop the ball, which can be driven by all sorts of things: lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of interest-enough-in-the-face-of-other-commitments, or whatever.

But here's what works:

When I know someone socially who I want to know better as a friend, I go out of my way to make firm plans with them. This can be a quick coffee date or a longer experiential date or something in between, but the hard work of making it happen isn't the thing itself, but the matter of changing our habits (which currently don't include each other) to make space to get to know each other better.

How do you do this? Write a quick email: "Hey! I see there's free ice cream at Local Icecream Shop next Wednesday. Care to join me for a cone at 7 that evening? If not, maybe you'd like to get together for a slushy the following Wednesday or Thursday? I hope it works out!" -- note the lack of "sometime" in the suggestions.

Having something concrete makes the whole conversation go more smoothly, because either the person can make it at one of those times, or it inspires them to come back with other specific suggestions, OR it gives them a graceful out by NOT giving other suggestions and just saying, "Oh, sorry, I don't think that will work, but I look forward to seeing you at Mutual Friend's party in September."

It's not that this always works perfectly, but I so often hear people complain that the people they want to get to know never reach out to them ... but they also don't take a proactive approach to initiating these connections. And, while there's no formula for how to make each individual friendship work the way you want it to -- that's up to the people in the friendship -- there IS a formula for getting to know people and giving it a chance to get off the ground. Maybe it will; maybe it won't, but you don't actually know until you try it out.

I'm also a huge fan of putting a note in my calendar to remind me to email someone for the next round of getting-together before they're in my habitual list of people I socialize with and notice if we haven't seen each other in too long. Another good approach can be to have the next plans on the calendar before the current plan wraps up, if the friendship is still in the nascent stage where it would be easy for it to die off without careful tending, OR if both parties are reliably busy enough that you won't get to see each other as much as you'd like without that attention.

What tricks do you like for getting a new connection off the ground?
 
 
I'm feeling: chipperfriendly