[Photo by Evan Kirby]
A few things have got me thinking about making friends recently. The first was Emma's post on friend dating (featuring yours truly) and the second was starting our NCT classes. As well as learning a bit more about what this whole baby business is going to entail, everyone's main goal is making some new parent pals for this new phase of their life. I think we were the only ones who had existing friends with babies nearby, thus making us the focus of some envy - but, as I always say, you can never have too many friends, especially when you're about to be spending a whole lot of weekdays flying solo. Someone described NCT as being a bit like University, which for many of us was the last time in our life where making friends felt easy and natural, with everyone eager to meet new people and make connections, rather than sticking to their tried-and-tested groups and relationships.
There's a general wisdom that it is hard to make friends as an adult, and whilst I don't entirely dispute that, I have actually found it to be the opposite - I have more friends now than I ever had at school or University, and I like to think that I'm juggling quality as well as quantity, because they are all ace. Part of that is purely luck; being with Paul meant falling into a ready-made friendship group (or two) and, in fact, at my hen do it seemed like almost everyone's answer to 'how do you know Amy?' was... 'through Paul'.
But... part of it is also from practicing the art of what I call 'aggressive friending'. Now, contrary to the name, there's nothing really aggressive or violent about this method - I like to think it's actually quite nice. But what it does mean is not being afraid to come on too strong in the friendship stakes. If you find someone cool that you want to be friends with, tell them! What's the worst that can happen? No one is ever going to be mad that someone else thinks they are awesome. And then, you keep telling them, not in words but in actions - inviting them to events or parties or coffee meet-ups - until they're your new besties. I know these things are easier said than done, but I promise that it has worked like a charm for me on many occasions since I moved to Leeds, so I thought I would share my top tips with you, in case you're looking to make some new BFFs in your life.
A cornerstone of aggressive friending is generosity. People like people who do nice things for them, so it just makes sense. Now, being martyr-ish about the favours you bestow upon your new friends will not endear you to anyone, so only be as generous as you really can be - everyone has a different threshold for this, but have an open heart and good things will come back to you. This can be as simple as extending an invitation for dinner, or buying them a drink when you're at the pub, or even just giving them a compliment (after all, you want to be friends, so there must be something you like about them!). Do them a favour, with no expectation of a return - just merely for the joy of helping out another awesome human, and you might be surprised at what happens.
Show Your True Colours
Paul and I have often 'aggressively friended' other couples together, and if you've met us in real life then you might understand why that might be a bit much for some people. We are both incredibly chatty, overly enthusiastic, strongly opinionated and probably talk louder than we should do in public places. (We have some good qualities, too...). That makes us really great friends for some people, and probably really not for others. But there's no point pretending to be anything other than what we are, partly because there's no way we can hide it, but also partly because we want friends who *want* to be friends with us. If someone doesn't like you? It stings but at least you'll know so you can go on and find someone who digs your particular brand of friendship.
Don't keep all your new friends to yourself! You can expand your circle so much and make so many more new friends if you're willing to spread the love a little bit. Introduce your new friends to other friends if you think they'd get along, or invite lots of different pockets of friends to one event and let them mingle together. You never know what connections they'll forge with just a little nudging, and the more you do it, the more people will offer the same back to you - thus increasing your potential for new friends exponentially. This also comes under the 'be generous' banner; don't treat your friendship group like a clique - let people in and you'll find it reaps all kinds of friendship rewards.
Take People at Their Word
I spent a lot of time in my teenage years worried that my friends were only friends with me out of some sense of obligation, rather than any real affection for me. What I have learnt over time is that almost no one is friends with someone out of pity, so you can pretty much safely assume that if they accept your invitation or seem enthusiastic, then they are as down for the friendship thing as you are. Second guessing people's motives will only send you into an anxiety spiral; you'll soon know for sure if someone doesn't want to hang out with you, because they'll just stop hanging out with you. Don't be pushy, but extend your invitations and compliments without fear and you might be surprised at the results.