Taking the First Step to Making Friends

My first book was titled "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" because while we know our next BFF isn't going to just knock on our door, we still sometimes sit around and wait to meet her. We often take a passive role in our friendships-- almost like we're a victim to circumstances and luck. But there are actions we can take to increase our chances of meeting new friends and then to develop those friendships.  

I asked Katrina Emery to interview one woman who inspires me with her willingness to dive right in and create the friendships she wants!  --Shasta

By Katrina Emery

This wasn’t the first time Deborah had wanted more friends. She had moved before, from Seattle to Portland, and it had taken awhile to meet new people. She waited for them to show up, to connect with her, to reach out. And waited. And waited. 

So when she moved to Boulder and retired, she knew she didn’t want to mess around. “Waiting for friends to appear just doesn’t happen!” She’d already experience the loneliness of missing people, and not being in her day job meant she didn’t have those daily interactions anymore.

Committing to the Friend-Making Process

She knew she needed to take action. After a little research she found the opportunity to start a group through Girlfriend Circles, and became a volunteer Connector which held her accountable to reaching out and committing to organize at least one event a month where women could meet each other.

Deborah Williams, a volunteer GirlFriendCircles Connector in Boulder has not only made new friendships by her courage to take the first step, but she has also given that gift to others!

Deborah Williams, a volunteer GirlFriendCircles Connector in Boulder has not only made new friendships by her courage to take the first step, but she has also given that gift to others!

Showing Up Can Be the Hardest Part

To get over the nerves of beginning a group, Deborah, a retired human resources expert, approached it like work: she got organized. A local cafe in Boulder turned out to be the perfect place to hold a large group, so she chatted with them about showing up. Once the meeting was set up and invites were out, the really scary part came. “The first time was the hardest, just waiting,” she remembers, even after drawing on her experience as a public speaker. “I was a little scared that no one would show up.”

Once again, she approached it like a work problem, and made a plan for what she’d do if no one came. “I just decided that I'd drink coffee all by myself at a big table in a coffee shop and look like I was waiting for a big group to come--if no one showed after half an hour, I'd leave. I was scared of looking foolish sitting at a big table all alone! I brought a big purse, a bunch of papers and spread it all out to make it look like this was going to be a well-attended meeting that needed lots of space.”

And then, they came. One, then, two, then three, until there were 15 women around the table! Deborah breathed a sigh of relief that first time, diving into making connections with them all. Now, a year later, the group meets on the last Saturday of every month and usually sees 8-10 women rotate through. The women are all ages and include new moms, retirees, empty nesters, and more. Members have reached out to pursue other events like happy hours or day trips, organizing them on the group’s Facebook page. Deborah herself started a book club, laughing that she had an ulterior motive to do that the entire time. And she’s currently planning a baby shower for a young woman who’s been attending. “A year ago we didn’t even know her, and now I’m hosting her shower at my house! Fantastic.”

All that, because she wasn’t willing to wait around anymore. Her advice to anyone else wishing they could find the strength to reach out is to just do it. “No matter how scary that first step was to set up a group, it doesn't compare at all to the sadness I felt about not having any friends.”

Now she shares her own passions for books, coffee, and art, and facilitates a space for others to grow and connect, all from that first scary step.

Katrina Emery writes for online and print publications about food, friendship, travel, and more from her home in Portland, Oregon. Find her at www.katrinaemery.com