Making Friends as an Adult
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is friendship. Let’s be honest – something I think about all the time is friendship.
In my life, in my faith, in my relationships, in what God is calling me to do in the world — I’ve never found a resource (other than God Himself) more powerful or more transformative than having a great group of girlfriends by my side and in my corner.
I’m just convinced that life is better (and certainly more fun!) when we do it together. (That’s the heart behind everything we do here in our little corner of the internet!)
I’ve always loved friendship and having great girlfriends, but I gained a new appreciation for them a few years go when Carl and I moved to Nashville. I gained a greater appreciation for them, because when we moved to Nashville I suddenly found myself without girlfriends. I didn’t know anyone when we moved here, and it was one of the loneliest seasons of my entire life.
The toughest part about it is there’s no blueprint for how to make friends as an adult. It seems like this weird, hard thing that so many of us need to do, but nobody knows how. So I started trying to figure it out.
Over the course of that year I found an amazing community, and I actually wrote an eBook about how I did it so I could help others do the same! (If you click right here you can grab a copy!)
Anyway — because I’ve had friendship on the brain so much these last few years, I’ve been paying extra close attention to what makes a great friendship happen.
My Simple Trick to Having Better Friendships
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a simple trick to having better friendships that I hadn’t thought of before, and I did because I almost got it totally wrong.
So here’s the trick. Are you ready?
We have to show up for each other.
So this sounds obvious, but it definitely isn’t.
Here’s what happened…
The week before Christmas was my friend Kaitlin’s birthday. She invited me and a bunch of girls to go to dinner at a super cool restaurant here in Nashville, and when she invited me I said an enthusiastic, “YES! Of course I’ll come!”
But then the day of the dinner arrived, and I have to be honest, I didn’t want to go.
Yes, I wanted to celebrate Kaitlin, of course! But I was getting sick, and feeling pretty terrible. And the only thing in the world I wanted to do was stake my claim on the couch and stay there for a week.
I thought about the dinner, and I thought about Kaitlin, and then I had a thought that I think so many of us have — a thought that robs our friendships of so much. I thought: I can skip it. Right? She probably won’t even notice if I’m not there.
I figured, there would be a lot of girls there celebrating her. She wouldn’t even notice my absence. It really doesn’t matter if I don’t go, does it?
But then I remembered the birthday party I threw for Carl a few months ago.
It was his 30th birthday and I wanted it to be perfect. So I invited his closest friends here in Nashville to a party at our house. I knew that people’s schedules would be crazy, so I started telling people to save the date a month in advance. I was having the event catered (with his favorite bar-b-que place here in Nashville — Edleys!), and so I followed up the week of the party just to make sure everyone was still coming.
I ordered enough food for everybody — it wasn’t cheap, but I knew it would be worth it, and I didn’t want to run out.
Well — then the night of the party came. The food showed up first. We had a ton of it! And then 7 o’clock rolled around, and nobody was here yet. I started to panic.
It wasn’t even my birthday but I still felt exposed, vulnerable, at risk of rejection. What if nobody shows?
Three minutes later, our friends started rolling in. Well — most of them. But not all of them. A few of them weren’t able to make it last minute for totally legitimate reasons, but it really hurt my feelings.
Again, it wasn’t even my birthday! But I felt dumb and embarrassed for having too much food. I felt a bit rejected, even though I knew it wasn’t personal.
When we invite people to show up for us — regardless of the occasion, and even when it’s not even OUR occasion — it’s a vulnerable thing. We’re putting our hearts on the line. And until that night, I had never thought about it that way.
So as I was getting ready for Kaitlin’s birthday dinner, and thinking that she probably wouldn’t notice if I wasn’t there, Carl’s birthday flashed through my mind.
I absolutely remember who didn’t come. Their presence was missed. And even though their reasons for missing it were totally legitimate, their absence made me sad!
But even more, I remember who did come. And I know Carl did too. Our house was packed that night — filled with the scent of bar-b-que and the roars of laughter from some of his favorite people. It was such a special night for him, and it’s because so many people showed up for him.
And so I knew that I had to show up for Kaitlin. Yes — she would have understood if I had to back out. I was legitimately sick, after all.
But I also know how much it’s meant to me over the years when people have shown up for me, and I knew I wanted to show up for her.
That night was a BLAST. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it! Not only was it so much fun celebrating Kaitlin (I got to sit right next to her at dinner!), but I also met great new friends!
I laughed so much that night, and I came home with such a happy and full heart.
It could not be more tempting to back out of things. It doesn’t matter what I’m committed to — a few hours before I’m supposed to leave, I never feel like going.
And it’s so easy to think that people won’t notice — that our presence really won’t change things — there will be so many people there, it really won’t matter.
But that’s simply not the truth.
First, if you make a reservation at a restaurant for your birthday for 10 people and only 7 show up, it is the worst feeling ever watching the hostess consolidate your table to make up for your no-show guests, or even worse, staring at the empty seats. It certainly isn’t personal, but it certainly feels that way.
People notice when we don’t show up. They really do. Just like we notice when people don’t show up for us.
But even more — people notice when we DO show up. Showing up is the best way to show someone we care about them. And amazing things can happen when we show up places. You never know who else is going to be at dinner, or at the party, or at the small group.
Friends of friends is the best way to make even more friends. And those friendships begin in moments like these.
So next time you’re invited somewhere, say yes.
And if you say you’ll go, go.
You’re showing your friend that you care, that you’re trustworthy, that you love them. You’re going deeper in your friendship together by spending that time together, and you never know what other friends you’ll make along the way.
Let’s show up for each other, friends. Shall we?
P.S. Why not make this the year you truly find your people? Click here to listen to my podcast episode about making new friends as an adult!