Asking For A Friend (Literally)

I am finding myself, more and more, craving connection as I get older. I have the best, most loyal friends from different parts of my life but during the day-to-day, I think it’s safe to say: I need more friends. 

Don’t get me wrong, I feel fortunate to have a great group of friends in my life—from women I met years ago to friendships that have blossomed more recently. But I’ll be honest, the idea of making NEW friends makes my pits sweat. I’m in my late forties, but all of a sudden I’m thrust back into my middle school when a group of girls made fun of me for walking into their circle and introducing myself. Even now, when I see a group of people talking at a school event or in the stands at our kids’ sporting events, I automatically assume it would bother them if I introduced myself. (It won’t surprise you that Penn is quite the opposite. He can walk into an empty room and walk out with friends.)

Making Friends As An Adult

On the podcast this week, Penn and I spoke to Dr. Marisa G. Franco, a friendship expert who wrote the book Platonic: How The Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends. She explained why friendship is essential at every stage of life, and friends can help you discover a totally new side of yourself. While I feel fulfilled with the amazing women I feel lucky to call my friends, I know I can get better when it comes to making new friends. 

I find myself seeking out lower-stakes social interactions. Rather than joining a group at a party, I might seek out the other person standing alone in a corner. Dr. Marisa G. Franco explained making friends requires being somewhat of a risk-taker. Her advice is to go into every situation assuming people will like you, and not that you would be interrupting or bothering them. It’s kind of like a “fake it ’til you make it” strategy—or I guess when it comes to friends, it would be “fake it ’til you make ‘em.”

Making Friends vs. Keeping Friends

Making friends is one thing, but keeping them is an entirely different challenge. In almost every case, we learned from Dr. Franco that maintaining friendship can be as easy as reaching out when you’re thinking of them. 

If you’re looking for a place to get started, we summarized insights from Dr. Franco:

Our Guide for Connecting (or Reconnecting) With a Friend

  • Be proactive and inclusive – When you initiate social situations or groups, everyone benefits. Dr. Franco refers to this as being an ignitor. The ignitor absorbs the risk by asking a group if they want to hang out, and the joiners reap the rewards. 
  • Reach out – The most basic step to reconnecting or staying connected with a friend is to let them know when you’re thinking of them. This is so simple, but often overlooked. I couldn’t tell you how many times I haven’t followed through on thoughts to wish an old friend or acquaintance a happy birthday, say congratulations on a new job, or let them know when something sparks a shared memory. Just do it! Even if you assume they will not care to hear from you, you can follow Dr. Franco’s advice and assume they do.
  • Express value – Your friends want to know that you care about them! Find opportunities to show them that you value their friendship.
  • Be vulnerable – I like to get deep with my friends, and I always encourage Penn to connect with his friends on a deeper level. Dr. Franco says being vulnerable helps open the door for a connection past the surface. 
  • Ask for help – Asking for help is an easy way to let your friends know that you trust them or value their opinion. This could also be a great opportunity to show your friends how well you know them. For example, you could ask your foodie friend for restaurant recommendations, book recommendations from an avid reader, etc. 

On the podcast, we dive deeper into the science of friendship, trends between men and women and how you can apply these same concepts to having healthy relationships with family. Dr. Franco shares one thing you can do right now to make friends—and it’s probably not what you think.

Happy listening! 


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