Friends start out at different levels. With some people, we might remain casual friends for a long time, and with others we have the opportunity to become closer. Sometimes friends will bond faster after they experience a shared activity, and other times closeness will happen naturally. The pace at which you bond is partially up to circumstances beyond your control (after all, some people just aren't going to click), but you can try to become better friends with someone if you hit it off and want to speed things up. Here's how to make that happen.
Spend Time Together Outside of Your Usual Activities
If you only see each other casually (for things like your kid's baseball games or the monthly book club), you won't bond as close friends. In order for a meaningful friendship to happen, you have to do things outside of where you first met. A way to make that happen is to ask your potential friend to meet you for coffee or lunch. An activity that is short (a couple hours or less) but allows for conversation is the best way to get to know her better initially.
Ask Her About Herself
People enjoy talking about themselves, but in a new friendship it's especially important to get an understanding of your pal. By figuring out what she likes, what motivates her, and how you can help make her life easier, you'll be getting to the heart of what makes her tick. It's important that you really listen during the early stages of friendship, and not just rattle off questions one by one as a way to make conversation. By fully hearing what your friend is saying, you'll be able to pick up on her emotional needs.
Some good questions to ask in the beginning include:
- How do you like the book club so far?
- What made you want to join the group?
- Tell me about your family. Do you have kids?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- How did you get into your line of work?
As she answers, pay attention to her body language. For example, if you ask about kids and she smiles and gets excited, but says she doesn't have them yet, chances are she is trying or looking forward to the time when she becomes a mother. If she pauses or gets a sad look in her eye, the subject might be a painful one, so tread lightly. Learn to navigate the emotions involved with conversation as much as the words that are said.
Share Things About Yourself
You can't just ask someone questions and expect to get close to them. You have to share tidbits about your life as well. In fact, doing so can often encourage your friend to open up as well.
However, there is a difference between talking about your life in a way that invites conversation and dumping out a ton of personal information that leaves people uncomfortable. Share things in small doses, and use personal stories to help your new friend understand the circumstances about events you speak about. If you sense that the things you're sharing are making people quiet, then back off until you get to know them better. Share something else about yourself instead.
If you feel you went too far in revealing something, make light of it. Say something like, "Too much TMI, right?" or "Sorry! Are you sure you didn't ask me to share my most embarrassing story?" Making a joke about it will help get you and your new friend back on track and lighten the mood.
Initiate Calls and Emails
In the beginning, you might find that you're the one that needs to make all the effort when it comes to getting together. It's not unusual for new friendships to depend on the initiative of the person that really wants the friendship the most. It isn't that the person you're trying to be pals with isn't interested, but you aren't on their radar yet as a friend. So when they are going about their day, they aren't thinking about scheduling time with you.
You, on the other hand, have the goal of making new friends (or specifically, this one particular friendship) on the forefront of your mind. As a result, you'll probably be making the effort in the beginning. It can be difficult to always be the one to call or email suggesting a get-together. Logic would tell you that when you suggest a lunch, your friend should take turns and do it the next time, but in the beginning, that probably won't happen. As time goes on, your friendship will fall on more even footing, but at first you'll need to put in more effort. Don't get discouraged. It's all part of becoming better friends with someone.