Trying to Float the Friendship Boat

19 Sep

On the day that I published my first blog entry about making new friends, Gretchen Rubin, the inspirational author of The Happiness Project, posted a piece on Facebook about…tips for making friends

A friend of a friend sent me the link, and since my original three friend-making strategies don’t seem to be floating the friendship boat terribly effectively, I decided to check out Gretchen’s tips.  (You can read her whole article by clicking here.)  She has seven tips:

  1. Show up.  By which Rubin means, be social: go to your book group meeting even though you’re tired, accept the party invitation even though you’d rather stay home in your jammies.  Although this isn’t necessarily a way to meet new people, Rubin does have a point.  Being social requires effort.  Make the effort.  So I went to my book group on Wednesday night even though I hadn’t read the book, and I said “yes” to a day in the city with my sister Jodie, even though it means losing my morning writing time.  I also sent off an email to my friend, Andrea, to set a lunch date with her.
  2. Join a group.  I belong to a synagogue, the ritual committee of my synagogue, a gym, a book group and two writer’s groups.  I’m not sure I have time in my day for another group.  However, when Peter tells me that an acquaintance of his, who happens to live right down the street, plays Mahjong and has invited me to join, I don’t snort in derision.  “Maybe,” I say.
  3. Start a group.  Me?  The person who thinks that speaking to two strangers in a kickboxing class is a friendliness feat of Olympian proportions should start a group?  Uh, no.
  4. Say nice things about other people.  Apparently, when you say nice things about person A to person B, person A ascribes those qualities to YOU.  Same goes for saying not-nice things about person B – you’re the glue those not-nice things stick to.  So all those years ago, when my mother told me over and over, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” she was actually on to something.  I’m not sure how this helps me make new friends but it’s a great reminder that I owe my mom a phone call.
  5. Set a target.  Rubin suggests going into social situations with a goal of befriending a specific number of new people – her magic number is three.  By setting the goal, she says, you act in a more outgoing, open way.  I am already trying to do this but I like the idea of setting a clear number goal at the outset.  So from now on, I vow to talk to three new people in every gym class I attend.
  6. Make an effort to smile.  Studies show that smiley people are more likely to gain friends than grim-faced ones.  I have seen this in action with my super-friendly niece Ruthie, who smiles all the time and accumulates friends effortlessly. The trick for me, however, is to transform myself FROM the grim-faced person TO the smiler, and that is not so easily done.  But worth working at.
  7. Make friends with friends of friends.  This is called “Triadic Closure” which is a ridiculously confusing social network theory concept (check out the Wikipedia entry if you want to feel really stupid) that basically says that you are inclined to like the friends of your friends because you like your friends and they like their friends.  Now THIS is a tip I can put into play right away!  I Facebook-message the friend-of-a-friend who sent me the link to Rubin’s article and ask her to lunch.

10 Responses to “Trying to Float the Friendship Boat”

  1. Laura Rotter September 20, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    Cathleen – when are you free for lunch?!

    – Laura

    • Cathleen Barnhart September 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

      That depends – just you, or are you introducing me to a new friend? 🙂

      Next Tuesday?

  2. Robert Hirsh September 21, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    Love your blogs…..told Peter …..they’re great

  3. Jennifer September 26, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    Finally figured out how to comment! You are one of the smiliiest people I know, truth be told! Not to mention to that laugh. . . keep up the good work! Jennifer

  4. bronxboy55 October 21, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    This post is filled with great advice for anyone, but writers in particular; we do tend to live inside our own heads. And congratulations on turning fifty. It wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be.

    I used to live and work in Westchester, as well as Rockland and Fairfield Counties. Feel free to email me. (My friendship boat is still little more than a canoe, and after this many years of life, that can be confusing.)

    This is a wonderful blog you’ve started. You have a comfortable writing voice.

    • bronxboy55 October 21, 2011 at 10:27 am #

      If you did want to email me, I guess having the address would be helpful.

      • Cathleen Barnhart October 21, 2011 at 10:44 am #

        Thanks for reading, Charles! I’m very new to this blogging thing, but enjoying the blog connections I’m beginning to make.


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