Some of us are late bloomers, new to a city, or have had to do some major downsizing in the way of friendships because of shifts in priorities and life goals.
All of these realities can leave a sistergirl feeling lonely and in search of new meaningful friendships well into their 30s.
But before you go out there all wiley niley, making BFFs with anyone, here are three things to think about before you make new friends.
1. Get clear on the type of friend that you are. I know that in the search of your next sister circle, you can easily overlook what you bring to the table. But don’t. Taking stock of who you are as a friend—the good, the bad, and the rachet, will give you confidence about the “friendship dating” process. Take a sheet of blank paper and brainstorm all that you are and all that you have done as a friend; this process can be a very eye-opening. You may see things that you want to build on and things that you want to let go of.
When I went through this process, I noticed that I was consistently a cheerleader and a listening ear for a lot of friends. Even though I loved being there for my friends and celebrating their success, I started to hate this role because it was draining and not often reciprocated.
With a little more digging I realized that I was partly responsible for the dynamics that I created in these friendships and I had to learn to either assert myself more in these relationships or get better at picking friends that could allow for flexibility and reciprocity in friendships.
2. Get clear about the type of friends that you are looking for. One of the reasons that some friendships don’t last is because we pick friends for reasons that don’t serve us. I know in my 20s, I was drawn to friends that were eccentric and extremely creative. These friends always had a plight and were always in the midst of some time of drama. At that time in my life, I thought they were exciting. What I noticed that their eccentricity sometimes made them unreliable and their drama-filled lives also made them incorrigible.
As I have gotten older, I appreciate friendships where the women are kind, simple, spiritual, and who are vocal about their feelings—even if it makes me uncomfortable or upset. I find these friendships allow for the things that I value the most—understanding, personal growth, and reciprocity.
Get clear about your conflict resolution style. In graduate school, I had to take a battery of self-assessments, one of which was on my conflict resolution style. I found out that I tended to avoid conflict, let things fester, and then blow up. When I reflected on how this style contributed to the demise of certain friendships, I realized that I held irrational beliefs about conflict, which came from my upbringing, my culture, my class, and personal experiences–one of the kickers was that authenticity and honesty could destroy relationships so I thought to protect a friendship I had to cover up my feelings or deny them. (Crazy, right?)
I once read that friendship is the “other” marriage in a woman’s life. I think it’s true. When you are looking to make deep and fulfilling relationships, it’s important that you are self-aware and know what you are looking for. It will make the process easier and more fruitful.