by Jenna Kutcher
Whether you’re a full-time mama juggling babies and soccer practice and being the snack mom for the kindergarten class next Thursday, or you’re an entrepreneur with loads of tasks and deadlines stacking up on your list, or somewhere in between, we all have busy, full and fast-moving lives. When you finally do have a few moments of peace and rest, often you just want to chill out and not have to put on real pants and make small talk with a huge group of people you call friends, but who are likely just surface-level acquaintances who get together once a month.
I don’t know about you, but that’s just not really my style. That’s why as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten extremely intentional with my friendships, who I’m carving out space and time to keep in touch with. My friends aren’t just a group of ladies to grab a glass of wine and gossip with — these women are the people who know my soul, want to hear about my heartaches, and ignite some of the deepest belly laughter and go-get-em inspiration ever. Which is just the best, isn’t it? My circle is small, a tight group of quality friends and for good reason.
In this episode, we’re talking all about friendships — why they’re so dang hard to make and sustain as adults, how we can nurture the good ones in our lives, and how to invite more genuine friends in, even when it feels like there’s no time to be going out and picking up a new bestie. If you’ve been feeling like there’s a hole in your relationships and like you need a friend, this is for you. Let’s get into the nitty gritty behind making friends as an adult.
Start a New Hobby or Join a Class
So many of us have packed-to-the-brim schedules and it feels like we don’t have time for friendship, let alone picking up a new hobby. But hear me out, with just one hour a week, you could join a pottery class or a writers workshop or a runners group or a Bible study or a yoga studio where there are other people who want to learn and experience something new with a community.
Y’all, we have 168 hours in a week. Take just one of those and try out a new activity that interests you! You might just sit next to someone who is facing your same struggles, who is walking parallel to your path and shares your hope for connection. While the class or hobby is an excuse to learn something new and get out of the house, it’s also an introduction to a new group of people who all have interesting stories and walks of life that you might just register with and really lean into and love. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and just introduce yourself to at least one person each time.
Start a Conversation with Someone You Admire
I’ve been hosting a lot of meet ups and real talks with some of my favorite brands and one of the BEST parts of those events is seeing women connecting with strangers who share common interests — it’s like the real life push that we sometimes need to meet others in our area. Talking to a stranger in a public space feels SO odd these days, but it shouldn’t be!
Sometimes, it takes a moment of boldness and old-school conversation to spark friendship. If you see something you like in someone, whether it’s their hair, their outfit, the way they walk into a room, tell them! Not every compliment will lead to a BFF, but it might open up the conversation to allow you to get to know someone new who you vibe with and adore. And if nothing else, speaking kindness to someone else will brighten their day and yours, and that’s worth the effort of being bold from time to time.
I would be ignoring a BIG part of my world if I didn’t mention this: If your social circle, or access to a social circle, is more online than in-person… THAT’S OKAY, that’s me. When I look at my day-to-day, most of my relationships are being fostered through screens — no shame!
Some of my dearest friendships started on the internet, namely, social media. When I was preparing for this episode, I did a quick look at the last 20 people I texted and a solid chunk of them were my internet friends turned real life friends. Wondering how that happens? I would find people online who inspired me or encouraged me and I would just take time to comment, message, and support them. A lot of times, I’ll shoot them a DM telling them something I admire about them and asking if I can do anything to support them.
While there are so many articles posted daily tearing down social media and how it’s made us worse at social interaction, I don’t want to omit or discredit making friends on the internet. If a friend-dating app isn’t your thing, reach out to someone via Instagram, start commenting on their photos with intention, and know that behind the photo, there just might be a person who is feeling isolated in the same way you are.
Get a Group Together
You might have friends of friends who you sort of know about or don’t know one another but let’s just say in Jenna Kutcher land, it’s totally acceptable to “batch” your friendship days to get the most connection you can muster. Like in one weekend I drove about 12 hours total but I got to connect with two groups of friends and have overnights with the women in my life and it was magic! If you can get a group together, do it! There’s so much energy and fun that comes when you get people together.
As an introvert, it pains me to put myself in uncomfortable situations, but in a group setting with a few people I already know and like, sometimes it’s a lot easier and there’s less pressure to make connections and get along with a new person you just met.
So now that we’ve covered a few ideas to get you started in the friendship department, let’s dissect how to grow new friendships and sustain existing friendships, especially when life gets crazy.
Connect with a friend every day
Even when you’re in the weeds at work or the thick of motherhood or you’re just plain busy — Connect with ONE friend a day. I voice text 3 women every single day. I used to do this when I went to the gym, I would just think of 3 people on my drive and when I parked my car, I would send 3 voice texts just letting women in my world know I am thinking of them.
I start them allll off the same way, “No need to respond, just want you to know I am thinking of you.” I’ve learned that when people pop into my mind or they are on my heart, it’s usually not coincidence and so when I act on those urges and reach out, it usually comes at a time when my friend is needing a reminder that they are loved and supported.
Whether you do something like voice text 3 friends a day or handwrite a letter or make plans to get together, just challenge yourself to stay connected. It takes hardly any time, but you’ll feel so much more immersed in your friendships, which creates stronger and healthier bonds.
Ditch the small talk
When I do get together with my best buds, we have an understanding to skip over the small talk. I don’t have the wherewithal or time to keep my friendships surface level, whether it’s the first time hanging out with someone or the hundredth. I empathize when my friends share their wins and losses and embarrassing stories — not just the highlight reel that we mainly see on Instagram.
Drew asked me how my girls weekend went and I just smiled because we literally talked about everything under the sun. I mean, within my group of 5 girlfriends we had numerous kids, a pregnancy, a miscarriage, someone who lost their dad, marriages, businesses… There wasn’t a stone left unturned when we were together and that’s just the way I like it.
As an introvert, small talk kills me, so when I have girlfriends who drop the facade and show up just as they are, it’s a relief. Sometimes we just need a girlfriend to say something that makes us feel not alone or crazy… like when a friend admits something they are going through and you thought to yourself, “Oh my gosh, I thought I was the ONLY one feeling this way!”
Keeping it real allows me to share all of my gut-honest truths and heartaches and flaws and hilarious stories, too. It’s tempting to not go “there” and avoid being vulnerable, because we often associate vulnerability with pain or think people might not like our full truth. But it’s honestly the baseline thing that makes you relatable, and your friendships will flourish if you ditch the small talk and focus on getting really, really real. It also creates a safe space for your friends to spill their guts with you, which makes your relationship stronger.
Stop assuming or creating unrealistic expectations
Especially with our long-time friends, we can get into routines around expecting and assuming certain things from them. Maybe one friend used to always plan weekend brunches but hasn’t been able to since taking a new job. Rather than assuming she will do it again eventually and letting the space gather between you, or even assuming she just stopped inviting you for some reason, take the initiative to make plans or show your support for her new position in some sort of thoughtful gesture.
It’s easy to get hurt feelings when a dynamic shifts or even if a friend doesn’t text you back right away — but rather than jumping to the worst of conclusions, trust that your friend is just doing their best in their own circumstances. We’re all evolving, life is always busy, and things come up — but believing the best of your friends is a practice to inherit right now.
One of the best practices I’ve gotten into is asking my friends how I can best show up for them. What is their friend love language? Whenever one of my friends is going through something, I try to ask, “How can I best show up for you in this season?” so that you are truly helping and not hurting, because we all need different things in different seasons.
Evaluate your friendships
Have you ever heard that quote “sometimes you need to unfollow people in real life?” Sounds harsh, doesn’t it but I think it’s important to note that it’s okay to evaluate your friendships and how they are impacting you and your life. If you become the 5 people you spend the most time with, it’s important to really evaluate who you’re letting influence your life and what sort of influence that is.
Sometimes we try to make things work when they are really draining us or exhausting us, and there really is a season for everything. But I’ve realized that relationships take a ton of work and if they are only draining you or causing anxiety. Sometimes self care looks like boundaries.
Not every friendship is supposed to last your whole life. I love the saying that relationships come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. There are plenty of relationships from my younger years that served me for a while but eventually fizzled out, and that’s okay. If you have friendships that revolve around toxic gossiping or codependence or negativity or taking advantage of you, it is more than okay to let them fall away.
Do a friendship audit and really take a look at who you’re surrounding yourself with. Your time and energy are too important to be drained by limiting people, so choose your close friends really carefully.
The Gift of Alone Time
As much as friendships are vital to living a well-rounded and full life, there’s also something to be said about being okay with sitting with yourself. If you feel the need to constantly be around people and being alone scares you, I’d encourage you to practice being alone and enjoying your own company. The only way we can be a good friend to others is if we’re a good friend to ourselves, first. Try taking 20 or 30 minutes a day for alone time, whether it’s going on a walk or sitting on your porch with a cup of coffee…
And I don’t mean sitting by yourself with your phone and just scrolling through social media. We can get a false sense of connection through Instagram feeds and even listening to podcasts and Facebook groups. As much as I LOVE these things, we tend to be guilty of just CONSUMING on these platforms and forget to intentionally connect with the humans on the screen.
When social media starts to drain you and give you that empty, isolated feeling that comes from seeing perfect photos on an endless loop, maybe it’s just time to evaluate your approach. Leave a comment with more substance than an emoji, ask a question to start a dialog, respond to a story of someone you admire and watch the conversation that develops.
I absolutely want you to connect in a way that feels right to you, whether it’s starting online or taking that big, bold step in-person. I’ve seen post after post, article after article about how social media is ruining our ability to truly connect, and millennials are more socially stunted than ever… But let’s not tear down the platform, let’s find a new way to use it that serves us, serves others, and inspires true connection.
The Big Picture
Making friends and maintaining healthy friendships isn’t an easy task, and I won’t lie and say I haven’t struggled with finding the right balance for my own relationships. But with a little more effort, understanding, boldness, and intentionality, I know you’ll be infused with all the tools you need to develop impactful, life-giving friendships that make you feel inspired, encouraged, and held through all of your highs and lows. Life is messy and so are relationships. But you are so worthy and equipped to find the group, small or large, of kindred spirits who you simply adore doing this weird and wonderful life with, and I hope you believe that to be true, too.