Most of us have been there, a part of a community but still wishing we had friends or felt more connected. There have, in fact, been many seasons of my life where I found myself in this very position. Most recently, I moved to our current community and yet again, felt a longing for connection. In this episode I will walk you through what it looked like for me to create “group blind friend dates” with people I was meeting and how those relationships turned into my best friendships! Going first doesn’t seem natural, often doesn’t seem culturally acceptable, and yet it is the very thing that changes what community looks like in all of our lives. It certainly did in mine.
Let’s plan your next friend date!
Friendship attraction is just like romantic attraction. Well, kind of. Going through life, there are certain people that we are naturally drawn to. Whether it’s because of interests, values, or personality, friendship attraction is something to pay attention to. Many times these are people that we see consistently at a public place, work out next to at the gym, or are one of our kids’ friends’ parents. These very people are the best to extend an invitation to!
I used to think I would be seen as a little crazy for extending invitations to someone that in the course of my life, I have done nothing more with than sweat next to at the gym. I learned, though, that oftentimes these very people have been holding back from extending an invitation too.
To be totally transparent, the first time I hosted one of these events, I invited about 20 people, and I think about 10 came. It is natural to get no’s in return; however it is just as natural and totally expected that many of the invitations will hook. Those are exactly the ones that you want to hold on to.
Here is exactly how I invited new friends to my first friend blind date.
“Hey, I have been wanting to hang out! I am planning a girls night out with a bunch of people I’d love to get to know better. No one knows each other, but I thought it could be a great way to make friends! I’d love it if you could be there…Here’s what we’re going to do!”
In this invitation process, I think it’s important to point out that no one, or few people, know each other, just to break the initial awkwardness. Also, listing what the plan is for the event will give guests an added level of interest and connection! Knowing the series of events can spark excitement and decrease social anxiety.
We have found that the key to growing a community is a mix of entertainment and vulnerability. If we’re honest, most friendships can confidently say that they have mastered the art of planning and participating in engaging and unique activities. Many of the people in that position may also be found saying that they wish their relationships were just a bit deeper. Vulnerability is the more difficult component, which means that it takes intentionality to cultivate it.
When planning a group friend date like this, it’s important to make sure that you have room for both! For example, just having people over your house to talk with no activity, may make people just a bit uncomfortable. Alternatively if you plan a night out without space to talk, people may leave feeling disconnected.
My FAVORITE way to plan these events is to go somewhere like a winery and then have a bonfire back at my house; best of both worlds! Another option would be to have the whole evening at your house, but split it up with some type of craft or outdoor games, etc.
The other key to vulnerability is you go first! Show up, be yourself, ask good questions, and don’t hold back.
These events are the sweetest space to develop friendships. As I mentioned earlier, some people you invite may not come; in the same way some friends may not respond to a second invitation. Follow through is critical nonetheless. Have you ever been on a first date and wondered, “I wonder if they liked me,” or sat by the phone, anticipating a call for a second date. Well, friendship is the same way!
If you met someone during your night out that you enjoyed being with, REACH OUT. Don’t feel awkward, don’t wait for them; it takes someone to make the first step. Another way to show someone that you want to continue in friendship is to ‘remember.’ Often in conversations, big life events will come up. From birthdays to medical procedures to celebrations and loss, take note. Showing up with a text, a gift, or a meal, is a powerful way to show you not just care…you remembered.
Follow through, or lack thereof I should say, is often where relationships die. If you enjoyed being with them and want to keep up with a good thing, take initiative.
Our hope through this episode, and this very concept, is that you will feel ready to extend the invite with confidence that friendship is just an invitation away!