You are at the ball field watching your son’s baseball game. You cheer him on as he rounds home plate. The crowd cheers. You look around as everyone rises to their feet and even though the stands are full, you feel alone.
Making and keeping friends as adults is much harder than when we were younger. Immersed in motherhood, we often feel isolated from real friends, even when we are surrounded by acquaintances. Believe it or not, many moms I mentorwish they had more friends and more friendships with deeper meaning.
We’ve mentioned before just how important female friendships are — even helping reduce stress. So how do we improve the relationships we have?
Whether you are thinking of your old friendships or new friendships or people you barely know, here are seven actions to strengthen your relationships and turn an acquaintance into a good friend.
1. Talk about your common interests — besides your kids.
Not sure how to do this? As awkward as it may sound, you can treat the conversation like you would a first date and ask basic questions like, “what do you do?” or “where are you from?”
Anything that helps you learn more about a person beyond their children will help you build a relationship.
2. Get out of the box.
Not only do we segment our relationships into boxes like “neighbor” or “friend from college,” we also stick our self right in a box. We let ourselves believe that our acquaintances don’t need another friend. How are we to know? We let fear or anxiety keep us from opening up to a person at church we’ve known for years. What could it hurt to get to know them better?
If you want more friends, put yourself out there. Strike up a conversation or organize an activity.
3. Ask to serve them.
I’ll never forget how difficult it was to accept help from my friends when I was pregnant with my twins and unable to do what needed to get done. But those women who served me became some of my dearest friends.
Natalie Andrews in Washington, D.C., has figured this trick out as well. “I used to have a hard time asking for anything. But then I learned that by serving each other we became better friends.” Andrews adds, “I realized I was closest to the friends who had done things for me because I was allowing them into my life.”
4. Be silly, authentic and have fun.
Do you ever get together with friends for a “Girl’s Night Out?” Use that time to be yourself (not just the co-worker or car-pool partner) and have some fun.
Jill Skouson is a new mother in Centennial, Colorado, who understands the importance of a good friend. Skouson says, “I have found my closest friendships become that way once we’ve had that cheeks-and-gut-hurt moment from laughing so hard, creating inside jokes and memories.”
But being authentic is important, too. Skouson mentions the importance of the heart-to-heart moments when, as friends, we need to talk about our disagreements and issues. “Once you’ve had those two extremes at least once — hysterical fun and real discussions — you’re pretty good friends.”
5. Learn together.
This might be the factor that makes our friendships from high school and college work so real. If we can re-create these situations with our neighborhood or "mommy" friends, we can deepen our friendship.
Activities that foster learning are simple but take more effort and planning. You could join a book club or cooking class, attend community or church activities, even learn a new hobby with friends.
6. Write a note and mail it.
Doesn’t this seem simple enough? Yet how often do you pen your words and let the people you care about really know how you feel? Writing a letter is a dying trade. Buy a stack of notecards and some stamps and send a few cards a month to those people in your past who really mean something to you.
This spring I got a card out of the blue from a roommate of mine in college over 14 years ago. We roomed together for six months while we lived in Florida and then went our separate ways. We’ve tried to stay in touch but seeing her card in the mailbox was so special. Her letter was so thoughtful and sweet. It made my day.
7. Pick up the phone.
It’s so easy to send an email, text or tweet but seems harder to take the time to pick up the phone and call an old friend (or new friend). Let your friend know you are thinking about them and even schedule a time to see them in person.
The best friendships are the ones where you can give them a call and pick back up again right where you left off, even if it’s been years.
Nicole Carpenter is the CEO of MOMentity.com and creator of Define Your Time eCourse. She is a speaker and mentor for mompreneuers. Nicole and her husband are raising four children, 8 years and younger, including twin toddlers. Twitter: @momentity