Make New Friends, But Keep the Old*

I recently met up with a fabulously awesome friend of mine and we got on the subject of how tricky it can be to make the leap from networking with someone to building a one-on-one relationship.

It seems silly, but once you get out of college it’s not that easy to make new friends. At least, it wasn’t that easy for me. I’m not an unfriendly person, but getting over that hump from casual conversation to actual friend was pretty darn scary.

I guess it’s just that fear of rejection, or of people thinking that I’m a dork. But that doesn’t make sense either, because I kind of AM a dork. I’m not shy about my love of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, random pop culture trivia or my dorktastic dance moves. So why am I too shy to tell someone I want to hang out with them?

I don’t know what I expect to happen; maybe they turn to me and laugh saying “No, I would NEVER want to hang out with you. You have a stupid face and smell like cheese!* Why would someone like me EVER want to be seen with someone like you?” Yeah, that’s probably not that likely outside of my bizarre daydream world.

Anyways, how many times have you met someone at a networking event that you think “this person is really nice, I like them” and then nothing ever comes out of it? So, about a year ago I finally decided to do something about it. I joined a really great program with Business Volunteers Unlimited called GIVE. In fact, I was one of the lucky members of the GIVE Class of 2010.

When I joined that program, I made myself a promise that I would make some new friends. So I went to the first couple of meetings and when I spoke to someone who seemed nice and funny, I jotted their name down. A couple days later, I’d send them an email saying that it was really nice to talk to them and would they like to meet up for lunch sometime.

Most of the time, they said yes and we’d make lunch plans. Once I was in a situation of talking to them one-on-one, it was great! We usually had lots in common and by the end of the lunch felt so much more comfortable with each other. Then, the next time I’d see them at a GIVE event; I could walk up and talk to them without feeling like an idiot.

Lunches with new contacts turned into Happy Hours where everyone was able to cut loose and really start getting to know each other. Now that it’s been over a year I really feel like I’ve got some really great friends, including the fabulously awesome chick that sparked the idea for this post.

So, if you want to grow your business network or just get through a networking meeting that you’re boss forced you to attend, just think of it like you’re going out there to make a new friend. Starting up a conversation with someone is scary, but most of the time they’re just as intimidated as you are.

*At this point anyone who was a girl scout is singing, “one is silver and the other gold”. Which is actually pretty mean when you’re categorizing your friendships.

**Yeah, I’m totally eating Doritos right now while writing this. So maybe I do smell like cheese…

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