Making Friends is Scary: Three Ways to Take the Initiative

One of the greatest gifts you can give another human being is not your love, your time, or your warm embrace. One of the greatest gifts–which you already possess–can be to take the initiative with someone.

Because that’s where it all starts. That’s where your love is birthed for someone, when you choose to take the intimidating but hopeful leap into saying hi and sticking your shaky hand out into the empty space between the two of you.

Initiative is the fine line yet large chasm between a stranger and a friend.

As relational beings, we all crave to be known and pursued. Think back to a time in your life when someone took the first step and asked you to coffee. Maybe that boldness turned into your marriage, or maybe it’s the friend you text constantly. Whatever the situation may be, we find great joy in being sought out and cared for.

Yet we don’t do it enough. In a world of instant gratification through screens and feeds, do we know how to really make a connection face to face? How exactly do you go about finding your best friend on this spinning green and blue planet?

It’s lonely being the new person. Transitions are challenging and isolating enough, but when social settings have you pegged as the newbie, it gets old. Real fast.

In order to both cope and survive times of transition, it’s important to remember that every person in this universe wants to be known. We each have insecurities, struggles, hopes and dreams. And we each want to share those things, but often we just don’t know how.

Taking the initiative is equally frightening and satisfying. It could mean rejection. It could mean coming home from the event alone. But it could also mean that six months from now, you’re calling that stranger a friend.

While it’s tempting to sit in paralyzing anxiety, here are a few simple ways to begin the process of initiating:

Find local events you’re interested in/passionate about.

Most cities are full of events and happenings. Facebook is a great resource to find upcoming concerts, farmers markets and events targeting topics you’re passionate about.

Discover (or if you already know, then great!) what local things you enjoy doing, and go. Take the initiative and show up. Chances are, if you’re at the fundraising banquet because you want to see an end to sex trafficking, you’ll find like-minded people who breathe the same passion.

Don’t expect everyone you initiate with to become your next best friend.

While it’s relieving knowing we’re not the only ones who desire to be known and pursued, it can be challenging to know where to begin. However, don’t let such fears stop you from still making conversation.

Yes, sometimes that means small talk with the barista. And sometimes it turns into nothing more than a three-minute conversation. But there are those times when words organically come, and an hour later you realize you have more in common than you thought.

Don’t stress yourself out by viewing every person as a hit or miss opportunity. But if you click with someone, continue to be bold and initiate with them!

Have grace in the process, and have grace on yourself.

Life can move ridiculously slow sometimes. Some seasons are quieter and emptier than others, but that doesn’t mean you’re not living.

It’s ok to be home alone on a Friday night. It’s ok to not know what will fill next week’s schedule. It’s ok to be tired and discouraged, but don’t let that stop you from waking up and trying again tomorrow.

* * *

The greatest gift you can give is one you’ve had all along: being yourself and being kind. So keep initiating. Look that person in the eye and smile first. Who knows how it could affect them.

See life as opportunity, as seconds and minutes ticking with opportunity, and eventually you’ll look back at this moment and say, “I’m so glad I chose to keep going. I’m so glad I said hello.”

And maybe, just maybe, the recipients of your initiation will say the exact same thing.

Sarah Baker is a writer, laugher, and avid ice cream consumer. She loves honest people, conversations over coffee, and traveling. You can find her asking too many questions and pondering life’s strangeness at sarahbakerwrites.com.

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