Yesterday, I had the joy of experiencing my first “Lady Date.” It was delightful. I connected with another female professional, but importantly, I learned her unique story. It was refreshing - no agenda, no “what can we do for each other?” ... just, lets see what we have in common and what we might learn from a totally new interaction.
I had just heard the term, “lady date," mentioned by a new business associate, who said, when she meets intriguing women, she literally asks them out.
Why? Because making grown-up friends takes effort.
At this point, many of us have been traveling in the same circles or revolving in the same orbit, for years. We’ve also been through some shit, our old people may not be our best people, and life just gets … complicated.
I recently moved back to Denver, and I have friends from COLLEGE.
AND THEY ALL STILL HANG OUT WITH EACH OTHER.
As someone who has moved every 2 years, if not more, since college ... this kind of blows my mind.
But, here’s the thing, I had to work hard to get back in with these groups because they had … forgotten about me!
I wasn’t in their circles, for nearly 20 years! It’s not personal. They still love me. Yes, things have changed, but that gives us ample room to explore our new lives together.
This would be awkward if we expected the same, bright eyed and bushy tailed college student dive happy hour / all-nighters. However, now we meet at an upscale wine bar, where my friend is the sommelier, and she works just down the street, from her gorgeous home, that she and her husband built and now they have two roommates (read: children).
So yes, things have changed.
As things change, so do our relationships, our needs and expectations, and our … circles. Many of us have moved, separated, been transferred, or taken leaps of faith. This change in circumstance often results in totally new universes, but with a startling lack of familiar relationships to orbit.
A lot of my clients experience loneliness. In fact, more than half of Americans say they have less than 2 intimate relationships in their lives, outside of their significant other, if they have one!
One of the reasons I wanted to work with and support small business owners is because it is an incredibly isolating place to be. This morning a client messaged me and said “Thankful you’re getting me to do more, not sure why I never thought to ask for help, these new strategies are totally working!”
This woman runs a collective boutique, with 5 employees and new stock arriving daily. She also JUST had a baby, moved store locations, and had to deal with a negligent landlord (so everything broke, every day).
She was totally overwhelmed, but in (almost) a good way! New, larger, downtown location. Growth and expansion, in business and in her personal life. But she felt like she was underwater, and there was no one to talk to and no support for her.
You can almost forget life doesn’t have to be so hectic and stressful. Suddenly, you’re drowning and it’s simply the status quo. The bare minimum is getting done and you tell yourself it’s OK because that’s all you can do!
But you know it’s not, and it’s holding you and your business back, and you start to sink into the depths of burn-out. Suddenly the bare minimum doesn’t cut it, sales start to slowly diminish, you start to see less and less of the old clientele, and what was a phase becomes the norm. You keep swimming, but you’re so alone in this, and you don’t know if you can get to the surface soon enough.
It’s lonely. And it’s scary.
An intimate relationship, as defined by Murray Brown ~ professor and psychiatrist who coined Family Therapy, is"self-differentiation, which results in a connection in which there is an emotional range involving both robust conflict and intense loyalty… It evolves through reciprocal self-disclosure and candor.”
Every intimate relationship starts with a simple, “hello” or <insert greeting of your choice.> They take time, effort, commitment, and a degree of consistency to build. They will experience and resolve conflict.
Relationships will ebb and flow.
We’ve forgotten this crucial element of close, deep, meaningful relationships. They take effort. And this means, you have to get off your social media page and have a real conversation with a human to maintain and grow the relationship. Or, at the very least, remove the digital interference every now and again so you can truly experience your relationship.
Another crucial and often overlooked part is the “robust conflict” element of relationships. You are not going to love 100% of every part of your friends, family, and lovers. Nor should you!
Our differences are what create dynamic, intriguing and unexpected experiences. Learning how to discuss, or when appropriate, how to agree to disagree, is an ever evolving skillset to be harnessed and practiced in building, and letting go of, relationships.
In my partnerships with clients, we typically start with their values. Why? Because your values act like a compass for you in life, whether it’s at work, within friendships and interpersonal dynamics, but especially in your intimate relationships.
We connect over shared values, we dispute over value conflicts. We find fulfillment and joy when our values are in alignment with our lives, and we experience despair and pain when we sacrifice our values.
I know you’ve experienced when a relationship changes - this can be over time, or this can happen rapidly when you’re getting to know someone better and better.
Are you New In Town (nod to John Mulaney’s best comedy bit ever). Maybe you’ve gone through a break-up, a professional transition, or you’re trying to branch out. Or maybe you’re just lonely!
Here’s some tried and proven strategies for making friends.
How To Make Grown-Up Friends
Reach out. This is the first step. It’s might sound silly, but seriously, a lot of people sit around wondering why no one is inviting them to do stuff.
Look up a local events guide, find something cool that you want to do, then text 5 people and ask them to join you.
Or check out Meet-Up, your local museums and schools, even a neighborhood rec center. They make the event planning easy, they even invite people for you to meet. For all you introverts, I’m looking at a Meet-Up called “Coffee & Conversations by Socializing Introverts” . And I shit you not, there’s a group at the local book store that meets for “Silent Book Club,” there is something for EVERYONE.
For a more intimate approach, pick a nostalgic movie, fun game, or outdoor activity, and invite people over on a Thursday night. Ask everyone to bring a snack or beverage, and voila.
Wanting to reconnect with someone, let them know! No guilt, no judgement, just “hey, been thinking about you, it would be great to catch-up, how does next week look, I could do Thursday evening or mid-day Saturday.
You can send a text, a voice memo to make it more personal, message someone on facebook you’re looking to take real-world, or email a professional colleague to take things from work to life.
Be prepared. People are busy. They have a lot of commitments. It may not happen the first time. I often plan 3-6 weeks out with some of my friends and associates, especially for personal / non-work related exchanges. This isn’t because I am “too busy,” it’s because I make space for my life and I am consistently reaching out and planning time with people.
Follow-up. Check in a few days prior, or hours out and make sure nothing came up. If you do need to re-schedule be open and do it. For some of us, this will take practice and there’s no right or wrong way. Just understand everyone is different and your idea of plans and commitments may vary from your new friend’s.
Express gratitude. Let this person know you’re excited about this new opportunity. Follow-up after the event and share what you enjoyed most. Be weird and vulnerable, 100%. This is how you make friends. Be yourself. Be honest. Be open.
Worse case scenario: you don’t like spending time with them. Now you know. Onto the next person!
Working too much makes you feel lonely!
Running your own business yields loneliness. It's not a matter of if, it’s when. Take the time to combat this unfortunate reality.
Join a Mastermind - or create one! This can look like one other business owner in your industry or community, even a competitor. ... This can also be an invite-only zoom call. ... You can even monetize it, have a structured agenda and deliverables, accountability partners and referral requirements.
Make it work FOR you, and don’t be a statistic. Growing your professional network is crucial to your success.
How To Grow Friendship And Create Intimacy
A prospect recently told me he reaches out to his friends at least once every 3-4 months. Um … ok.
He was also aware that he is VERY lonely.
We get busy. When we work for ourselves, we leans into overwhelm because we often identify as our work, personal and business are blurred, and we mistake professional acquaintances for our friends. We also neglect or friends for our professional commitments, which is easily justified when your professional priorities are our lives & livelihood, right?!?
When we pick our heads up from our self-employed, work desks, a lot of us reach out to friends, only to get crickets in return. Then we feel even more lonely, and now we’re embarrassed to boot!
Here’s the thing … friends likely invited you, many times, and you said no. So they stopped. This is OK, in fact it is normal. This does not mean you are a bad friend or people are jerks.
Here’s How To Deepen Existing Friendships Or Rekindle What May Have Burnt Out:
Host a thing. Anywhere, anytime, anyplace (maybe don’t invite them to your work if tats the last 6 invitations you extended - I know, me too).
Pick something you’re very comfortable with, and invite people. 1 person. Everyone in your city via facebook. Whatever’s clever. You can even have fun with it and call it your Debutante Drinks or Very Unbirthday Party.
Admit you’ve been out of the loop, you miss your friends (or any friends), and you’re trying to (re)connect. Bonus points for sending texts and email invites for those of us who may be more favorable to one form of communication than another
Admit to yourself, it’s time. We all know that feeling when we open social media or get sent the email chain, and a bunch of photos that WE AREN’T IN are shared 😫
We have two options:
Throw a pity party and vow to never invite people into your life again...
OR actually reach out to each and every one of the people you miss and say, “Hey! Super bummed I missed the fun, when can we get together so I can see your face in person?”
Here’s the thing, relationships take work. There is a give and a take.
Pay attention to what you’re getting, as much as what you’re giving
Remember the “… value’s are your compass” thing … you’re going to jive with people who have similar values, and you’ll likely stay acquaintances with those who don’t. You’re not better than them, and they’re not wrong, you’re just different. You have different values.
When someone truly aligns with your values, shows up when you need them most (and yes, you’ll have to ask for help to test this), and in my humble opinion, when someone pushes you to be a better version of yourself by offering objective feedback, allowing you to reflect on less-than-ideal actions or results, the relationship transcends "friend" and evolves into intimate.
Trust takes time, and it’s small, consistent deposits that grow the account. Once there’s enough to withdraw, there’s deep pockets filled with a sense of security, mutual exchange, and warm familiarity.
This friendship just grew into something really valuable.