How many of us have sheepishly walked into a social event as the “new girl,” our hearts beating out of our chest as we cling to our phones for some semblance of comfort and security?
One of my good friends and I had a conversation recently around this topic of making new friends, and how difficult and oftentimes awkward it can be. When I moved from my hometown on the East coast three and a half years ago, and drove across the country to build a whole new life in California, I was struck with the reality that I literally knew no one here, and no one knew me.
It was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.
From moving coast to coast, to then finding myself in the middle of the country in the bustling city of Chicago, I’ve learned more than I could write in this one article about building and navigating new relationships.
Something that has been especially intriguing and helpful to me is an idea called “co-burdening.” In a research project done at a university in Virginia, an individual carrying a heavy backpack was asked to stand solo at the bottom of a hill and then asked to rate the steepness of the hill before venturing to the top. Then the same person, carrying the heavy backpack is accompanied by a friend at the bottom of the hill, and asked again to rate the steepness of the hill.
After surveying numerous people, there was a resounding consensus that when an individual has a trusted friend standing by their side, (even though their friend is not helping to carry the weight of the backpack), the hill was rated to be significantly less steep than when that same individual is standing alone. These results communicated to the researchers that just the mere presence of a faithful companion made the individual carrying the backpack feel that the hill was less steep and more manageable to climb.
Essentially, this is what we are all seeking after—for someone to stand with us in the midst of life’s wins and losses, blessings and challenges, sadness and joy. Knowing we have someone by our side as we journey through life makes the difficult times that much more manageable and the good times that much more enjoyable.
So, when we consider how to make new friends in a new place, these are the three main things I’ve learned:
1. Be intentional.
If we imagine ourselves as the person carrying the heavy backpack we all realize that in those moments we want to have a trusted friend there by our side. So, as we are intentional to seek out those opportunities to be that person for someone else, we will realize that people will remember our presence and intentionality and want to be that person for us when we face our own challenging mountains.
2. Be vulnerable.
It’s true that people are drawn to authenticity and vulnerability, and as scary as those are, without them we can never have the rewarding and close relationships we desire. So, invite others in to your life—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Allow others to go on the journey with you, because if you don’t you unknowingly cheat others of the opportunity to give of themselves—which is the greater gift anyway. | More on this in 3 Reasons You Should Share Your Story
3. Be consistent.
Consistency makes intentionality and vulnerability believable and trustworthy. When someone’s actions consistently affirm words that have been spoken, that is when true intimacy happens. Trust is forged through consistency.
There are so many more things we could add to this short list, but as we begin to embrace and embody the qualities that would draw us into relationship with others, we will find that others will be drawn to us, as we become the friend we desire to have.
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