Over the years I have had clients struggle to know how to start a friendship. They have also not known how to check if the potential companion was emotionally safe. They wanted cues to show them whether to continue investing time in a new connection.
After offering them the four steps below most of them report transformative success. They make friends! Ultimately, these healthy relationships help them build their well-being and resilience.
Step One: Greet
The first time you meet someone in a casual environment greet him or her with, Hi! How are you?
For more formal situations shake hands and say, Hello. How do you do? It is always appropriate to add, I am so glad to meet you.
Exchange names by saying, My name is Patricia. What is yours? Use the person’s name two or three times to put it in your memory bank, at least for the duration of your initial conversation.
Some people balk at the ritual game. I hear people say, I don’t like to bother with small talk. But, a greeting ritual provides a polite way to check out if you have mutual interests, values, and compatibility.
Notice if you see open or aggressive gestures. Notice if you see attentive eye contact or eye rolling. Notice if you see calm, enthused, or irritated agitated movement.
Keep asking and answering questions as evenly as possible. If you receive brisk answers or little reciprocation of interest, move on. Say, It was nice chatting with you.
Also, move on if the conversation becomes rude, boring, or feels disconnected.
Step Two: Geography
Places of residence, work, vacation, and birth can be safely discussed as long as the two of you are engaged. Places is a non-personal and low-risk topic. For example, you can talk about geography for an hour or more to fill in time at a corporate event. It sounds like this.
What part of the city do you live in? What do you like about your community? Where is your favorite holiday spot? What do you like about it?
When you talk about geography, you discussing non-intimate topics. In the meantime, you are getting a better feel for the other person. Reciprocate with your own geographical information.
Step Three: Activities
At this point, you will want to move to exploring if you and your companion wish to spend future time together. You can introduce the topics of work activities, interests, and hobbies. Chatting back and forth about passions and favorite pastimes can be fun and lively. People’s eyes often shine when they talk. It sounds something like this.
I love movies with drama, character development and provide, not only a great laugh, but a good cry. Fun Chick Flicks are my favorite? What about you?
When you find a project or activity you both like, you have begun to develop the beginnings of a friendship.
Step Four: Feeling Risk Analysis
If you want a relationship with an emotionally grounded individual, please use this last step. Before confirming a time and place for an outing, share a personal and true fear. You are testing the waters for emotional safety. It sounds something like this.
Once at the movies, during a scary part, I felt a little spooky, and I pulled my sweater over my head.
If your conversational partner says something like, That’s dumb! you will know going to the movies with him or her will be no fun! Indeed, feeling free, supported and connected with this individual may not be possible.
If your conversational partner says something like, I have thought of doing the same thing, you will know going to the movies with him or her will be fun. That is the theory and my clients have proven it to be true.
It is affirming to receive a signal that you have found an emotionally safe human being.
Now that you have moved through Four Steps to Create Safe and Healthy Friendships, it is time to move ahead. Enjoy your time with your new found friend!
Please let me know how these steps work for you. OK?
To read more about friendships consider reading Why Friendships are Therapeutic, which includes 10 Friendship Sayings