Do you have amazing connections with other parents? Do you ever wish you were able to connect more or make more friends as a parent?
Some weeks I feel like I do a great job with this... and other weeks I feel like I am stuck in my routine of errands, working out, blogging, cleaning, and doing projects, and by the end of the week feel like I've barely made a connection with another parent or friend (besides my spouse).
I definitely don't think there is anything wrong with focusing a lot of attention on your spouse and kids, but I do think that developing and maintaining friendships (outside of your family) is really important. During certain times of my life I have felt like making friends was really hard... and during others I felt like it has been easy. I think a lot of that had to do with my attitude and my willingness to put forth effort.
As I'm starting off the summer, I've been thinking about some personal summer goals I have... and one of them is to connect more with other parents and friends- new and old (I also want to read more, waste less time, and be more organized... but those are for another day)!
Last week I taught a lesson to the teenagers at church about reaching out to others. It got me thinking a lot about this topic and how I want to approach my goals this summer. Today I thought I'd share five tips with you that I'm planning to focus on this summer as I attempt to connect more with other parents and friends- new and old.
1. Invite often
This is something I think about a lot... especially when I move to a new place and am trying to make new friends. Sometimes I think other people should invite me over (if I am new) or should reach out to me. The reality is, I should be reaching out and doing the inviting and not sitting around waiting. After all, who doesn't like to be invited to something? I have been amazed at the friendships I have been able to cultivate by just extending a simple invitation- to the park, over for a playdate or a BBQ, or to go out for a girls night. There have been times when I've invited a bunch of people to an event and no one has come... and other times when way too many people have been able to come! Either way, one of the easiest ways to make connections with others is to take the first step and invite them to do something. Sometimes this means going way out of your comfort zone... which is hard, but totally rewarding. I want to do more of that this summer!
2. Offer to help
Many of my deepest friendships have developed during difficult times when people have reached out to our family to help. I truly admire friends who recognize a need and are able to step in and help without me ever needing to say anything. Someday I hope to be one of those people who has that talent. In the meantime, one way that I have developed deeper connections with friends is by offering to help in specific ways... not vague ways like saying, "Can I help with anything?," but instead saying things like, "We're going to the park this afternoon, can we pick up ____ and bring him with us?" (to a friend who just had a new baby and has a toddler or preschooler also running around). I have gained such a love for my friends (and their kids), by finding ways to help them out and serve them. I need to do that more often!
3. Ask questions
Asking questions is critical for developing relationships. I love this quote from Dale Carnegie (author of one of my favorite books, How to Win Friends and Influence People):
I think we all know this... but sometimes it is easy to become a ME monster and talk all about our kids, our spouse, our life, our plans, etc. I do that ALL the time and hate it when I catch myself doing it! Every person I meet and every friend I have is AMAZING and has incredible things to share and teach me... so I know that I need to be better about asking them questions so that I can discover more about them! Everyone likes to hang out with people who are genuinely interested in getting to know them!
4. Listen and remember details
This point ties in well with number three. If we ask questions, we need to make sure that we listen and remember details. I know there are certain people that I have the same conversation with again and again and it is because I am not paying enough attention when we talk and miss the important details... and then I end up asking the same question again the next time we talk. I feel so LAME! Right now I am especially struggling with this because of my tired pregnancy brain. I have actually started taking notes to help myself remember details about people! Have you ever done that? One of my favorite things to write down is schedules. This year I've tried to jot down schedules of my friends and their kids on my calendar so that when I plan events, I don't plan them when their kids have gymnastics or soccer or whatever. I obviously forget from time to time, but having the info written on my calendar has made connecting with my friends (and their kids) a whole lot easier because I know when they are free and am able to invite them to activities during those times. It is never fun to plan a big event only to discover that it coincides exactly with everyone's kindergarten pick up times and have no one able to come! When people remember important details about things I've shared I really feel like they care about me. I want my friends to know I care about them... so I have a feeling I will be writing a lot more notes to myself this summer!
5. Be open and inclusive
One way that I'm trying to connect more with others is by making time in my schedule for my friendships. I try and set aside time each week that is open in our schedule and try and keep it that way, or at least keep it flexible. This has allowed us to be available for last minute playdate invitations or given us time to help out a friend. I hate being one of those people who says, "call me if you need anything" and then when a friend needs something, my schedule is too busy to help them. I also like to schedule regular time into the month to spend time with my friends (without kids). There is such a different level of connection when we are not distracted or chasing kids all around the park.
I also think it is important to be inclusive. I'm not an expert at this yet, but I try and rotate the friends we have over and the people we hang out with because I love creating new relationships as well and building on the friendships I already have... instead of just hanging out with the same two friends every week. There is something incredible about a deep and intimate relationship with a friend you are very close with... but I also think that sometimes they can turn into exclusive relationships that make other people feel left out.
That being said, I do agree with the quote above about having real friends... not just a lot of "friends" on my Facebook page or in my cell phone that aren't people I really connect with.
I am always looking for new ideas and suggestions. I really want to be a better friend and I definitely feel like there are weeks when I need a lot of help. If I am a good friend, I feel like I am setting a good example for my kids to follow. One of my goals for them is to learn how to develop deep and lasting friendships. Having good friends makes life so much sweeter!
I would love your thoughts/ideas on some of these questions...
How do you successfully develop new friendships while making sure to keep the old ones?
Do you think it is good to be inclusive? Or would you prefer to have a small exclusive group of friends?
How else do you cultivate connections with other parents and friends? Do you make it a priority?
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