Liz talks friendship mistakes, getting (friendship) lucky, her “list,” and that girl in Kindergarten that made her feel bad.
This is episode 3 of Liz Talks, topic: How To Make Friends As An Adult!
Happy podcast day, friends! So excited to be back with you today. As a reminder, In case you missed it, last week, we talked about:
- Having another kid! My Baby #2
- The 5-year gap between my kids
- 3 Things I Learned From Becoming A Parent
Today we’re talking about: [topics covered]
- The friendship mistakes I’ve made, as well as some of the things I did right
- The times I got lucky, and what I learned from them;
- My “list” of things that have informed my friendships as an adult, as well as my number one value.
But first, a request! This show is NEW, and I would love to ask for 2 things from you! First, that you give me grace as I find my footing – whether that’s about format, subject matter, or even how good or natural I sound behind the mic! It’s been awhile since I podcasted, and podcasting solo is a VERY different thing! Second, that you reach out with feedback and even questions to tackle on the show! You can do that at liztalks.com/askmeanything Remember, this isn’t a health-advice-type show. It’s a personal experience type show, and while the line between them can be blurry, just envision that I want this show to feel not like a seminar or workshop, but like you’re having a chat with a friend over tea. or tequila (you pick). your super dorky friend who thinks in movie quotes and likes to hire professional researchers to answer burning questions about iron metabolism and sleep training. It’s all totally normal stuff.
Okay. On to the show!
Today I’m going to expand on an article I wrote about making friends as an adult. You can find the article on my website, realfoodliz.com, and in it, I talk about my “friendship map;” and how I felt for many years like I was missing the instruction book on friendship, specifically maintining friendships from the sandbox, wanting great friends but not knowing how to BE a great friend, and how I went from being sort of clueless about friendship in my late teens and early twenties to feeling sort of aware but unsure and uncomfortable about how to cultivate friendships in the years following; to the last few years, where I feel so content with a friendship circle that I consider to be very rich, varied, and just truly lovely.
I don’t know if this “pondering friendship thing” is universal at a certain point, but I know I’m not the only one who has settled into adulthood and looked around and really wanted to devote some thought to it! Maybe it marks the true end of the twenties mentality, where the bonds that held some friendships together start to feel a bit brittle, (or soaked in beer), or maybe it’s when kids enter the picture and we go through that transition of values, and we end up with this more granular, maybe unexpected picture of what we want our human surroundings to look like, and we start craving connections that align with our personal or parenting values, or maybe it’s just coming up for air and realizing that adult contacts entirely outside of the kids’ circle would be nice. Maybe it’s just wanting someone to text that just gets you, or suddenly seeing yourself, and what you’ll accept and not accept in friendship, more clearly. Maybe it’s just a natural moment in time where things shift and you want your friendships to reflect that. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late or too early to cultivate a circle of friends that adds greatly to your happiness.
So I love this topic not just because being intentional about my connections makes me feel more content in my life, but also because in the same way I want to actively teach my daughters about finances and boundaries and bodily autonomy, things most schools and even families don’t teach; I also want to actively teach them about FRIENDSHIP; what it means and what it doesn’t, what to look for, what to give, and where to set limits…so I have really loved contemplating this topic and thinking about how I might discuss it with them. And on that note, for my family, I feel like just showing by example isn’t going to be adequate. Of course, you want to live your values, but I also think it’s going to be critical for me to actually talk about them, WITH WORDS, because there are things that just need to be articulated, discussed, over and over again. That’s still something I’m working on, but I’ve got high aspirations.
So I’ll start with some of the mistakes I’ve made, as well as some of the things I did right (by accident) and the times I got lucky; then I’ll move on to some of the things I started to do right more intentionally, and then I’ll talk about my “list” of things (and my number one value), that have helped me establish good friendships as an adult. I hope some of it is useful to you! Also, note that I might sound instructive or bossy here, but really, I’m talking to myself as much as I’m talking to you.
And remember, anything I talk about is probably just as applicable to new friendships as it is to longtime friendships that have lapsed or fallen off!
Let’s start with MISTAKES I’VE MADE (and there are a LOT of them):
Maybe it’s just me that remembers things like this (I’m sure that’s a personality type…the type that CAN’T LET THINGS GO), but I can definitely map this out – since i was a kid, I’ve had some wonderful friends, but I’ve also had a sort of intermittent list of friendship failures. Whether my fault, their fault, or a combination of both, I can attribute most of these failures to either:
- I didn’t know what a good friend actually looks like or does, OR, I knew what a good friend does but failed to hold a friend to those standards OR just affirmed bad behavior by continuing as normal (examples: aside from kids just being mean to each other, which might be a normal part of childhood; there’s the participation in gossip, a revolving door of drama, she-said-she-said, feelings of insecurity, competition, and mean-girl-type-stuff)
- I didn’t know how to be a good friend (examples from my WAY younger years: all of the above things that were done TO me, I also did to others; examples from the later teens, umm, dating your best friends’ cousin, which is a CLEAR violation; falling in “like” with another best friend’s boyfriend, which is another obvious foul, and later in my twenties, just flitting around to whomever shows interest in my friendship at the expense of longtime, solid friends…a lot of this comes back to issues of self-worth, which is another journey many of us our on that can manifest in different ways)
- Not knowing when a friendship should be released for declining or overall poor performance
That third one makes me laugh, and it reminds me of that saying that goes, people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I think that’s true! But if you’re like me, you have tended to ascribe this lifelong meaning to ALL manner of things, as if a relationship cannot be meaningful unless you make every excuse for it and spend massive amounts of emotional capital on it in service of dragging it with you to your grave. The truth is, releasing a friendship (and the same goes for a romantic relationship) is sometimes a great way to honor what you HAVE learned from it! Many of us have had profound connections that either come to a natural end, or that are meant to rest for YEARS before picking them up again. When we try to hang on to something at all costs, but it keeps devolving and becoming more work than reward, it might be time to let it rest for awhile, or release it entirely.
What I have come to understand is this: a friendship is NOT a commitment without conditions. Now, of COURSE, we want to be there for our dearest friends through thick and thin. We want to do unto others, be a shoulder to cry on, to be there unconditionally. Buuuttt friendships are not children. The calculus is different. The rules are different. Just entering into a friendship does not give carte blanche to be half-honest, to not be straightforward, to betray, or to cover all manner of sins with “I thought we were friends.” Now, I think this is more me speaking to my younger self, wanting to say THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING…What others are asking of you, and what you are asking of others…I don’t think this pops up as much in adulthood as it probably did a few decades ago, but still, worth articulating, especially to my daughters! Choosing to be friends doesn’t mean forgiving each other all manner of bad or damaging or emotionally costly or immature behavior.
in my article about making friends as an adult, here’s how I describe the reasons that my friendship “map” looks the way it does:
- First. Until my thirties, I wasn’t ready or able to be the kind of friend to others that I’d want for myself. I’ve always wanted to have good friends, but I’m not sure I fully understood how to be a good friend.
It’s also true that I haven’t always been courageous enough to require from others the same kind of friendship that I was willing to give; or, in the absence of mutuality, release a friendship without fear of hard feelings.
- Second. Although I have always wanted to make deep, authentic connections, I also spent many years wanting desperately to “fit in” (sometimes, I still do) – and these two desires are fundamentally at odds, and ultimately cause pain, confusion, and heartache.
- Third. I’ve been hurt by people. And even though I’ve always had good intentions, I’ve also hurt people. And none of that feels good, even decades later.
I think that’s a good summary.
Now, let’s talk about the
THINGS I DID RIGHT BY ACCIDENT/WHERE I GOT LUCKY
As I said, I’ve had some wonderful friends sprinkled in throughout all the mistakes I’ve made. Some of these friendships I admittedly did not nurture the way I should have. Some of them gave me ample opportunities to make mistakes, correct them, and be an overall fallible and flawed human being – they had such faith in me, despite my being a “taker” for a good period of time, and for that I’ll always be grateful. And of course, there IS a balance there. Sometimes, you’re giving more than you’re getting; other times, the opposite. I wouldn’t call it a problem to be the needy one for a period of time. But over time, things need to line up. If being there for a friend feels like a slog, not a privilege, it might be time to re-evaluate the mutuality or just the overall friendship fit.
So back to where I got lucky. A few friendships that stand out began in my twenties, when I was probably the most messy, and they still bring me a lot of joy today. I don’t talk to these women much, one is on the east coast, the other is in a foreign country half the time, and the other is local but running in eight different directions, but I know we love each other and that’s enough! These friends served as “crumbs” that I followed, that first woke me up to what was possible and shifted my perception of what a friendship could look like. They both sort of inspired the kind of self-inventory that I needed to set boundaries in my own life around friendship, and to really articulate to myself what I could and should bring to a friendship. And I think this helps set the stage for the next topic, which is
THINGS I STARTED TO DO RIGHT
In my article about friendship, I talk about the point where this friendship journey started to accelerate, and it’s when I became a military spouse and moved halfway across the country. Not only was the community aspect of the military wonderful, it pulled me out of a lonely place and I started meeting some really wonderful, openhearted people who were WILLING to make genuine, deep friendships as adults, and in addition to that, the move also caused me to sort of accidentally start my own business, which also brought some amazing people into my life.
At the same time as I was making these new friends, I also, fortunately, shelved my old requirement for becoming friends with people – which used to be, simply, “they like me” (NOT a recommended strategy) and realized that there was no reason for me or any other person to waste time on connections that were not totally desired, enriching, and mutual (mutual is a key, because while not every friendship is going to GO DEEP, I think every friendship probably DOES need to be of MUTUAL depth, whether that means the shallow end of the pool or 20,000 leagues under the sea). This is also where I realized something else: for those friendships that do “go deep,” (and not all of them will, and THAT IS OK), but for the ones that go deep, it’s not all about sharing all of the same beliefs. Seeking like-minded people is a buzzphrase, it sounds good, but it doesn’t, or shouldn’t, mean seek people who agree with me, or seek people who I can learn to agree with so they’ll be my friend. Ideally, it should mean seek people who share the same overall scaffolding for how they relate to the world and others. For me, this would mean people who are also willing to listen to any point of view, have interesting discussions, and question pre-conceived notions with me. And this relates to our world today, too, I think: shunning or being disinterested in those who share different opinions, even on the big, important stuff, isn’t a tool of resolution, and it never will be. And I’m not even going into the fact that it’s a tool of division. That’s obvious. I think more importantly, it’s an avoidance tactic. If we are not willing or able to engage respectfully, we not only lose the ability to do so, but we also show ourselves to be, maybe, a bit lazy. Perhaps we’re lying to ourselves about how important something truly is to us, if we aren’t willing to make our case about it individually, in conversation with another human whose heart could change, or whose thoughts could genuinely change ours?
Wow, that went way off track.
The point is, I learned that I needed to seek out like-minded individuals insofar as they desire good things for themselves and others, who genuinely try to forgive without being a pushover, who are willing to self-assess, and who believe in dialogue, not people who share my individual opinions on every little or big thing. A diversity of opinions and thought processes ensures my belief system is constantly challenged. If I like juicy conversations, and not just echo chamber parties, I need to be open to that a portion of the time. Not always, but sometimes. It’s like working a muscle, or re-exposure to chickenpox throughout your lifetime.
THAT SAID, there’s a balance. Sometimes you just need to have a margarita and talk about Bravolebrities and forget the world. That kind of friendship is fantastic, too!
Okay, I’ll let that fish go. Let’s move on to
THE “LIST” (AND MY NUMBER ONE VALUE)
The number one value I connect with when it comes to friendship is this: Being openhearted! THAT’S my word for the year, or the decade. I LOVE the idea of being openhearted, I love it SO much, and while I think I am decent about being openhearted, I also think there are depths I can still plumb when it comes to that.
What being openhearted means to me is willingly showing up as yourself, to any friendship, old or new. If you’re a dork, don’t hide it. If you’re awkward, embrace it. If you hate dressing up, wear the sweatpants. If you REALLY don’t want to do something, RSVP no but look at scheduling something else in the future. Be kind, honest, and a good listener before you worry about being dazzling, affirmatory (I just learned that’s a word), or selling yourself. Putting all those tendencies to judge or assume to the side. Being willing to be disappointed or hurt because you’ve opened yourself to a friendship that you think might be rewarding. (Now, this doesn’t mean you have to dump your traumas on someone immediately for bonding purposes; it just means you’re open, and willing). You’re open to WHATEVER it brings, and also to being honest if and when it doesn’t feel like a mutual connection. You CAN be openhearted AND selective at the same time. You don’t have to be friends with someone simply because they’re interested in being friends with YOU. Would YOU want that for yourself? No!
So, my goal is to bring the value of openheartedness to the following “list.” This list is comprised of the ideas that have been valuable to me over the last 10-15-20 years of making, losing, and keeping friends across multiple life transitions, and what I believe has helped me develop a circle of people across many walks of life that all make me really content. I hope some of it is useful!
…THE INNER STUFF
- Take a quick self-inventory. Friendships that are intentional involve some self-assessment. What mistakes did you make in choosing your community in the past? How can you bring a better, more mature YOU new friendships? Where were you responsible for the breakdown of friendships in the past? // Don’t take ALL the responsibility, and don’t live out your friendships as an apology for past mistakes. But DO know yourself well, so you know when to bend, and when to speak up. There’s literally no downside to that! It benefits EVERYONE involved.
- If you’re looking for deep, lifelong connections, begin cautiously. This sounds contradictory, because I JUST talked about being openhearted. And one of my core desires is to be KNOWN and UNDERSTOOD by people, so in the past I have wanted to just CONNECT SO HARD with people – like Josie Grossie… “so what are you guys’ hopes and dreams?” or to just be the happy little doggie who follows someone around because they were nice enough to put a leash on me. but you can be openhearted without being pitiful. Taking a beat (just noticed that’s a heart metaphor) is a sign of respect for the other person. Not all friendships need to be lifelong, deep, besties-forever type connections, but if you seek that, recognize that even though you want to have a deep, meaningful, lifelong connection, this doesn’t mean it’s best to immediately begin diving in to your childhood traumas. Whether someone is comfortable with that depends often on their previous experiences in friendship. Many people like to be judicious about who they trust, rather than being ready to trust ANYONE up front and worry about the possible biffs later. It’s also perfectly reasonable to feel that someone has to earn your innermost thoughts and feelings.
- Don’t expect to get everything from everyone. The truth is, even if you’re inclined to want to get into the deepest depths with every friend you have, not every friend HAS to be a soul bond. For some of us, our family members supply our soul connections. For others, the significant other or a cherished companion or pet fills that space. There is a lot of joy in having both dear and casual friends across categories: pickleball friends, play group friends, Bunco friends, work friends…and they don’t all have to be privy to your deepest thoughts or most pressing concerns. I think casual interactions is actually a decent skill to develop, so saying “yes” to that once in awhile is probably a good thing! Just to be face to face, interacting with humans is GOOD FOR US, even those of us who ONLY want to connect on our hopes and dreams and traumas. And that all becomes less awkward the more exposure you get to situations like that, so hold your boundaries – if you REALLY don’t want to do something, don’t; but consider giving something a try if it really can’t hurt. You never know – more casual friends might become closer friends – someone can become your close friend that you met at bunco. Being a good listener and being kind are great ways to start a friendship, and you can do that anywhere, under any circumstances. Of course, I have always wanted to have my person, my best best friend, but that’s not something that can be forced. (I learned that the hard way, too)
- Be willing to call it. Be open and honest and pursue deep connections if you wish, but be aware that this might not always evolve in a healthy way, so be willing to end friendships, respectfully, or to stop participating in groups that are not unfolding healthfully. This means painful communication at times, but that’s what adults do, right? (And by painful, I don’t mean itemizing a list of reasons the friendship is failing to launch or why the people at playgroup suck. I mean communicating that you wish them well, but you can’t do xyz at this time.) Again, you don’t have to be friends with people just because they want to be friends with you. But you DO have to respect everyone’s humanity if you desire that from others.
- Respect differences. Sometimes, an amazing person comes along that doesn’t “do” friendship the exact same way you do. Personalities differ, but it’s totally possible to have rewarding, enriching friendships where everyone expresses themselves differently. My dearest military friends, a circle of 7 of us who are SO different in SO many ways, takes so much joy in recognizing and celebrating each others’ personalities and quirks. One of us shares every detail. I often forget to share even the biggest things. One of us is in Germany and has the exact opposite hours of the rest of us. We’re all across the map, literally and figuratively. We’re also all across the map politically, and while we shifted some of our dialogue over the last few years, we still love and respect each other. We love and honor each other by having realistic expectations. I think this is a beautiful way to honor great friends.
- Make it mutual. If you feel there’s some lopsidedness to a friendship, be willing to either a) have the conversation or b) let it go.
Now, on to the practical stuff…how to FIND new friends.
It’s going to look different for each person. But the keys are,
- make your world smaller. That’s what the military did for me. Finding community in any way, whether church, golf, games, whatever it is, provides an opportunity to leverage a “light connection” into something even better. Now that we’re out of the military, I have to find other ways to get into other peoples’ orbits. Like:
- Try a sport. This is my OBSESSION right now, and it’s the heart of a new program I’m designing called Athletic Mom. Moms are athletes – everything we do requires athleticism, and that is a FACT. So while we train for life, we can also train to LIVE life! Drop in a pickleball league. (You might find a lot of older generations there, but those connections can be SO fun, too). Go to a beginner’s tennis group lesson. Check out your local civic center’s activities calendar and see where you might drop in. Even if you don’t find your best friend there, you’ll start flexing that friendship muscle and using your connection connective tissue. And you’ll move your body at the same time! This also takes a LOT of the pressure off.
- Try a game. Bunco, bingo, Mah Jong…drop in and see if you like it! And remember, if you don’t feel fully welcomed the first time, try again. Sometimes it takes people time to warm up. Show up warm. Don’t wait for them to do it.
- Go to the thing. I was once asked to go to a “Moon Mama’s Witches Night.” What?! I had NO idea what to expect. Turns out, it was super fun and I was able to connect with a few REALLY awesome people, who then realized we had OTHER connections in common! Built-in conversation leads to easy bonding! And if “the thing” ends up being awful and awkward, be ok with standing there awkwardly not talking to anyone. Challenge yourself not to take out your phone, because doing so shuts down ANY possibility of connecting with someone. Just stand there, be awkward. It’s all good. Have a positive attitude about it. In the scheme of things, being awkward for an hour is meaningless.
- Ask. Ask someone to take a walk with you, ask someone about their business. One of my soul sisters, my “person,” built our connection by slowly asking. She asked me about Beautycounter. I asked her about her food business. One day, she dropped off meals I’d ordered and ended up staying for 3 hours!
- Connect others. If you have friends or acquaintances that YOU think would get along well, make the connection and fill up your karma bank. I met one of my dearest friends this way!
- Finally. it doesn’t have to center around kids.
Of course, if you have little ones at home, the most effective way to do it is to center your grown-up connections around the kids. Do it! Schedule a play date with the preschool kids and moms. Don’t just say “we should get the kids together;” actually PLAN something and INVITE folks. Yes, you might be rejected or disappointed. But that’s part of being openhearted, right? Recently, I invited one of my kiddo’s favorite friends over with her mom. Turns out we have SO much in common, and I never would have known! Ask people lots of questions about themselves. Make them feel valued. Learn about their spouse or significant other. Maybe there’s a co-ed function in your future?
You can also plan adult things! The best part about being the PLANNER is that you can PLAN an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome. You can make sure, at the kids’ birthday party, that everyone has someone to talk to or something to do. You can give people cards to write advice on for the kids, or for the parents, or WHATEVER. At our wedding, we did this and got some hilarious responses. Give people something to do with their hands. Be nerdy about it!
I’m going to be careful about my overshare this week, because you never know who might be listening. I was thinking about allll my friendship goofs and memories, trying to pick just one to share, and I thought this would be the right one. There are some juicy ones, some pathetic ones, and some ridiculous ones, but I’m opting to share a more silly one. I share this to show folks that my personality type has been pretty static since the womb. I hold on to things. I’ve learned now, as an adult, to let things go, but I still struggle. And I laugh about this now, but I LITERALLY held on to this for over THIRTY YEARS. I won’t name names, but I remember 2 instances from childhood when one particular person said and did things that made me feel so sheepish …One, this person told me in front of the entire kindergarten class not to pick my nose and eat it, which was SO embarrassing (but guess what? I stopped THAT DAY.) This is my ONLY memory from Kindergarten. Ha! A few years later, the same gal made a boy pretend to like me only to reject me later, one of like 3 memories from all of second grade. SO SAD, right? But what’s funny is that a few years ago, I saw her on the cover of A MAGAZINE and was TOTALLY triggered! Isn’t it strange the things we hold on to, the things we assign meaning to? What was great about that triggered moment, though, is I realized that I had a few things I needed to let go, or at least reframe, for the benefit of my inner child. And now, I can laugh at it all! And I can treat my daughter, who is around the same age that I was then, with more compassion when she comes to me with friendship conflicts.
That’s it for this episode of Liz Talks. While you’ve got your phone out, hop over to liztalks.com to join my email crew. Instagram just does NOT do the job, in fact, it makes the job REAL hard, and I’d be so grateful to be invited into your inbox. That way, you can communicate directly with me and get notified of everything new and useful without having to scroll, scroll, scroll or get sucked into a random assortment of reels, memes, and Bravolebrity drama (or is that just me?)
I also want YOU to share with ME, whether via email or @realfoodliz on Instagram: what have been YOUR friendship pitfalls, successes, and lessons?
That’s it for episode 3! Stick with me as we talk, food, beauty, families, babies, birth, exercise, friendship, marriage, and LIFE on this season of Liz Talks! Thanks for listening!