Past a certain age, making new friends feels much like dating. You get all dressed up in your nicest outfit, put on your best personality, and get out the door. It is all a little terrifying.
Making new friends is the worst of vulnerabilities. We want to be known and liked. A great deal of time is spent filtering thoughts and forming sentences, ever conscious of what the other might think. Silence feels awkward. In the early stages of a new friendship, we might pine for that deeper connection – the open conversation, the good questions, the comfortable easiness, the hearty laughter, etc.
Most of us will endure the awkward first “dates” for the sake of the possibility of connection. This is because at one point or another, we all encounter the emptiness of a quieter social season, and it is here that we begin to understand the importance of connection. We know that it is worth it. Through friendship our worlds expand: our interests grow, our perceptions are gently challenged, and the harder edges of our personalities soften. Connection is a window into the world.
The first wave of vulnerability is followed by successive bigger ones. In a new friendship, we are intentional to keep the real messiness of our lives a secret. For the first few months or years, we work hard to appear emotionally tidy and put together. As relationships grow and evolve, we can recognize safe places where we can reveal our “sweat pants self.”
Unfortunately, this vulnerability is the only gateway to the deeper connections. There is really no avoiding it, but we need not dish out the vulnerability to every person we meet. We must be patient, and let relationships unfold themselves naturally. The moments of possible connection appear in time, and the challenge will be to accept the opportunities.
Once the ice is broken, we will need to put ourselves out there “as is” again and again. It will never stop being terrifying, and it will never stop being wonderful.