Author Name: Pamela Naidoo
Several studies show how the millennials of today are not just twice, but four times more likely to have many opposite sex friends than those from our parents’ generation. Opposite sex friendships are the new normal. We study together, take on the same jobs, play the same sports and do other stuff men do, now more than ever before. Opposite sex friendships, however, do not have a straightforward social ‘script’ and hence they can range from a simple companionship to the more complicated ‘friends with benefits’ relationship. Just Friends’ has been designed for women to enable them to initiate and sustain long-term, fun and meaningful friendships with men.
How to Befriend a Guy
Just making friends, in general, was so much easier when we were younger, bonded by a common interest. But then something happens. We grow up, we get classed as adults and life somehow becomes complicated. Suddenly, we find ourselves challenged with finding good, solid friends. But why?
As adults, we are conditioned. This conditioning brings up many invisible barriers which were not present when we were younger. It becomes easy for us to doubt and second guess ourselves which sometimes prevents us from going after what we want. But, surely this cannot be the only reason. Why is it that as we grow older, the struggles of friendship seem to grow too?
What actually happens is, while we are growing up, so does our friends. Serious relationships, serious careers, serious goals and other grown-up stuff seem to take up much of our time, effort and attention. There is an increased commitment to life’s demands as adults. And hence this leaves us with very little time, energy and effort to invest in lower priority things, such as friendships. And while time is probably the biggest challenge for most of us, it has also become the biggest excuse for not investing in our friendships. Although it may also be easy for us to make lots of friends, some are doing a better job at maintaining their friendships than others. In my opinion, it is better to focus on a handful of meaningful friends and nurture those relationships than spread ourselves thinly over many friendships. More importantly, it’s about being honest with ourselves and understanding that our friends sit on different tiers. For example, there are some friends I would see or talk with every week without fail and others I would probably see once every few months (assuming both friends are in close proximity to me and equal effort is needed). The difference is the expectations of both these friendships, the former portrays a deeper sense of commitment and the latter less so. The problems only arise when lower tier friends expect higher tier friends ‘rewards’ or vice versa.
There are also structural barriers – your friends decide to move to new cities, take on new jobs, commit more time towards their partners and children and other more important things take precedence. You have no control over this but where does this leave you? You find yourself becoming increasingly isolated from your younger core group of friends (which were easier to make as friends with little conditioning present). You reach a point where most of your group of friends are all committed and busy with their own lives. Alternatively, you could find yourself living in a new city, like me. Then what do you do? You need to go back to the basics of friendships where all the fun began.
Basic Friendship Skills
You were once very good at making friends and surely that same spark is still lying somewhere within you. All you need to do is to bear a few simple things in mind and you will be right back on track.
Take Some Chances
I know so many people who can easily make friends with anyone…..but only if they actually took up the courage and made the first move. You might wait until someone spots you and then come around on their own to say hi. But we all know that chances are slim that that will happen. What is more likely to happen is that no one will make the first move and the interaction never happens. Such a pity. Perhaps, they too are waiting for someone to come over and introduce themselves. Point being, someone has to make the first move. Let’s be clear here. By ‘first moves’, I do not mean doing some grand out-of-the-way gesture, but simply walking over to someone who has caught your eye or attention and saying a friendly ‘hello’ is all it takes. Breaking the ice is always slightly awkward and incredibly difficult because we know that not everyone is particularly chatty when you first meet them, but this shouldn’t stop us from trying.
Later on we will take a more in-depth look at how to be better at conversations. Be sure to read that part carefully to pick up some important pointers.
Keep an Open Mind
We all have pre-conceived ideas of our ‘perfect’ friend – someone who is a great listener and would not mind me doing most of the talking, someone who enjoys comedy as much as I do, someone who understands that I get moody at simple things, someone who loves animals as much as I do…..the list goes on.
However, when we meet people, we need to keep an open mind. This might sound rather obvious but I can assure you that it’s something I consciously have to remind myself everytime I meet someone new – there should be little, or ideally, no judging. We all have this idea of the type of friends we want. And yes you should definitely have some sort of standard regarding the quality of friends you want in your life. But at the same we need to balance that expectation with knowing, and more importantly, accepting that people are different. This simple mindset could make the biggest difference to you having lots of friends or nothing at all. Personally, I know that keeping an open mind was a large contributing factor to my friendship successes.
To put it simply, give people a chance. I have so many wonderful friends who are distinctly different from me, but it is precisely these differences which adds uniqueness and character to our friendship and to our lives. Honestly, when I first met them, I would not be able to guess that we would end up being good friends. But here we are, years later down the road as great friends. This makes me happy to know that my perserverance to get to know them better has finally paid off yet they seemed so different from my idea of ‘friends’ initially.
The only way you can find out if you have anything in common with someone you meet for the first time is if you engage with them but more importantly, listen to what they have to say. The better you get to know someone, the easier it becomes to gauge if you can actually be friends with them or not. Ask them about what they do, their hobbies, what gets them excited about life and any recent activities they have taken up etc. As you get to know the person better, you can then shift towards asking slightly more personal questions such as their goals, values, motivations, priorities in life etc. Remember to see people for how they want to be seen and not how you want to see them.
I know how wrapped up we can sometimes get inside our own thoughts especially when we meet new people. What will they think about me? What should I be talking about? Am I talking too much? How much information should I be sharing about myself considering I only just met them? These and other such questions often plague the most sociable and confident of us when we are out there trying to make new friends.
My simple cliché’d response is just be YOU. That is my humblest and most effective advice I can give to my readers. I love getting to know new and different types of people and I cannot stress enough, that just coming across as genuine, is such a striking quality. I am learning to appreciate this quality more and more as I get older. When you let yourself just be, you will be surprised (pleasantly) at how easy it is to make friends. And if you’re not happy about who YOU are, then you can change that too. Remember that nobody’s perfect but become the person you really want to be. Make sure you’re happy about who YOU are and you really shouldn’t be apologetic for who YOU are. I have a separate section in this book talking about how you can be a genuine friend. This itself should convey how much I consider being ‘authentic’ an essential component that needs to be present in every friendship.
I am in my thirties and during my lifetime, I have made a lot of male friends (and girl friends too). We can argue that maybe it’s easier to make opposite sex friends when we were younger or when we are single as opposed to when we are older or when we are in a committed relationship. However, I can assure you that these ‘excuses’ don’t have to get in the way of us making friends and I will teach you exactly how.
Where Can I Meet Guys?
We co-exist with guys everyday and everywhere. We study together, work together, we play sports together, we pursue hobbies together. Because of this, platonic friendships are rapidly becoming not only a possibility but also a necessity. We must learn to understand and communicate with each other to create harmony and to co-exist. But how do we create meaningful bonds in all these places? Are some places easier than others? Let’s see.
Firstly, it’s a no brainer that it’s easier to make friends in an environment where we spend a large amount of time together. This could be at college, work, church, playing sports, basically anywhere where we have repeated, continuous interaction with guys. But you might decide to keep things very professional at work or you might not even have that much exposure to guys at work. And you might even argue that making friends in the office comes with its fair share of challenges such as office romances, jealous partners and etiquette at work socials and year-end parties. Therefore, when it comes to making friends in the workplace, I have dedicated an entire chapter to deal with this specifically.
But let’s now identify some of the other ‘hot spots’ and try to step into a man’s world. If you were a guy, name a few places you would be hanging out at?
What are guys are crazy about? Food? Yes, but what else? Sports.
I suppose the easiest place to meet guys is whilst playing sports. When I’ve played mixed gender sports, I found it rather easy to connect with guys on the playing field. These sports have ranged from a variety of activities from mixed league football to dodgeball. The best part is the after-games pub session. Most of the sporting organisations encourage meeting up afterwards to allow team members to get to know each other and build some team spirit. As daunting as it may seem, I highly recommend going by yourself but if you really need to take a tag-along then that’s ok too. Being on your own is the easiest way to get into social circles. We naturally tend to stick to our friends if they are around, obviously because it’s easier but more importantly, it’s safer.
Team sports is a fantastic way to connect. If sports is not your thing, then try your local gyms or a fitness centre. Bootcamps are becoming increasingly popular and is great way to keep fit whilst making new friends. Both, fitness and sport related places have one tiny loophole though: you need to have a certain level of fitness yourself too! Maybe you’re are a lazy bum and are not really into the whole idea of doing some high energy activity just to make a couple of guy friends? No, thank you! Fear not, there are still some low intensity sports that may not be as hellish as an the Iron Man program. If you don’t want to shoot a couple of hoops with the guys, then that’s cool too. Maybe try dodgeball. It is way less intense (not down-playing the sport in any way, but you’re in control of your activity level because it’s more social than competitive) than other ‘boy’ sports, and so much fun too! I am a big fan of dodgeball and I have made many guy friends here. We play, we laugh, we fight for our team. This interaction provides plenty of ways to connect. And the added bonus is that this type of setting provides potential dating partners too. Can’t ask for more!
Sport activities are an effective way of creating strong mutual bonds between people. Activities like dodgeball are not commitment intensive, either. Usually the teams are large enough to have reserve players so there’s no pressure to attend every single game although we need to still be a team player and remember our commitment to the team.
Now, that’s just playing sports. But what about talking about sports. Popular sports such as American football if you live in the USA, football if you’re in Brazil or South Africa, ice hockey if you’re in Canada or Norway, basketball if you’re in France, all provide great playing and talking opportunites. I live in England and I’d be committing a major offence if, I, at least didn’t mention football. Guys all over the world, and more so, in the UK are obsessed with football. Playing a sport or at least getting acquainted with one is a good idea in many ways. Not only will it allow you to meet more guys, get fit, and expand your network but it will also help provide you with good conversational currency. Guys love talking about sports and chances are that if you find yourself amidst a group of guys, it is highly likely that they would talk about sports at some point. My guy friends have never, or at least most of the ones I’ve met, will never get tired of talking about sports. It’s the equivalent of what clothes and shoes are to us, so you get the idea.
If playing a sport intimidates you, allow me to share my experience when I played mixed league football for the first time. Having had no prior knowledge or experience in playing the sport, I was kind of hoping to rely on some sort of beginner’s luck. My ‘goal’ was to challenge myself with a popular sport and to meet guys at the same time. I also expected the other two girls on the team to be as inexperienced as I was, and therefore I felt ready for the challenge. But little did I expect that the women were extremely skilled and I, as it turned out very quickly, was absolutely useless and clueless at the same time. I felt embarrassed, weak and vulnerable. But it didn’t really matter to my team. I was fully supported and motivated by my team members throughout the match. We lost the match (no finger pointing!). Surprisingly, this ‘weakness’ created new strong bonds quickly with my team members. It’s experiences like these that constantly remind me that we just have to be brave sometimes and put ourselves out there. There will always be similar minded, easy going people on the other side to support us and help us become better at anything we want to achieve.
And if you absolutely detest sports, you can ditch the trainers for your stilettos. Expatriate events are a great way to meet fun, sociable and ‘ready to mingle’ type people. Being fresh-faced to a city with limited personal networks, expats thrive on meeting new people and they are more willing to do so because they are here to explore the city in all it’s glory. Use this opportunity to meet new people and explore new things too. I built a solid friendship network using expat networks. These events provided me with exactly the type of friends I was looking for.
Another quick way to meet like-minded people is to sign up to ‘Meet-Up’ which is one of the largest networking groups in the world. You can try roller-blading, attend cultural events, explore dancing, learn new languages, join a book club, you get the idea. Nearly anything you want to do, you can basically find a group to do that with. There is something for everyone. Meet-Up is a fantastic way to expand your social circle. If you want to get more guys into your circle, then focus on the activities which are particularly interesting to both women (you) and men such as fitness groups, social groups, business groups etc. And you have the option to explore things you’ve never done before. So keep an open mind and who knows what you will find out about yourself too.
Openings of New Restaurants/Galleries
Launch parties of restaurants, bars, art galleries etc. usually attract many people. Everyone is excited about being the first to check out something new. It also makes the opening conversations with guys so much easier.
It is now becoming pretty evident that the more you step out of the house, the higher chances you have in meeting new people and specifically, guys. It could be as simple as taking the dog for a walk in the park in your neighbourhood. I have shared many exciting activities and have travelled extensively with my mixed group of friends. Life long bonds were created in the process. Being friends with like-minded people is wonderful. Once you have an idea of what interests you, then pursue those interests. If you enjoy travelling, then pursue this interest by signing up with a travel group that has weekly/monthly tours to local areas. Make an effort and it will soon reward itself.
Initiating the Friendship
Be the Initiator
Be the initiatior, make the first move. Introduce yourself to guys at work, social events, sports clubs etc. And if this is straight up too stressful for you, don’t worry, just stick to the activities you really enjoy and try to ensure that it allows for interaction with guys. I am all for following one’s heart but I also understand, this can be stressful for some of us too. No need to worry, when we make the effort to put ourselves out there, even if it means just attending activities with groups of people, we are increasing the likelihood of meeting new people and hence making more friends. We interact with men in most spheres of our life, so opportunities are just waiting to happen. Remember, it largely depends on your attitude and not just the place. A lot rests on our attitudes. If you want your friendships with guys to grow, then you will have to make an effort to get out there, find them and then hang out with them.
In additon, it is also to be in mind the dangers of first impressions. Because first impressions are formed in such a small time frame and very quickly, they sure can be misleading. Based on my own experiences, it’s surprising how many interesting people I have met, whom I initially perceived to be rather dull and boring during my first interaction but later on the same people had so much interesting stuff to share. Give people time.
Whichever place, platform or area you chose, let us now suppose that you have found yourself a couple (or more, who’s counting?) of guys whose company you enjoy and you would genuinely like to become friends with. The key to becoming friends is to make yourself familiar around them and get to know them as much as you possibly can through spending time with them. You could spend time with them doing similar stuff that you did when you first met, such as visiting a gallery, playing sports or attending events. Spending time with him will allow you the opportunity to learn more about each other. Invite him along to other group settings too. People are always flattered and appreciative when you extend an invitation to them. This will make him feel that you have considered him and you will come across as rather sweet and thoughtful. Try to avoid inviting him to events where he’s likely to be seen as your partner, like being a plus one for a wedding invitation. You’ve only just met him and therefore you don’t want to create the impression that you are interested in him, especially when you’re not. Group social settings could be things like hanging out with your friends, casual birthday celebrations, picnic with friends, you get the idea. Group settings have many advantages but the big one is that you get to see other sides to your new guy friend. His attitude and behaviour to your friends will provide you with some insight into whether you can hang out with him more often in the future.
Usually, people will reciprocate the nice things we do for them. From my esperience, he will most likely also start to invite you to fun things going on in his world. Everyone enjoys it when we are invited to new groups. It opens up new social circles, networking opportunities and the chance to also find love. As you start hanging out, doing more stuff you both enjoy with each other, you are starting to become a very familiar part of each other’s world. He will also start to see that your intentions are nothing but platonic towards him.
Warning: Since you’re putting yourself out there and not afraid to make the first move to hang out with him, make sure your signals and intentions are clear enough. I understand this is easier said than done but I think you have to trust your intuition on this one – make sure your motivations are clear for you and that your actions follow accordingly. Spending time with someone can sometimes lead them astray and it can make anyone assume things. If you’re concerned about this, then maybe politely drop the word ‘friend’ in your conversation (naturally of course). Reiterating the ‘friend’ bit will remove the element of guesswork for you (and for him too) and is a gentle, subtle approach at the beginning.
Spending time with someone is perhaps the best way of getting to truly know someone. It wouldn’t be too long before you are both are on a “buddy” basis and having a great time as friends.
While fear of rejection may be a major reason why you may be reluctant to initiate hangouts, just imagine how much braver you will become in handling other areas of your life if you can do this. For starters, most of the thought processes that accompanies rejection is all in our head. So let’s not always assume the worst. Give it a shot and initiate something with him. Remember the typical ‘rules’ for dating don’t apply to the ‘rules’ of friendship. Friendship cuts through traditional boundaries. So we really don’t have much to lose, but we have lots to gain. Put these fears aside and go for it. Sure, the guys might say no, but they might also say yes. Do not let your fears keep you from making good friendships. Take that risk of rejection and be the initiator.
How to Handle Rejection like a Pro
But what happens when you invite him and he turns down the offer? Don’t worry, this is fairly normal. It has happened to me several times. While fear of rejection might be a major reason why you may be reluctant to initiate hangouts, just imagine how much braver you will become in handling other areas of your life if you can do this. For starters, most of the thought processes that accompanies rejection is all in our head. So let’s not always assume the worst. Give it a shot and initiate something with him. Remember the typical ‘rules’ for dating don’t apply to the ‘rules’ of friendship. Friendship cuts through traditional boundaries. So we really don’t have much to lose, but we have lots to gain. Put these fears aside and go for it. Sure, the guys might say no, but they might also say yes. Do not let your fears keep you from making good friendships. Take that risk of rejection and be the initiator.
By communicating in a way that shifts the emphasis from the person (you) to the activities, will help minimise the sorry feelings that follow, if your offer to hang out is rejected. When you say “I have had such a great time with you, would you like to hang out next Saturday again?” you are placing the ball in his court. Rather say something to the effect of “I am going out hiking next weekend, want to join?” This says something different. In the first sentence, the focus is on you and if rejected, you would feel a greater sense of disappointment as compared to when you made an offer to do an activity (hiking) together.
On the flip side, just saying something as forthright like “I think you’re very cool, we should totally do this again sometime” may actually be very well received. To say something this brave is actually quite admirable in my books, because you’re the one putting yourself out there and you’re the one making the offer. Although this can be easily misinterpreted as wanting more than friendship or coming across a bit too desperate, it’s still very effective. If he feels likewise, then great (and you’ll be admire for your braveness). But trust your instincts on this one and do what’s comfortable for you. I’ve learnt that if you don’t ask, the answer is always ‘no’. When you receive a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, either way you have something you can work with and know where you stand (true for most things in life by the way).
And even if he does refuse your offer to meet, then please try (as hard as it may be) to not take it personally because that doesn’t help you or the situation. There could be many reasons for him declining your offer. Maybe he’s not available that day, maybe he’s not interested in the activity you suggested or maybe he genuinely does not feel like hanging out (not with you or anyone else). Whatever the reason, the point is, there could be several reasons why a guy might say no and those reasons have nothing to do with you. All his reasons and excuses are his and should not concern you. And I know how easy it is to read too much into a simple ‘no’. Why did he say no? What’s wrong with me? Did I say something that day to upset him? Did I do anything to offend him? Is it because I am not pretty enough, smart enough, fun enough or engaging enough? Like everything else in life, we will experience rejection. Making friends is no different. Making new friends and even losing touch with old friends is a normal part of life. Remember, there are plenty of people out there who would want to hang out with you because they actually think your company is worth it. Know your worth and don’t allow someone’s opinion to bother you for too long. You have complete control of what you think and feel. And use that power to choose wisely.
Before you befriend a guy, be your own friend. I know this sounds rather cliché but it is powerfully true. Be your own best company. There is a famous saying which goes like this ‘Wherever you go, you take yourself with you’. So get comfortable hanging out with yourself. Love yourself. Learn to accept who you are and find out what it is that you truly hold in esteem in friendship.If there are things you don’t like about yourself, then change it or get help doing so. We can become unstuck if we choose to. Later on in the book, we will be looking at personal reflection. You will see for yourself, just how important it is to know what you want before you go out and get it.
Social Media to the Rescue
For my lovely ladies who are too hesitant or shy to ask a guy out fearing point blank rejection, then you can use text messaging or social media. Invite him on Facebook. If he doesn’t accept you as a Facebook friend, that’s ok too. Facebook profiles contain plenty of personal information and not everyone will be quickly willing to share an extensive amount of personal information with someone they have just met. In most cases though, people happily accept friend requests. It is easier to have a virtual friend than a real one (and apparently this virtual friend number does matter to most people). If he accepts your friend request, then you can get a sneaky glimpse into his life through Facebook. And Facebook is just one social media account; Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr are all available to you to enable you to get to know more about someone and their world and, more importantly, stay connected. The online world contains an abundance of information, from learning a friend’s taste in music to their favourite political party. There is literally no limit to what you can find out about a person through their social media accounts. Since social media came about, I for one, can state that I got to see other sides to my friends and family that I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. So yes, social media is a powerful, enabling tool to aid us in connecting with the people around us.
Planning the Second Buddy Date
Okay, so he has agreed to meet you for the second time. What do you do now? How should you act? Well, you should act no different than when you first met. The whole idea of being friends with someone is that you can be yourself. If you find yourself in a friendship where you feel you cannot be who you truly are, then you will quickly start to feel uneasy. This is toxic and my advice is to remove yourself out of this friendship equation as soon as possible. Trust me, the sooner you put an end to damaging, destructive friendships (and relationships), the better it will be for you.
Okay, coming back to the second buddy date. When you are planning one, be sure to select an activity which is based on mutual interest. The last thing you want is to get stuck doing something which you cannot get excited about in the least. For starters, I suggest choosing stuff that are you both will enjoy. One of the nicest things about having good friends, is they support you even if you have different interests. They will still show up just to offer you support if you want them to. However, this kind of bond only develops with time. Once you have established a good, solid bond with your guy friend, then sure, you can ask for his support for the things you need his support for. Friends will make the sacrifices just to support each other.
Making new friends is, no doubt, slightly awkward at first especially when you don’t know much about this person. Move forward with trust and grace. If he declines your offer for friendship, then that is ok too. Move on, there so many nice people to meet out there. If he accepts, then good for you! Carry on reading the book.
Experience, Credits and/or Awards:
Throughout my lifetime, I have found it relatively easy to build meaningful friendships with men. I’ve always been surrounded by plenty of friends. I grew up with two brothers and also became a chemical engineer travelling around the world on various projects with many men. Working in a male dominated profession meant, I have had a large amount of exposure with them daily. Friendships have always been a very big part of my life. I am convinced I can create a paradigm shift for women out there and change their lives through friendships. I have collaborated with some of the leading scientific professors in the same field who have spent decades on studying the various areas of opposite sex friendships.