If you have ever found yourself spontaneously making female friends in a bar bathroom line, you're not alone. After all, it's so easy to break the ice with other women when A) drinks are involved and B) ladies are dishing out compliments left, right, and centre.
But after the night is over, you likely find yourself wondering, why can't making female friends always be this easy? Turns out, it can be.
"My two rules are affirm and ask!" Shasta Nelson, a San Francisco-based friendship expert and author, tells HuffPost Canada in an email. "Always find something you can affirm in the other — it's an important way to tell the other person we like them. And being able to ask a question is the secret to keeping conversation going and learning more about the other person. These two actions can take us quite far."
Seems simple enough, but sometimes it can be hard to put ourselves out there and start a conversation with a potential BFF. Good news: Nelson — who is also the founder and CEO of the women friendship community site GirlFriendCircles.com — has shared three surefire tips for making female friends that last.
1. Don't worry about what the other person thinks of you
Whether you want to make new friends because you're new to a city or because you want to broaden your social circles, you might still be worried about coming off as a lone wolf who's looking for a pal. Nelson says not to worry.
"Our fear of looking like a weirdo is mostly in our heads — it's everyone's greatest fear as we walk away," the friendship expert confirms. "We tend to all ask some variation of the question, 'Does she like me? Was I OK? Am I good enough?' So remember that [your potential friend] has those same worries in some form because we all want to be liked."
Nelson advises that we worry less about impressing a potential BFF and pay more attention to "making her feel seen and appreciated."
"Too often I watch women worry about how they're coming across instead of how they are making the other person feel," she says. "Remember the Maya Angelou quote, 'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.' Our kindness and positivity go way further to them wanting to be around us later then whether they thought we were cool."
Plus, it's important to remember that plenty of women are likely open to forming new friendships. After all, research shows that people start losing friends at age 25 due to a decreased number of contacts, and in the age of social media, people are more at risk of feeling social isolated. These two factors combined offer a good reason to start building up friendships offline.
2. Don't discredit small talk
Some people dread small talk because they think it feels fake or empty, but in the case of making female friends, it's essential.
"Small talk isn't bad, it's just how we all get started," Nelson reminds us. "The goal is to incrementally increase our sharing in a way that feels safe and satisfying to both people."
The best way to do this is to ask questions. If you're at a loss for what to say, Nelson advises, "Always start with the context in which you're meeting each other."
Relationships that feel good are the ones that are in balance.
"For example, if at a networking event, ask questions that jump off of that event: Are you a member of this organization? Have you attended these events before? How did you hear about this event?" the friendship expert says.
Interestingly, research shows that small talk makes people happier, and the positive association we make with our interactions is the foundation of a healthy friendship.
"Every potential friendship starts at the beginning and over time, as we interact more often, we have more time to get to know [each other] better, which then should be met with a reaction that leaves us [feeling] good," Nelson explains. "Relationships that feel good are the ones that are in balance."
3. Remember: consistency is key
"To get a friendship off the ground, to grow it and maintain it, we have to keep interacting," Nelson says. "At the end of the day, if we don't see each other or interact then we can't do the other two requirements of all friendships: vulnerability (sharing ourselves) or positivity (feeling the reward of that friendship)."
That's why Nelson is adamant women take initiative to make plans with each other if they want their friendships to grow and last.
Female friends are so unique because they fulfill multiple roles. These women are not only your confidantes, but your therapists, partners-in-crime and support system.
Boston-based business columnist Kris Frieswick can attest to this. In an interview with The Seattle Times, Frieswick spoke about female friendships, saying: "That's the basis of our mutual relationship — the mutual spilling, the purging and not being judged. These are women who accept you totally."
Today, more people report feelings of loneliness, but according to Nelson, "Modern day loneliness is not because we need to interact more, it's because we need more intimacy."
The only way to get this frientimacy is to "learn to develop better friendships," she said in her TEDx Talk last year. Whether you're building on a female friendship you already have or are starting a new one, Nelson reminds us that you'll need positivity, consistency and vulnerability to make it work.
"Any relationship that isn't fulfilling is because at least one of the three requirements of friendship is lacking," she said in her TEDx Talk. "You are not lonely from a lack of people, you're lonely for frientimacy, and we have the power to move those relationships up."
So don't be afraid to pick up the phone and call up that acquaintance you clicked with the other day. After all, she just might be your new BFF.