How does an acquaintance become a friend? Are there concrete steps you can take to accelerate the process, or do you just have to sit around and hope that over time you become friends?
While you certainly cannot “make” someone become your friend, you can try one or more of the following ideas to give the two of you the opportunity to discover whether the possibility of friendship exists:
- Social media: I routinely send friend requests to/follow the social media accounts of acquaintances whom I think have the potential to become friends. (I call these individuals “pre-friends.”) Most of the time, they accept, giving each of us the ability to learn more about the other as we see and comment on the other person’s posts. On several occasions I have posted something like “Hey, Facebook friends, does anyone want to go to Event X with me?” and then been pleasantly surprised to get positive responses from people I’ve met only once or twice. I then get to have company at an event I already planned to attend anyway, along with a chance to get to know my pre-friend better.
- Include them in a larger gathering: If you like to entertain, it’s relatively easy to add one more person to the mix. Just say something to your acquaintance like “Hey, I know we don’t know each other that well yet, but I’m having a few people over for tacos on Thursday and would love it if you could join us,” or “I remember that you mentioned that you like board games. Some friends and I are going to a game night at Bar X on Wednesday. Would you like to come with us?” The key, though, is to make sure that the other participants aren’t super tight with each other, making your pre-friend feel excluded.
- Listen and follow up: As you’re getting to know someone, even early in the acquaintance stage, listen carefully to what the other person is telling you and follow up appropriately. If someone mentions that she’s worried about her mother’s upcoming surgery, then ask her how it went the next time you see her. Likewise, if you’re telling a pre-friend about an article you just read and the pre-friend seems genuinely interested, then send a link to the article once you’re back home.
- Multitask: If you and your pre-friend both have crazy schedules, suggest teaming up for something you both need to accomplish, such as exercising or running errands. Chores and working out are a lot more fun with a buddy, and you get to kill two birds with one stone.
Think back in your own life about how acquaintances evolved into friends. In some cases prolonged exposure and shared experiences does the trick, but in other cases the path to friendship is more direct and immediate, often because of one or more of the above scenarios. What are other ways you have gotten to know people better?