More on Building Community

In Part I, I wrote about my experience with local community and how much value it has added to my life. In Part II, I wrote about my experience creating a lady web. In Part III, I want to dive into more of the practicalities of creating a drop-in community.

I have noticed, for myself, the hardest part of building community comes in the gray zone period. I label this period as after you have the initial honeymoon where you are like — wow, I just met someone great with fab friend potential — and the intimate we can hang out with no real plans phase.

My friendship sweet spot is definitely in the let’s hang out with no plans phase. Loose plans are fine – going to the beach, going for a walk – but what I most enjoy from friendship is intimacy. I love having long and juice conversations, I love gossiping, I love talking about my relationships, my life, asking for advice, giving advice, problem solving, etc. It’s the fine details that make me feel like my friends are full people who I completely appreciate.

Recently, I read some statistic that said the more number of hours you spend with someone, the closer you consider yourself to be to them. This makes a lot of intuitive sense, partly because you probably are not choosing to spend long hours with someone you don’t like or don’t want to get to know (outside of work). But when you are in the gray zone, spending these hours isn’t necessarily fun. Instead it feels like work. Because it is work. You are literally putting effort and emotional labor into building a new relationship.

So what are my tips for drop-in community:

  • Initiate the relationship. I have never had an issue being the friend who makes plans even if the “balance” is off. If you like someone, and want them to be your friend, but are waiting for them to invite you to one event for every time you invite them somewhere, you will never be friends. If you like someone, act like it and invite them someplace.
  • Spend the hours. Data driven per the reference above. Sometimes, you just need literal time to push through the gray zone. If you like someone and feel a spark, but sometimes the conversation is stilted, just look at it as an investment in your future friendship. Or get drunk for a fast-track to friendzone.
  • Don’t compare. Never, ever, ever compare someone you just met to a friend you have had since you were 13. It doesn’t compare, it won’t compare, and comparing it will ruin all of your potential friendships.
  • Find fun. A lot of people feel lonely and look to new friendships as an obligation. But if you aren’t finding fun things you can do with that person, and you aren’t having fun with that person, it probably won’t work out. Try a bunch of activities that you find fun and see if anything works well with the new relationship.

The Ladyweb

Do you know what the ladyweb is? It’s a termed coined by the two wonderful women of Call Your Girlfriend (my favorite podcast). Essentially, you map out your relationships and start to understand how they look and who is connected outside of you. I did this recently because I have been struggling with some loneliness re having close and local friends. And then I realized I have a whopping 16 (sixteen!) friends who live in NYC or in the surrounding suburbs. It spurred me into realizing the potential of drop-in community is a fixable one, at least for me.

My groups of friends fell into the following buckets:

  • family
  • school friends (high school or college)
  • old work friends
  • local meet up friends
  • friends of friends
  • gym friends

It made me realize that in anything I consistently do, I have made friends. And the longer my friendships have existed, the deeper those friendships are. But, forcing myself to think back to freshman year of high school, for example, and I can remember how it felt to think that here was a group of people I didn’t know that well and maybe I would never become close to any of them and this bias is likely still playing out for newer friends today.