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March 17, 2011 11:29 AM   Subscribe

How do you do the jump from acquaintance to friends thing?

I have no problem meeting people, striking up conversations with them, and getting along in a friendly way. I have a lot of interest and hobbies that afford chances to meet people with common interests. But I have no idea how to go from "people I hang out with and have a good time with within a specific setting" to "people I go have coffee with or invite to my house or otherwise see for their own sake."

The "let's go grab some coffee after this" thing that is always suggested seems so painfully awkward to me. Any suggestions for actually doing it? Additional awkward: a lot of the people I'd like to see more of are, like, employees of places I frequent. When I was a cocktail waitress, customers who misinterpreted polite friendliness as real friendliness were the WORST...though the people I'm thinking of seem to be genuinely interested. Should I just wait for those people to make the first move?

Ugh, I feel like an idiot asking this; it sounds so helpless. I moved across the country a couple years ago, though, and it turns out that I have no idea how to do this as an adult. I've met a ton of people, but I'm in acquaintance purgatory with all of them.

So how do YOU transition from acquaintance to friend?

*Please don't tell me that it will "just happen if they're into you, too". It hasn't, so either I'm actually a freak people are just putting up with, or I smell bad, or something.
posted by peachfuzz to Human Relations (36 answers total) 92 users marked this as a favorite
I like to ask about specific activities. Like, if I know someone who's an acquaintance likes the same kind of movies I do, I'll say, "I thought about you when I saw the ad for this film. Would you like to go see it? Maybe catch some dinner before/after?"

On the flip side, you could just call someone on the fly and say, "I'm watching TV. Want to come over and hang?" That sends out the "I'd like to be friends" vibe pretty easily, too.
posted by xingcat at 11:33 AM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: Seconding specific activities. Get a number, ring, suggest going to a beachside cafe, or the zoo, or to mini golf, or for a walk in the park to watch people with their dogs. Whatever you think might grab the fancy of the person you'd like to be friends with. And if you've no idea what they're into, ask!
posted by Ahab at 11:35 AM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: in addition to activities, i love to host dinner parties and gatherings. a good way to invite folks you know and to get to know them better (and hopefully build some more community connections).
posted by anya32 at 11:37 AM on March 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Have a party. Invite everyone you're interested in getting to know better. If your place isn't set up for hosting a party, then invite everyone to celebrate something (your birthday, a holiday, a personal accomplishment, whatever) at a bar/pub on a specific night at a specific time. If people aren't interested, it's a little easier for them to beg off from a party than from a one-on-one invitation. If they are interested, they will see the invitation as a social overture from you, and perhaps reciprocate.
posted by Orinda at 11:38 AM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: I am all for the somewhat-awkward-but-refreshingly-direct. In the middle or towards the end of a conversation, say "I have so much fun chatting with you. Would you like to come over for dinner or meet up some evening at {restaurant, event}."

I also love putting on a good old fashioned dinner party and inviting a few people of various levels of acquaintance/friendship.
posted by freshwater at 11:38 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: > acquaintance purgatory

Great expression! Yes on specific activities, no on dinner (just that first time). It feels too personal that early on. Drinks, perhaps.
posted by Dragonness at 11:39 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you have any actual friends in your new town?

Because you could have a Rotating Family Dinner, in which you invite a bunch of friends—silver and gold—to all come to your house for food. It's low commitment for everyone, as there are a bunch of people to talk to, not just awkwardly one-on-one. You switch out the guest every so often, and you'll always seem to have new faces to add to the old.

I do this, and I generally say to new friends, "Hey, I do Rotating Family Dinner every other Sunday.* This week is spaghetti/tacos/sag paneer. Love it if you could make it. Bring a friend or SO if you want!"

If they're interested, get their Facebook or email. If they bail or don't respond to said message, meh! No biggie, they've stayed an acquaintance.

*I'm really bad about keeping up with this. Sorry friends.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:39 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I love the casual dinner party ideas. We love having people over—this is definitely something I'm going to do.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:42 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

honestly, it has really worked for me. i have moved non-stop since leaving for college many many years ago. and as a shy (yet confused as outgoing person), dinner parties or game nights have absolutely worked well for me.
posted by anya32 at 11:45 AM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: I have trouble with this too. For shared-activity friends, one of the easiest ways to do this is to host the shared activity yourself. Brunches are super awesome for this. Knitting brunches even more so.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: Personally, I might be cautious about meeting an acquaintance at their home. How about spending time at a coffeehouse at a certain time each week and extending an invite to join you? It's low pressure, the person can furnish an easy out if they aren't interested (as opposed to turning down a home visit, which feels more personal), and if you keep doing it regularly every week there's a greater chance of getting others to join you. From there you can invite them to a movie/dinner night with more success.

Bonus points if you have some activity to do at the coffeehouse that they can participate in. A game, small handcrafts, sketching, something. I like to draw and I have a friend who embroiders. We have "project time" and hang out and chit chat and compliment the other's progress.
posted by griselda at 11:49 AM on March 17, 2011

Scott Adams defines a 'friend' as Someone you've told a secret or done a favor for. As creepy as it might be, I've actually had acquaintances turn to friends through one or both of those.
posted by cebailey at 11:49 AM on March 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

I have this problem too and I think I and the other folks in this thread are evidence that it's a common situation among adults. That invite from a casual acquaintance might be awkward but it might also be welcome. You should go for it and I'm going to give it a shot too.
posted by ghharr at 11:57 AM on March 17, 2011

How do you do the jump from acquaintance to friends thing?

posted by mhoye at 11:59 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It is almost always awkward to ask for what you want, in life. You do it anyway.
posted by jenlovesponies at 12:04 PM on March 17, 2011 [20 favorites]

Best answer: I have lots of acquaintances I keep in touch with via facebook. Every few weeks I send out a "Hey, I'm going to X bar and you should come meet me!" message. Those who came several times became close friends; the rest have remained acquaintances.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:05 PM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: Facebook is actually pretty good for this. I just moved to a new town a while back, and the way a lot of people have moved from acquaintance to friend has been that one of us would friend the other on Facebook. Then you sort of get a sense of each other by reading the other's status updates and commenting. And then it's easy to send out an email to a few acquaintances saying "hey, there's this thing I'm going to after work on Wednesday. Anybody want to join me?"

The potluck dinner or game night suggestions are great too. Especially if you let people know it's casual and laid-back and that they're not going to find themselves the only one who doesn't know someone at a dinner with you and your super-close friends. I'd be really likely to respond positively to a "hey, I just moved here and wanted to have a few of you fun people that I just met over" invitation. As a matter of fact, I think I need to do this myself with a barbecue grill and some acquaintances and coworkers when the weather gets warmer!
posted by MsMolly at 12:05 PM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: I have friends who host a dinner for everyone they know at a local restaurant (from work, school, even family members) every two weeks. What's been neat about this is that not only have I gotten to know them better, but I've also become friendly with their friends.

If you don't feel comfortable doing this by yourself maybe you can get your closest acquaintance to host it with you. Explain that the idea is to get as many people as possible to come and that you'd like them to invite their friends. That way it's easier to get a large group.

Rinse repeat every two weeks.
posted by bananafish at 12:05 PM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: Casual dinner party, wine tasting party, or other sort of thing you can invite a bunch of disparate people to is probably the best idea, for a low-touch kind of invite and see who sticks approach.

Also, however, whomever said above that asking for what you want is awkward is correct. The girl who's more or less my best friend laughs every time she tells people that 9 years ago I apparently decided we were going to be friends.

Ask specific people to do specific things. Don't put a call out on twitter or FB; that rarely works.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:08 PM on March 17, 2011

Scott Adams defines a 'friend' as Someone you've told a secret

Psychologists have found a pretty reliable route to creating deep connections is a process of, as they call it in jargony fashion, "escalating reciprocated self-disclosure".

You tell something that's not exactly a secret but perhaps a little private and revealing about yourself. Assuming they do the same, there's now more trust and liking all round, and you can then feel comfortable enough to tell something perhaps a little closer to home. If the process carries on in a back and forth for a while in a very short period of time people can feel like great buddies or soul-mates.

In real life, as opposed to psych experiments, this works well providing you have the courage to go first in risking revealing things about yourself and some sensitivity to how that's going down with the other person.
posted by philipy at 12:12 PM on March 17, 2011 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Time and pressure, like a shiny diamond.
posted by elder18 at 12:28 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I do have to say that I, personally, am an introvert and therefore more likely to respond to an invite if it is

1) for something specific ie: let's go see The King's Speech! or let's go to the zoo! and bonus points if the something specific means we don't have to talk the entire time. I can fill the air with all the inane chatter you need, but it is exhausting, especially the first time, so it is nice to have something we experienced together to discuss, or breaks in the conversation to do other stuff

2) if it is one-on-one or a small number of people who all don't know each other equally rather than a "hey everyone come over for pizza" facebook message, which is impersonal and crowds are more intimidating, especially if I don't know if you are close with everyone, anyone, or a few people, or a third-wheel type thing where I am taking my single self out with you and your lover. AWKWARD, almost always awkward with new friends.

3) Ask in person, but allow me an out. "I would love to go see the King's Speech with you this weekend. I am free on Saturday or I could do a Sunday matinee. Here is my number, why don't you text me and let me know by Thursday if that will work for you?"

But clearly some other people would rather have larger events and facebook invites. Your new friends may respond differently.
posted by jenlovesponies at 12:29 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to a wine-tasting Weds. after work. Wanna join me?
I haven't been bowling since I was in my 20s. I'm trying to get together a group to go Saturday.
Oh, you have a Corgi? I have a retired greyhound. Do you ever go to the dog park?
Has anybody gone to %New Restaurant? I've been wanting to check it out.
posted by theora55 at 12:31 PM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: You want to ask them but provide a way for them to reject you without being explicit about it.

So you say "Hey, we should hang out sometime!" and then they can say something like "Yeah, that'd be awesome!" or a polite "Yeah, sure" followed by a quick change of subject. It's kind of up to you to interpret the subtext at that point.
posted by callmejay at 1:11 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you don't want to sound like you're asking these people out on dates, (yes, I once took the opportunity to get to know an acquaintance better by meeting up for dinner, and it took us till halfway through the meal to establish that neither of us were, in fact, lesbians, and this was, in fact, not a date.), then the party idea is a good one.

"Say, would it be okay if I got your (number, email)? I'm throwing a party (for my new apartment, for my birthday, in the back room of that pub) and inviting a lot of people who I think would have a good time."
or if you already have the contact info but have never really used it, "By the way, I'll probably send you an email sometime soon, I'm throwing ..."etc
posted by aimedwander at 1:22 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My wife and I moved across the country in 2007, and I have a few thoughts-

1. Friend populations grow geometrically. Once you have a few, you meet friends of theirs, end up hanging out with said friends, and making even more friends that way. Some remain second-order-friends (Friends of friends) and some become friends in their own right.

2. The dynamic is different in a relationship. We have more couple friends than individual friends. We didn't really plan it that way; it just sort of happened.

3. Most of our initial friends came from people we knew from her work or mine.

4. Others came from having dogs. Some of our closest friends (who've now moved back across the country- boo!) met my wife when she was walking her dog because they were raising a guide dog that looked (sorta) similar.

5. Said good friends really became GOOD friends when they took care of said dog weeks after meeting us because my wife got very sick and ended up in the hospital for a few days.

6. Other friends were met through common interests. My wife met some of her friends through knitting, but I suppose that might be a busman's holiday for you. (Sorry, I recognized your name because my wife is a fan of your magazine and your patterns. I assume since your name is in your profile it's not a big secret.)

7. On preview- aimedwander's comment is a good one- it's very useful to distinguish relationships from friendships.

8. It's actually a lot like dating- invite people places and take a hint if they're not interested.
posted by JMOZ at 1:26 PM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: Repeating what others have said- have a party or dinner party and invite people. Or organize some sort of group activity: a wine tasting night, a fun restaurant (preferably one where people share dishes) a music gig at a local pub, open studios, sporting event, etc... and invite them along. The small group activity is a fun way to get to know people and less awkward to arrange that a one-on-one coffee/friend date sort of activity.
Now you've inspired me to organize something like this myself. I moved to a new city a year ago and finally feel like I've made some progress on the friend front.
posted by emd3737 at 2:18 PM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: jenlovesponies - I agree with what you are saying. It's intimidating when hanging out with a group of already established friends and you are the 'new' friend. Super awkward.

The idea of suggesting a movie is great. As you said, you don't have to continue a forced, exhausting, conversation over a cup of coffee. After the movie, it allows you a stress free easy conversation that doesn't feel forced.

And if things are going really well you could always go for a quick drink to cap the night off nicely.
posted by Bron-Y-Aur at 2:22 PM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: If you decide to do the regular dinner party thing, it's fun to think of a theme. You could go through various countries and plan cuisine from each, or Foods that Start with M, or All Foods Must Contain Lemon, or Only Foods Small Enough to Fit in a Muffin Tin, or whatever. This also gives you the chance at each party to talk about what the next party theme should be, thereby practically guaranteeing that there will be a next party.
posted by CathyG at 2:41 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You have to open up to people about what your interested in. Sometimes this requires an absolutely random conversation bomb like "Have you ever been scuba diving? I just went this weekend and I can't believe how awesome it was!". "Yeah dude, I totally love scuba diving!"
posted by jasondigitized at 3:54 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This thread has lots of good tips.

Also, some people will take initiative and plan things. Become one of those people, but know that some people never ever will, even if they like you and want to hang out with you. They may say yes to things you plan, but won't reciprocate. I am the former type and have asked many of the latter to explain themselves, but haven't got much insight. But it's good to know, even if it's frustrating.
posted by squasher at 4:43 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My friends and I have a Music Club, which meets once a month or so. My best friend started it as a way to not miss out on any more good music. Everyone who attends has a different flavour of music and varying degrees of hardcore music nerd, but there's a theme every month (we've had "Guilty Pleasures," "Food & Drink," "Colours & Numbers," "Covers" etc etc)

We bring three songs, one which has to fit the theme. The other two can be thematic as well, or just a grab bag. We have hip hop heads, country fans, indie rock lovers and electronica fiends. We each put $3 in the pot and get a copy of a CD with all the tunes from the previous Music Club, and as a bonus we each have a shot at designing a cover.

If you can think of something you like (music, food, etc) and try and get other people who like to share cool stuff together in a room you're bound to make some great friendships!
posted by gerls at 6:50 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "I'm going to grab a coffee. Do you want to come along?"
"I'm going bicycling/birdwatching/barhopping/bellydancing Friday night. Do you want to come along?" Something you truly are going to do one way or the other.

And be prepared for others to say no.
posted by pracowity at 1:41 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all such great comments. Thank you so much!
posted by peachfuzz at 8:06 AM on March 18, 2011

Go hangout with them at neutral places by inviting them to go.

You want to go to the zoo sometime?

Hey, if you're headed for the bar and want company, send me a text message anytime.

Pick things to do of indefinite duration where either of you can leave, as those are much less of a commitment, and much less weird. "Let's go to a baseball game"; bad, unless you both really, really like baseball anyways.

Or, be an acquaintance for a longer while, and actually talk to them about things they care about, and/or check up with them when bad stuff eventually happens, and go from there.
posted by talldean at 12:57 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of the best tips I received about making new friends is this: Repetition is the key to familiarity. Go somewhere regularly; see the same people frequently. Even if you don't hit it off quickly, you're establishing rapport and comfort levels.

The example I got was the TV show 'Cheers' - a group of people who see each other regularly. Who's the one that is the most recognized? NORM! Why? Because he's always there. Repetition is, to me, the unspoken part of that Woody Allen quote; "95% of success is just showing up."
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:39 AM on March 20, 2011

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