Written by: Allie Stark, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Whether it’s middle age or I’ve just blocked it out, I don’t remember a lot from my younger years. But I do remember Girl Scouts. In the United States, joining the Girl Scouts can be a right of passage. I have fond memories of taking the pledge, selling cookies, going to camp, and, my favorite, singing songs. But, one song sticks out above all the rest. It goes like this:
Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver and the other gold.
A circle is round, it has no end.
That’s how long I want to be your friend.
Here is my hand, and here is my other. Let’s put them together, and we have each other.
That was it. Song sang, “Silver” friendship made.
It all seemed so simple back then. Whether it was or it wasn’t. It sure doesn’t seem so simple now. Thankfully, eventually, silver turns to gold. I have a handful of “gold” friends. Ones that I carry in my heart every day. Gold friends often can seem a lot more like family than friends. I have a lot invested in gold. But, these days, I find my cherished gold scattered across the globe. That doesn’t make those friendships less golden, just more challenging to connect face to face with regularly.
Which brings us to silver. Why is silver so hard all of a sudden? For me, I think it’s because most of our gold friendships were established before a lot of our major responsibilities came into the picture. We have so much on our plates these days it’s hard to find time for it all. Now, as we get older and meet new people, we mostly talk about who will be the snack mom next week or what we do for a living. We have so little time that superficial conversations are all we seem to be able to manage.
I’m sure most of us have been there or someplace similar. A nice woman approaches you, pointing at the soccer field, and asks, “Which one is yours?”. That starts a long conversation about what schools your kids attend, growth spurts, how to get grass stains out of white shorts, and the best pediatricians in the area. You walk away thankful for the lovely exchange, but no real personal connection was actually made in reality. It was all about your kids. The same thing with the introductory, “What do/does you/your husband/wife do for a living?”. It’s a very common ice-breaker question. This might start a nice 10-15 minute conversation about your respective careers, where you walk away thinking that you know that person a little bit better. But do you? Now you know what they do for a living, but not necessarily who they are as a person. This is what I would call “networking,” not friendship building.
I think that is why as we get older, most of our silver friends are more casual acquaintances. Like “Jill, from the office,” “Susie, Jimmy’s mom,” or “John, from the gym.” We have to attach where they are from behind their name because they aren’t a part of our real lives. Just maybe a part of a small portion of our lives. So, the real trick is figuring out how to make “Judy, from accounting” just “Judy.” How do you escalate your relationship from an acquaintance into a piece of silver? One key to turning an acquaintance into a friend is to ditch the small talk. So many of us have jobs that require us to be “on” all the time that small talk just feels like meaningless conversations that we are required to have all day long. Shallow banter does nothing to set you apart or help to build a relationship. Start sharing light-hearted stories from your daily life and ask the same of them. And pay attention. Someone who asks meaningful questions about your life and who remembers the details is much more likely to become someone you consider a friend, as opposed to an acquaintance. It is important to remember, though, that building a friendship takes time. Don’t expect it to happen overnight.
But, what if we don’t have any acquaintances that we wish to turn into friends? How do you find them? Start by looking online for local friendship groups. Online only friendships can be great, but nothing compares to a face-to-face connection, focusing on groups that hold events locally for members to get to know each other. Sign up for as many events as you feel comfortable, but try to stay true to yourself. Meaning don’t sign up for a softball league if you hate sports. Or, don’t sign up for a book club if you find reading boring. Then, when it's time to show up, show up authentically. Meet new people not as anyone's mother, wife, or possible networking connection, but as yourself—no titles or explanations behind a name. Let the rest fall into place naturally.
As we grow older, time is one of our most valuable investments. These past few years, I have invested a lot in silver by spending the time to authentically transform acquaintances into genuine friendships that will eventually surely turn into gold. I recommend giving it a try because now I can say that I’m rich in gold AND silver, and I couldn’t be happier helping others achieve the same.
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Allie Stark, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Allie Stark is the Founder and CEO of Moxie. Inspire. Empower. Grow., a social network powered by Mighty Networks, designed specifically for women in business. Moxie brings women from across the globe, together on one app, to support, inspire and empower one another with the goal of helping its members grow in business and beyond. Allie also is the host and producer of a new television show titled “Moxie Inspired with Allie Stark” on the iSheTV network. Airing in late June, this talk show will focus on inspiring people who have found a way to turn their passion in life into prosperity. Allie is passionate about forging meaningful connections and also an administrator of several women’s friendship Facebook groups across the United States and Canada. Allie holds degrees in Psychology and Education from Nebraska Wesleyan University and for nearly four years has helped thousands of women make significant and worthwhile connections. Allie resides with her husband and two teenage children in Gilbert, Arizona.