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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Women Forging Friendships - Letting Go of the Fear of Rejection

I've always found that it's more difficult for women to initiate a new friendship. 

Men are another story. They meet and find something they have in common like, say, cycling, and next thing you know they've made a plan to go for a bike ride the following Sunday morning. Done deal.

Have you ever met a woman that you instantly just 'clicked' with, and thought could make a great friend? I've had that a number of times over the years, but haven't done anything about it.

The fear of rejection.

Something that has stopped me handing over my phone number, or asking someone for theirs, many a time.

Then there was the time I decided to throw caution to the wind, and the end result was rather disappointing.

I was sitting at a cafe, adjacent to a play area, whilst two of my sons played. A woman was sitting next to me, her daughter also in the play area. She turned to me after I said something to one of the boys and asked, "How many do you have?"

"Three," I replied.

"Wow," she replied. "How do you cope with three? I only have one. So far..."

I explained that at times it was super busy, but with each child I felt I had become more organised. That I was forced to get my act together.

She then went on to confess that she had recently found out she was pregnant with her second, and she was really, really worried about how she would cope. She'd found it hard work with one. I assured her it really wouldn't be as bad as she thought, and that the second is a little more relaxing because at least you know what you're doing the second time around.

We talked for a while, and afterwards she said, "Thank you. I feel so much better about it now I've talked to you."

Our conversation had been easy, and so I took a deep breath, got out my pen and a piece of paper, and wrote my number on it. "Here," I said, handing it to her. "Why don't you give me a call and we can catch up some time?" She smiled and said she'd like that, and we bid each other farewell with, "See you soon," thrown in for good measure.

She never called.

Now, I don't know...maybe she lost the piece of paper? Maybe she felt strange about what she'd told me afterwards and suddenly felt uncomfortable about being so candid. Who knows? But it made me realise  why I don't often initiate contact with someone. Like I said: the fear of rejection.

The first time I met my dear friend, Jen, I felt the same way. We really clicked and had a great conversation. Our husbands knew each other through work, so it would have been easy for us to organise to catch up. I knew we could have a great time together, if only I suggested another meeting. But what if she didn't feel the same way I did? I let the moment pass me by.

Finally, after a couple of years chatting briefly at our childrens' daycare on occasion, our eldest boys started Kindy together at school. We were seeing each other every morning and every afternoon five days a week and we became friends. In fact, I consider Jen to be one of my best friends. We both remember meeting each other that first time, and we both agreed we had 'clicked'. Sometimes I think: all those years wasted because neither of us would pick up a phone.

Sometimes, you just have to let go of the fear and jump - even if there is a chance of rejection - because the end result may well be worth it.

Have you ever met someone you would have liked to establish a friendship with, but didn't feel confident to 'make the first move'? 

Image: We Heart It


macsnorky said...

I know that feeling very well. I've done the same as you a few times, passed my number to someone, and it never came to anything.

But I figure, you can't let fear of rejection from someone you basically don't know stop you from trying to make new friends. The one you don't try with might be the best friend you've ever had.


Melissa said...

I once gave my number out to another mum I’d met at playgroup. We always got on well at the groups and had a lot in common. When I was about to return to work I gave her my number. She gave me hers also. I texted a few times to arrange a catch up, but she never replied. I’ve seen her since, and we just say hi and not much more. It’s funny the parallels with dating – going out on a limb to offer your number, will they call, won’t they? If they call, where should you go on your first date: invite to your place for coffee or keep the territory neutral? I meet a lot of local mums in the playground. We always chat, talk about our kids, where we live and move on. Perhaps we’re all too busy to make the commitment? I find it hard enough to catch up with myself let alone others.

Suz said...

I know this feeling too. I am often the one who will make conversation in the playground or a cafe but i guess over time I have become cautious of giving my number. One, because of the rejection potential but also because I realised I often over commit myself and then can't deliver on all the promises to catch up. I have one lovely new friend and we bonded over toddlers in a cafe a few months ago. We now spend every tuesday morning together and have become great friends and confidants.....so i guess it does work sometimes and one should never completely stop trying. You write good posts Jodie xx

ForeverRhonda said...

Happens to me all the time. I have barely any friends in the town I moved to almost 3 years ago!!!

Thea said...

Yep, it's tough!
There was one mum at school I was getting on really well with in that 5/10min chat before & after school, but now I have trust issues with all of the mums. At this point I'm happy keeping to old friends, even if I don't see them very often. Maybe one day someone will come along...it does sound like dating doesn't it?!

Megan Blandford said...

It's easier online, isn't it!

There was one woman I kept running into - at yoga, at swimming lessons, at the shops... everywhere I went she seemed to be. And she has a little girl only 2 days older than A, and they'd run around for a few minutes while we chatted at all these places.

After a while, I gave her my number and she gave me hers. I texted her, asking if she'd like to catch up. She never replied - and I've seen her a couple of times since and she's just smiled and kept walking.


Miss Pink said...

So so often.
It's my bad experiences that hold me back mostly though. That have made me so cautious, so private.
Not that people haven't planned the catch up, yes that does hurt too, but it's the people who you think you click with and then they come into your life only to use you, to drain you and then they leave abruptly with an "It's all your fault" type of exit, when you know that it wasn't, that you did nothing but give to this person.
Those people are the one's who scare me. Afterall if it isn't really working, i'm ok with taking a step back. I don't want people to feel like they should keep up an act for me if they're not diggin' who i am. But those who milk you dry and then nastily end things? Is it necissary?

I usually try to make plans with people casually. Like "Hey we should catch up soon?" if they say "Yeah i'd love that" or seem excited then i get pretty annoyed when they become flakey, or don't follow through. It's the people who say to me "Lets do something soon?" and then i reply with "Yes lets!" and then i contact them to invite them around and they never follow through that really bug me though.
Giving my number to someone i've just met? I am yet to do. You are so so brave, and i bet it pays off sometimes too.

Linda said...

Fab post Jodie. For me it seems to take lots of little grabbed conversations with someone you see regularly (school pick up or whatever) and then I finally take the plunge. So it's a time game. But you're right... sometimes that's a waste of time!

Also, my kids make friends for me. The parents of their best friends (so far) are always people whose company I enjoy!

Sam-O said...

I've conquered my fear because I've had too. We've lived in 6 houses since the Little Man was born, now 4 1/2.

Basically I've used my mobile phone. I put their number in straight away and text them so they have mine. If I text them and they don't text back I don't take it badly. I've found that some of my best new friends took lots of texting back and forth before we actually caught up! I am also not offended by the "never text backs, EVER", as somewhere along the line the Workaholic hubby pointed out to me (in one of his more sensitive moments and my down ones) that it's their loss, I'm a great friend to have!! Big points for that one!

MaidInAustralia said...

Yeah, it can be tough making friends as an adult. I honestly have lost people's numbers and/or email addys, so I always hope they give me at least one call/email/text to follow up and then I'll definitely get back to them. I've found just because you have kids or go to the same school as other parents, you don't necessarily have much in common. There are one or two I've suggest play dates with, and/or coffee and if I get a good reaction, you go from there.
One of my best mates just picked up the phone and rang me once (had given her my number ages ago), cause she'd been to her shrink and he'd said she needed to get out more.
I'm so glad she did, because we really have so much in common and we're a great support to each other.
I thought that was so brave of her too.

River said...

Have I ever...?

It doesn't bother me a lot though, because I'm a loner, always have been and don't have a lot in common with others. Being unable to make small talk is a hurdle that I don't seem able to overcome.

Jodie at Mummy Mayhem said...

Macsnorky - you speak the truth. It well could be the one you don't try to connect with is the golden egg!

Melissa - I do think that being busy has something to do with it. I hardly have time to commit to catch up with friends as there is always so much on!

Suz - thank you for saying that about my posts. Bless! I love that you have your Tuesday pal. ;)

ForeverRhonda - I'm so sorry to hear you don't have many friends to hang with. But, you know what, you don't need many. One or two really good ones - even one - can be just perfect.

Thea - Well, I know your situ, and I'm not surprised you feel that way. It'll happen, hon. x

Megsy - I think I remember you telling me about her before. It's SO weird, isn't it?

Miss Pink - Look, I don't think there's anything wrong with being a bit cautious. It often happens that people turn out not to be who you originally thought they were. Best off without the bad eggs and waiting for the good eggs. :)

Linda - Thank you! SO true that kids make your friends for you. Def often the case.

Sam-O -Yup, I reckon if you're moving around that often, you'd have to be a bit pro-active with meeting people. And Hubby is right - their loss!

MaidInAustralia - Oh, I've lost them in the past as well. Actually, I've just remembered now writing this that an ex-work colleague once gave me her number and I lost it. Maybe she thinks I'm doing the same to her. Oh no! ;)

River - Well, I wish we'd chatted more at AusBlogCon - your smile was so friendly and warm - and with the way I chat, I'd have made up for any small talk issues. Promise. ;)

Anonymous said...

Me too. Well actually by reading the comments it happens to us all.

ejorpin said...

Oh I read this post thinking 'yes'! I've been on both ends - too afraid to take a potential new friendship to 'the next step' and also the one who gets handed a phone number and never calls...

Being an expat for the past 3.5 years it's an issue that comes up all the time - from people worried back home that I'm sad and lonely (I'm not) and also from an expectation within the expat community that seeing as you're thrown together in this strange new world surely you should be friends, right?

I'm not sure why it's such a mental block for me - fear of rejection maybe, fear of the new and of all that social awkwardness too, and a kind of exhaustion that comes from having to convey who you are and figure out the other person (rather than sticking with the friends who already know you inside and out and don't require your history and background and explanations).

Although I know that's all ridiculous, because the biggest joy and surprise often comes from the new and previously undiscovered. And I do miss just having someone in the neighbourhood that I can grab for a coffee or a wine when it's all getting too much... So yep, I'm thinking I definitely need to put myself out there a bit more.

Donna said...

Once again you have nailed it! I'm still new in town and finding it tough to make friends. Everyone already has their own established groups and with life as busy as it is, I wonder if any of them really have time for a new friendship, seeing as though they take extra energy to make them grow.

It doesnt help that I am truthfully shy and worry I sometimes try too hard (desperation is not a pleasant scent to give off...!) The husband helpfully says "be yourself" yet I am unsure just who that might be...

Anonymous said...

I'm going through this at the moment. I've clicked with one of the mums from my son's preschool. We chat, and she has suggested a play date which I love the idea of. My fear of rejection has so far stopped me handing over my phone number. What if she realises that I am not as cool and polished as she is? What if outside the school gates we have nothing to talk about? I know I should just bite the bullet and give her my number, I've just got to find the courage to do so.

AlyceB said...

Brilliant post. So true. I'm more of an introverted type, and add in the rejection insecurities... Yeah, it's hard to get out of my shell! But I'm working at it. First step - be more open and honest with my current friends, initiate gatherings, etc. Second step - well, considering that we might be moving to Japan next year, I need to stop being afraid of making new friends!

cat said...

Oi, yes. I often feel so. At the moment I would love to make new friends, but just do not seem to find the courage.