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A Formula for Gaining Girlfriends

Ladies, how many girlfriends do you have? Would most of those fall under acquaintances, casual, close friends or the ultimate, a BFF?
Research has found that women should have a few of each. More specifically breaking it down as follows:

  • 10-100 acquaintances
  • 10-50 casuals
  • 5-12 close friends
  • 3-5 lifers

These four friend categories were defined in the book by Rachel Bertshe, “MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend”

“1) The acquaintance, someone you’d chat with on the street or at a local café, who gives you a sense of belonging; 2) the casual friend, a ‘grab lunch’ pal who often serves a specific purpose, such as a tennis or running partner; 3) the close buddy, an intimate, trustworthy comrade you can say anything to; and 4) the lifer, who’s as deep and forever as family.”

Upon moving from New York to Chicago, the author came to realize she needed more friends. So, she set out to have 52 dates to help pursue new friendships. I connected right away with the author, as she joked about taking out a craigslist ad in her pursuit. I made this same joke around the time of my wedding, as my husband still has a long list of close male friends (aka had a hard time deciding groomsman, we settled on eight). While my list is not as long, I thought at first when picking eight bridesmaids that I would need to take out a craigslist ad.
But then I started to write down the women I have had throughout my life, who are the lifers, the ones that will be there forever. I chose to purchase this book because it is hard to make and keep girlfriends, especially as an adult. As the author stated, “life was easier when playdates were set up for us.” Busier schedules, family, work, kids…life.
Research has proven friendship is worth it, offering countless health benefits such as lessening depression, raising self-esteem, coping and overall morale. It has also been found that friendships can help you quit smoking, lose weight and even add years to your life.
I have been burned in the past, both in childhood female friendships as well as in adulthood. Author Kelly Valen in the “The Twisted Sisterhood” found research that 74% of women had been “stung by other women’s criticisms and judgements” and another 60% felt “uncomfortable, anxious, wary, awkward, cautions, intimated or even distrustful of other females.” Four years ago, around the same time as getting engaged, I had closed myself off to new friendships. I felt I had enough on my plate with my soon-to-be-husband and a fulfilling job. I put all my extra energy into planning the wedding. I didn’t make myself friend-able.
A healthy marriage can offer many positive life enhancers, and as luck has it I snagged a pretty great partner in crime. This was another commonality that the author and I shared. She pointed this out right away, ” A husband can fill many vital roles—protector, provider, lover—but he can’t be a BFF. Matt (her husband) is my most intimate companion and the love of my life. But I can’t complain about my husband to my husband. That’s what friends are for.” I wouldn’t say I intentionally seek out girlfriends with the intent to complain about my husband, but there is definitely something special about the woman to woman friendship connection.
Just like dating, the other person needs to be open to making a new friend. “MWF Seeking a BFF” author said her yearlong search for a best friend was like dating. She found many of her dates that many women just weren’t friend available. Because of this, she developed rules to the friendship pursuit. She said “For the friends with potential, I will follow up at least once. Two or three times if I really want this best friendship to happen. At that point, if she still isn’t reaching out I can give up. It can’t be a one-way street forever.”
She also found a friending formula:

  • Meeting with someone twice a month for three months will lead to a stronger possibility to consider them a friend.

It has not been until recently that I have put a priority on friendship and especially attempted to follow much of the advice and research highlighted in the book. I especially dig in if I feel what Rom and Ori Brafman, “Click” describe as the”small euphoric moment that tells us a relationship is going to stick.”

Have you felt this? An unexplained connection, sometimes felt even moments after meeting? The authors found a few ‘moves’ can help elevate this connection

-Proximity (stand closer)

-Resonance (be fully present in the conversation)
-Safe Place (be around communities that support bond making)
These same authors found storytelling to be a key. In your conversation you can only talk so long about the usual exchange of basic information, where you work, grew up, etc. We all have stories, each very unique to us. Don’t be afraid to bring them up.
Another reason why in the last decade I have found myself on the girlfriend search is geography. Most of the close friendships I made before 22 would now be at least a 24 hour drive away, if not more. Distance takes a lot of work for any form of relationship to continue. I needed more friends in Los Angeles.
And some friends who live both near and far don’t last forever. Author Irene Levine wrote in Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend,

“Even when friendship is built on a solid foundation, the odds are overwhelmingly high that it will eventually fracture for one reason or another…Most friendship, even best or close ones, are fragile rather than permanent.”

Half way through reading the book I was inspired to try out the authors’ “girl dates” approach. It took me a few days to get the courage. I reached out to a woman that would fall under the category of acquaintances and asked her to lunch. I have always been drawn to her energy, positivity and overall zest for life. I was surprised how quickly she responded and a week later we were having lunch. I hope to find another time soon to catch up with her, maybe instead of lunch doing something active like a run, which we both enjoy.
I am also signed up for a new meet-up group for young married women, seeking friendships. In two weeks I’m attending my first event, where a group of 10 of us will grab dinner at a new restaurant in the area then walk over to attend a free concert. Equipped with what I learned from this book, I’m feeling ready to at least let my guard down and have a good time.
So to recap what I have learned:

  1. It it good to have different types of friends
  2. Friendship is good for your health
  3. You (and your future BFF) have to be friend-available to each other
  4. There are some tips and tricks for connecting with potential new friends
  5. Friendships won’t last forever

Am I taking on a year-long BFF search, seeking out 52 girlfriend dates? No. But I am reminded to keep my eyes open, heart available and schedule flexible to my existing fabulous friends, as well as potential new ones. The book gave the OK if you don’t have twenty friends texting you everyday, that even a group of five close girlfriends will suffice.
I dedicate this post to my lifers, both old and new. The small but mighty shero army in my life. I’m sorry, but no matter what you are not getting rid of me. My love and appreciation of each of you is endless.
Need a few more ideas for your friendship pursuit? This is a great resource: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Friends

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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