Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Home, New Friends

I've moved twice in the last year and a half. The first time, I moved to Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland. I hiked, skied, sailed, and kayaked. I was outside every day and I LOVED IT! What I didn't love was my nearly non-existent social life. Yes, I had plenty of weekend visitors who came out from DC. I made a couple of friends sailing and hiking and I did the online dating thing, but it wasn't enough. My second move was a recent one to New Bern in coastal North Carolina. My sister lives here, so it was an obvious choice. I closed on a small house in a military neighborhood about 40 miles from Atlantic Beach at the end of May.

Some background- I work remotely. Moving out of the Washington, DC area where I was born, raised, and spent the last 10 years of my life was a (relatively) easy decision. Paying DC prices just doesn't make sense at this point. Also, most of my friends have transitioned into relationships and having children, so I was at a point of needing to revitalize my social life, anyway. Also, I'm an introvert. Even my close friends are shocked by this. I excel at being alone. I go to movies and dinner by myself regularly. I have bazillions of projects around the house that are constantly in various states of completion. I am much happier being alone than is probably healthy. I think I'm better at change than most people, but change is difficult. So is making new friends. I'm keen not to rely on my sister for a social life here. She's been gracious in inviting me to a few outings and I've attended some. I try to accept all offers- within reason.

Despite my introverted nature, I will make small talk with just about anyone- particularly when they start the conversation. Years ago I read Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People. I highly recommend it. It turned me into a much better conversationalist than I ever thought possible.

One day a few weeks ago, I was at the beach with a guy I met on Match (no, I'm not good at online dating either - I get cold feet at the last minute and wonder why I'm torturing myself). While waiting for the shower, a woman commented on a dress I was wearing. I offered to let her look at the tag so she could see the brand. Normally, I might have just accepted the compliment and moved the conversation along, but this particular dress was bought on a recent trip to Maine. It's made by a company called Global Mamas , which helps women in Africa. Since I'm passionate about women's progress, I felt compelled to market the dress a bit. As we walked toward the parking lot, I learned that she was also from New Bern. I mentioned that I had just recently moved to the area to which she responded with an invitation to join her and a friend for a wine tasting at a local restaurant! She gave me her phone number and we went our separate ways. Now, I was at a crossroad. I'm not even going to try to convince you that it was easy to just go out and meet this woman and her friend(s??) for drinks, even as sweet as she was. I knew I needed to go because I did move here to make friends, right?? So, I sent her a text message and told her I was interested in joining her thinking (hoping?) maybe she wouldn't respond and I would be off the hook. No such luck. She responded, told me what she would be wearing and when she would arrive. So, I put on the same dress and headed off to the tasting. Guess what? I had a great time! She invited another woman who was also incredibly friendly. Since that evening, I've been to her house for a cookout and visited a Rotary meeting with her.

I'm still working on making friends here, but after only a few short months, I'm feeling good about my progress. Here are my tips, if you find yourself in a similar situation:

·        Take Dale Carnegie's advice - be genuinely interested in other people and ask questions

·        Accept all offers- within reason!

·        When meeting up with a new group, find out who the organizer is, what they will be wearing and where you will be meeting them- get a contact number, when possible

·        Practice going out alone once in a while- movies are great because you aren't supposed to be talking to anyone anyway; sushi and restaurant bars are also good because they are naturally set up to accommodate single diners (bring a book or a magazine)

·        Talk yourself off the ledge- if you are going to meet some people and can't find them, what's the worst that happens? (probably you go home, maybe after you've had a drink at the bar first)

·        Don't be afraid to be a little bit vulnerable- people generally like to help and if you are willing to say you are looking to make new friends many people will naturally step up because it makes them feel good to better someone else's life

~Christine Zellers, CEO

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