Whether you call it your tribe, your support network, your troop, your sisterhood or plain old friends and family, time after time it’s been proved how critical those around you are to your happiness and health.
It’s hard to imagine but less than 200 years ago we would have been living in a communal style. People would live in communities and there was a far stronger concept of family in the wider sense. Women would live together, cook together, talk together and generally support each other. The raising of children would be the responsibility of the whole community not just the individual family. Support and connection was far greater.
Community is important for everyone, but I feel even more so for most women. It’s possibly too much of a generalisation, but I think broadly speaking women are far more likely to want to talk about a problem and want to simply be heard than a man. I’ve often found that simply talking about something and letting off steam is enough to move me forward. Sometimes you need a bit of a breakdown to have a break through and having someone to listen can make all the difference.
[Tweet “Sometimes you need a bit of a breakdown to have a break through. “]
I’m all for equal opportunities for women, however, as we’ve moved away from this style of communal living, started spending more time at work and often moving away from our families we’ve lost some of that support and connection.
[Tweet “We’ve lost some of the support and connection we had”]
I don’t know if it was the case in the past but it certainly can be true now that women can be extremely competitive with each other, gossiping behind people’s backs and not looking out for each other. Certainly the contrary is also true but life moves quickly and it’s possible to wake up one morning and wonder where your troop have gone. Perhaps your original friendship circle either doesn’t understand the point in your life you’re at or your or they move away or have children and priorities change. Sometimes people become more distant in your life without even meaning it to happen. It doesn’t mean you’re not friends anymore but maybe just not in the same way.
Equally I think it important to look at your network and (not in a mercenary way), but evaluate what purpose each of your relationships has. A relationship has to be a two way thing. It can be that over time we drift from some friends but we may also find we still have people in our life that it’s time to let go of – someone who is a drain or just plain toxic. People can be huge drains and require a lot of support, which may not be returned, this is ok for short periods of time, but if they never return the favour is it time to move on? Look at each of your relationships with friends and family and ask do they add or subtract from your life? Do they provide you with what you need? If not, it may be time to consider spending less time with them.
[Tweet “Look at each of your relationships with friends and family and ask do they add or subtract?”]
If you find you don’t have the support network you need, whether that’s because you’ve moved to a new town, or you happen to be at a different stage in your life to your old friends it can be hard to know where to start in making new friends. It seems so easy for children to bundle up to each other in the park or at school and start chatting and playing, however as adults we seem to lose this ability and sometimes even feel a little suspicious people approach us.
[Tweet “It can be hard to know where to start in making new friends”]
So, how as an adult can we foster new friendships? Here are are a few tips to invest in your support network:
- Joining local groups or pursuing a new interests – an old one but for a good reason it really is a good way to meet like minded people. Think about things you enjoy doing or maybe loved as a child and see if you can find a club or similar. It might be scary the first time you go but be brave and you might just meet some lovely people.
- Approach new people – whether this is in person or online in a group you’re both in, say hello. Strike up conversations whenever you can. They may lead to nothing, but a simple conversation don’t cost anything.
- Look to old friendships – are there people from your past that you have drifted from and now maybe they have moved back to the area or are in a similar stage in life. Drop them a note, give them a call. They’ll probably love to catch up
- Friends of friends – if you see someone in your extended circle of friends that you think you may have something in common with either ask your friend directly to be introduced or ask your friend if they know anyone in the area you are interested in.
- Smile at people – when you’re going about your day to day business smile more and be open to possibility. If appropriate say hello and strike up a conversation. You can even practice with shop staff, waiters etc if you don’t normally. Some people feel small talk is pointless, but you never know when you’ll make a connection or just brighten up someones day.
- Share more, open up – with your existing network don’t be scared to start (slowly if necessary) opening up more. People like to share and often you’ll find that they are far more understanding that you think or have been through just the same thing (good or bad!)
- Disconnect from technology – we spend so much time attached to our phones etc that we become disconnected from the world and can miss opportunities. Get off the phone and look up while you walk/travel/eat etc. This may even feel uncomfortable so see if you can do it for part of the time.
- Invest in your existing network – don’t forget to give back. Set reminders in your calendar for birthdays and important dates. Call or visit instead of sending a text or email. Send an ad hoc gift or set up an event to get everyone together. Even a simple picnic in the park can revitalise your connections.
- Set up a Facebook group or email list with a friend and invite everyone you know that lives or works in the area to create a list to random get togethers where anyone is welcome. Encourage them to bring friends and you are likely to extend your friendship group as well as spend time with your existing network.
What could you do to invest in your tribe?