How to Make -- and Keep -- New Friends

I am an (almost) 40-year-old woman, married and a professional. I would like some advice on how to meet women friends and keep them. I have taken the initiative in building friendships by calling, inviting and taking interest in other women as friends. I have frequently found that other women are not as committed (or interested) in pursuing friendship. I don't believe I am offensive (I have asked other close friends, my husband, and did a lot of soul searching), but I seem to be frequently disappointed by people not returning phone calls, canceling plans, etc. I would like to know other women's approach to building friendships, what I can and can't expect, and how to present myself. -- kkitsch

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Dear kkitsch,

It seems to me that interests beget interest. In other words, why not figure out what kinds of things interest you -- education, theater, books, gardening, hiking, church etc. -- and join a club or organization with that focus? You're bound to meet others of like interests and friendships will naturally grow from there. It's worth a try. A saying comes to mind, "To have a friend, be a friend." In other words, be the kind of person you want for your friend.

Here are some qualities that make for solid friendships:

1. Like yourself. If you believe you're worthy of friendship, that attitude comes through in everything you do. Most of us feel comfortable and positive with people who feel confident and comfortable with who they are.

2. Don't be a clinging vine. Nothing is more unpleasant or suffocating than a person who wants her friend to be her's exclusively. That frightens others away and makes them resentful, at best. Friends encourage each other's interests and respect their privacy, free will, and the decisions.

3. Loyalty. Loyalty is a pillar of solid friendships. We all want to be able to trust our friends with confidences and know that they'll stick up for us when we're in trouble.

4. Be uncritical and upbeat. Friends who seize opportunities to give us positive feedback are worth their weight in gold. When friends have the chance to say something nice, they take it.

5. Take risks. Friends are willing to reach out instead of waiting to be asked. Shy people often appear distant and unfriendly when just the opposite is true. It's worth the effort to extend yourself to others.

6. Be helpful. Friends know that we all appreciate kindness and helpfulness, especially when we don't have to ask for it.

I do think that, sadly, friendship has become pretty fleeting in our society -- all of us seem to be so busy, so techno-directed, and so lacking in introspection. Perhaps the road you're traveling is more difficult these days.

7. Volunteer. A friend knows that even if people don't always think of including you, it doesn't mean they don't want you. A friend isn't afraid to put herself forward rather than have you think she's not interested.

8. Fair-minded. Friends do their best to see things from another's point of view.

9. Listen. Friends don't just hear what you say, they listen to it. Friends give you their attention and don't monopolize conversations with talk of themselves.

10. Kind. Friends are willing to concentrate their attention on people who seem shy or short of friends. Friends do their best to cheer each other up when things aren't going well. And friends delight in each others' triumphs.

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