When you go in to a coffee shop for the first time, you can meet a lot of people. Great. But you aren’t friends with any of them. Not yet. That’s not likely to happen for months and months. It’s not that you’re a bad person, it’s that they have no reason to trust you or like you. Friendship takes time. Remember that you need to form connections with people to move from acquaintance to friend. But you have to meet people before they can even become acquaintances.
It’s that process that seems to trip us up. The movement from meeting someone to becoming an acquaintance. Sure, it happens naturally when you work with someone, the daily routine quickly breaks down the barriers and gets you to know each other at a deeper level. If for no other reason than it’s uncomfortable to spend eight hours a day with a stranger. People are apt to put in at least the bare minimum of effort to avoid that awkwardness.
So, in a sense, your journey from being a stranger to being an acquaintance is creating awkward moments. I’m not suggesting that you walk around with toilet paper stuck to your shoe or a big clump of spinach in your teeth. Rather, create the moments were it’s more awkward to stay a stranger than it is to become an acquaintance. Ask questions about people. Learn what they like, what they’re doing and what they’ve done. It’s not hard, it just takes time.
Don’t rush the process. Sit with it. In fact, you may do a lot of sitting at the beginning. Go to a local coffee shop and bring a book (not a eBook on your iPhone, but a bundle of mashed-up dead trees), get your drink. Say hello to the barista. Ask a question (and keep asking questions until it gets awkward or someone comes up in line behind you). And then go sit down and read your book.
You can talk to people if they’re open to it, but don’t force yourself into other people’s conversations. Wait to be invited. It’ll take a while. Weeks, maybe months. Be patient. Keep going, keep asking questions and reading your book. Learn names, learn faces. Look people in the eye and smile when you see them.
Eventually you’ll get to the point where you won’t read more than a page or two out of your book before someone interrupts you with a conversation. Then you won’t even open your book. Then you won’t even take it anymore. But it all takes time. Be regular. Be patient.