How to go from acquaintance to friend without seeming creepy.
Embarking on a new friendship can be thorny. How do you take the relationship from acquaintances to best buds without creeping out your new pal? Psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker Bill Graston of Partners for Change (55 E Washington Blvd, 312-782-3888) offers tips on this tricky transition.
Scenario You’re friendly with a new coworker who loves to hike. You ask him to go camping with you at Starved Rock this weekend. Too much?
When trying to move from acquaintance to friend, Graston says to monitor your pacing. “If you just know someone casually from the watercooler, the next step shouldn’t be an invite to Mexico. [It] should be casual, like, ‘I’m going out for some coffee—you wanna come?’?” Monitor the reaction: A startled or uncomfortable look indicates he or she is not interested or you’re moving too fast. This leads to another question, Graston notes: “Is this other person too closed off or fearful for you?”
Scenario You and a new opposite-sex, single acquaintance get along great and have tons in common. You aren’t interested in dating. Is friendship a bad idea?
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea,” Graston says, but “there can be misunderstandings.” So, early on, explicitly say you see this as a friendship. Graston has noticed men seem to have more difficulty with this arrangement. “They will usually—either casually or bluntly—throw out feelers to test for the possibility of romance. Your response should be unambiguous because men tend to equate ambiguity with hopefulness.” On the other hand, “It’s hard to extinguish a man’s hopefulness if he finds you attractive.”
Scenario You and your new buddy seem to have fun, but you’re always the one making the plans. Is she just not that into you?
It depends, Graston says. “If the person seems to generally enjoy the social contacts, it’s probably not a case of just being too nice to say no. It’s more likely they are more comfortable with others taking the lead.” So, if this becomes an annoyance, talk to him or her about it—casually. Then, if it persists, “The relationship may entail too much work to be enjoyable…. Good relationships should have a nice reciprocity to them.”