Make Space for the New Girl

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An old acquaintance once posted on her social media something about horseshoes being better than circles.

She was referencing another social media post, this one from Glennon Doyle, that reads,

“If you are standing with other women in a circle and there is a woman standing alone in your circle’s vicinity -the thing to do is notice her, smile at her, move over a bit and say, ‘Hi, come join us!’ Even if she decides not to join your circle – even if she looks at you like you’re crazy – inviting her is STILL THE THING TO DO.”

This idea of horseshoes has stuck with me as the perpetual new girl, and I have paraphrased the paraphrase into this… make space for the new girl.

It reminds me of the times I have fallen short of being a welcoming person, and encourages me to do better. It reminds me of the times where I have stood outside the circle, trying to squeeze my way in, only for no one to budge, until I walk away in defeat. It makes me think of all of the friends I have made by being intentional when I see a new person and have made the effort to welcome them. 

Anyone that has moved to a new city, state, or country, knows to always answer “yes” if someone invites you to a group outing, a playdate, coffee, dinner, concert, potluck, or exercise class. The new people are searching for co-ops, dance classes, playgrounds, neighborhood gyms, bible studies, etc., in hopes of filling their needs – and also building relationships.

The new person can put herself out there and trust that friendships will be made, but that’s about all she can do. All of this works better when the person that has been around for a while opens her circle into a horseshoe and makes space for the new girl.

The new girl isn’t always someone that just moved to town.

Maybe she is new to the dance studio where your children take ballet class together, or her son is the new kid on the sports team that has been together since kindergarten, or her family is new to your church or bible study and looking for a friendly face to show her around.

Scooting over and making space is such an easy thing. The next step is small-talk or those ice-breaker-type questions. Personally, I detest small talk, but I know it holds great value in building relationships and connecting people.

As much as I loathe it, I am intentional with small talk and always have two questions ready to go. The first is, “What brought you here?” and the second is, “What can you tell me about you or your family?” These are two great gateway questions. You might realize right away that you may not have anything in common with the new girl, but you probably know someone that does. If that’s the case, you connect those two women. As Emeril Lagasse says, “BAM!” – you’ve just welcomed someone in and connected people.

Here are some additional tips for making space for the new girl:

Keep your eyes open for someone that is by herself. You can’t open your circle if you are only focused on yourself.

Leave your circle. You might be dealing with an introvert, or someone with social anxiety, that will struggle with joining a group. Walk over, introduce yourself with a “Hi! I’ve not met you before. My name is…”, and do the work.

Make group plans and invite the new girl. A simple, “Hey, I was planning on trying to get some of us together for coffee. We’d love to have you!” and get her number to make it happen.

Focus on what you have in common – even if it’s a tiny detail. I have one of my best friends because I noticed her husband was wearing a shirt for one of my husband’s favorite sports teams and used that to start a conversation. Another friend because we were both pregnant with our fourth child around the same time. And another because our boys were running through the church halls together.

If you’re comfortable, and after you’ve gotten the surface knowledge, invite the new girl over for dinner. One of my dearest friendships occured because I invited her and her husband over for dinner. We had made small talk before, and I thought she liked me, so they were invited, but they came only out of politeness. Neither of them thought anything would come of it. We ended up with the type of friendship where our names were referenced together and people were shocked to see one without the other.

I can promise you, the new girl doesn’t want to disrupt your friendships… she just wants to have some friends. She’s looking for someone her kids can ride bikes with, play dress-up with, invite to the birthday parties, someone to ask what the best Mexican restaurant is, where to sign their child up for dance class, where to get her hair done, and possibly an emergency contact for her kid’s school. She will be sure to return the favor. 

That small step of opening your circle, and making space for the new girl, might end up being your biggest blessing.

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