4 Keys to Make and Keep a BFF {Stranger Than Fiction}

To what lengths would you go to find a new best friend?

Making a new friend as an adult is different than as a kid. I’ve done it. I’m glad I have. It’s rewarding.

But making a new adult friend doesn’t always come naturally or easily. Neither does keeping one. And especially not a best friend. 

This week’s theme for #NonfictionNovember is Stranger Than Fiction. Visit the linkup at at Christopher’s blog for more recommendations on nonfiction books that almost don’t seem real.

Here’s the book I’m recommending that almost doesn’t seem real:

MWF Seeking BFF
My Yearlong Search For A New Best Friend
by Rachel Bertsche

The author Rachel is a MWF (Married, White, Female) who moved to Chicago, leaving her friends behind in New York City. She was lonely in her new city. She knew she had to do something.

Rachel says,

“Popular culture has made it okay to yell ‘I want a man!’ from the rooftops, so why are we still embarrassed to say, ‘I want a best friend’?”

She formed a plan: make 52 friend dates, one per week for a year, to find her new BFF (Best Friend Forever).

“I was nervous everyone would think I was either really pathetic or really annoying, but so far they’re mostly flattered. People want friends, they’re just embarrassed to ask for them.”

Personally, I could never do this project. I’m not made for it. I lack the emotional, mental, and physical energy for a scheme this outlandish. I’d just stay lonely if this were my only option.

Maybe that’s why this book was so intriguing to me. How could someone actually do this???

But Rachel does it. She seeks out 52 people to spend time with in 52 situations. She creates a spreadsheet to keep track. 

She learns things along the way about friendship from her encounters. She shares those insights in her book.

Thankfully, we can glean from her insights about making and keeping friends without taking on a challenge like hers.

4 Keys to Make and Keep a BFF

Here are 4 lessons you can glean from Rachel’s year-long experiment to find her new BFF.

1. TELL SOMETHING PERSONAL

Rachel says,

“Friendship intimacy starts with self-disclosure—sharing personal information you wouldn’t tell just anyone—and reciprocity, meaning if you tell her your secrets, she better tell you hers.”

To get closer when making a new friend, be vulnerable in sharing your stories. And invite your new friend to share her stories, too. (Granted, until you know who you can trust, don’t start with your deepest, darkest secrets.)

[Read my thoughts here: The Two Things Your Friendships Need to Survive]

2. GIVE SUPPORT

But just swapping secrets isn’t the point. When I’m vulnerable in conversations, I want appropriate responses and interaction. I appreciate friends who believe in me and say so. And vice versa. 

Rachel says true friends aren’t just two people talking side by side in parallel monologues. They participate in a dialogue. Don’t just listen to each other; provide support. 

3. SHOW UP IN PERSON

I know we introverts or you busy-busy-people like to just type words on a screen. That’s fine for the in-between times when we can’t get together, but typed words usually can’t carry the weight of a true friendship. Face to face is best.

But when you can’t meet in person, consider this hierarchy: Phoning with video (Facetime, Zoom, Skype, etc.) is better than phoning with only voice, but even a voice call is better than texting (Rachel’s advice from John Cacioppo).

In person > Video call > Voice call > Text/email > Silence

This has proven true for me especially this year as I navigate a rough season of life.

4. MAKE THE TIME

It’s tempting to offer “Let’s do lunch!” to lots of people. But unless you have the time/motivation to pick a time and follow through, you may be hurting more than helping your friendships by an empty promise.

Be realistic. We don’t have time to be best friends with everybody. We have to prioritize.

“Friendship brings responsibilities and obligations. If you’re tending too many, you may not have time to get really close to any of them.”

Rachel says if there’s one single factor that can turn a potential BFF into a real BFF, it’s consistency. We consistently make time for those we care the most about.

Rachel’s adventures on her friend-dates in this book are amusing. But her entertaining stories aren’t just fluff.

Making and keeping friends (whether good friends or best friends) can change your life.


Of the 4 keys (1-Get personal, 2-Be supportive, 3-Show up, 4-Make time), which is easiest for you in friendships? Which one is hardest? What would you add to the list? Share in the comments.

More Book Recommendations on Friendships:

  • Plays Well with Others: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Relationships Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker
    This book contains MUCH helpful and scientifically-based information on relationships of all kinds, written in a very relational and easy-to-read format.
  • Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First by Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First.: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine
    My book club recently finished this book together. It gave us lots of conversation starters and paths into sharing more details about our lives. We learned new things about everyone. 
  • The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate by Harriet Lerner
    This is a great book on encouraging you to use your voice. Without meaningful conversations, relationships can’t grow.

10 thoughts on “4 Keys to Make and Keep a BFF {Stranger Than Fiction}

  1. Martha J Orlando

    This really hit home, Lisa. I’ve lost touch with so many folks with whom I used to be friends, and am not really sure how to reconnect with them since I’m not on social media. Perhaps, I should read this book and get some inspiration.
    Blessings!

  2. Barbara Harper

    That’s true–it is harder to make friends as an adult. I think it probably has a lot to do with the fact that we’re naturally thrown together with other kids in school or in the neighborhood or sports or whatever. We see people regularly, and friendships arise from all the time we spend together. Then the same things happen in college or early job situations. Then as young moms, we got to know other moms working in the church nursery or meeting at the park so kids to play together.

    But it seems like after that, we have to make a special effort to get together with people. And even in all those scenarios, it’s possible to have many acquaintances but not any real friends.

    I wouldn’t want to do what Rachel did, either, meeting with someone new every week. But if friendships arise from time together and interaction, I need to get over my natural inclination to stay to myself at home.

  3. Liz Dexter

    Wow, I could never do that, either! I’m fortunate to have made good friendships as an adult through two hobbies, BookCrossing and running (and through blogging, too!). And it’s true that you have to be open to being vulnerable – I am closer to my newer friends in a different way after I learned not to hide various things about my life story.

  4. Jeanne Takenaka

    Lisa, what a great post! Making friends as we grow older is challenging. I went through a season where I had no real, close friends. That was my “learning to find companionship with God” phase of life. When friendships stopped being my idol, God gave me an amazing group of friends. More recently, I’ve been trying to reach out to a few people. I had coffee with a lady who is further along in this life journey. We didn’t quite gel, and I think this is why: ” When I’m vulnerable in conversations, I want appropriate responses and interaction.” Sometimes, what we want are responses that show the other person can relate to what we share. What I received was a female “Fix it” response. her wisdom was spot-on. It just wasn’t what I needed in that moment. This is a lightbulb moment for me! Silly as that may seem. Thanks, Lisa.

  5. Molly

    Oh this could not resonate more with me! I moved to Chicago right before the pandemic and still have the sum total of zero friends in this city. I am going to read this book if only to live vicariously because, like you, I don’t have the emotional energy for this!

  6. CurlyGeek

    This sounds like a great topic, I really struggle to make and maintain friendships as I get older. Since you liked this, you might enjoy “Sorry I’m Late I Didn’t Want to Come” by Jessica Pan, an interesting look at one woman’s approach to be less introverted and what she learns along the way.

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