Friendship Made Easy in your 50s

My 'Oh God' moment

Published 4 months ago • 2 min read

It was one of those 'oh god' moments.

When the Maître De asked if I was ok to share a table, I wanted to say no. I wasn't up for small talk with strangers that early in the morning.

But it was the only option for a quick feed of fried eggs on toast before running for the tender boat taking us ashore in 20 minutes, so I reluctantly agreed. It was a guaranteed gluten-free meal to keep me going throughout the day.

I imagined I'd be seated at one of the long, leaner tables I'd seen in the restaurant and planned on slipping onto a chair at the end unnoticed and not having to talk.

Instead, to my horror, I was delivered to an intimate table for four, where a married couple from Taupo were happily chatting away over their breakfast.

They looked up in surprise with an 'Oh?' as the waiter pulled out the chair for me to join them.

Awkward much!

I felt the 'fight or flight' kick in with my heart pounding, but there was no escaping without making matters worse.

So I took a deep breath, did the only thing I could do (god help me), and smiled, "Sorry guys, looks like you're stuck with me!"

As I sat down, a reassuring thought flashed through my head - you've got this!

'This' was no different to what I'd been practising the past 18 months, hosting coffee groups for women in their 50s I'd never met.

So I relaxed into the moment and used my tried and tested strategy to ensure everyone was at ease - one that can apply to any social setting:

  1. I took an active interest and listened for conversation cues (e.g. I asked where they were from, whether this was their first cruise, whether they were doing a tour onshore that day, etc)
  2. I was curious (e.g. made an educated guess they owned a business from a throwaway comment and delved deeper into that)
  3. I shared a little about me but didn't make it all about me (e.g. I explained I also had a teenage son - they had two - and we swapped teen horror stories)
  4. I smiled and made eye contact (e.g. providing indirect feedback that I was enjoying their company and interested in what they had to say)

Thankfully, Bill and Cherie were in their 50s like me, so I was able to call on shared life experiences that quickly built a rapport, and they were very gracious. (It could have been SO much worse - I could have been paired with the brazen queue jumpers I'd glared at the previous morning!)

As the eggs disappeared from my plate, I thanked them for allowing me to join them, remarked on how much I enjoyed their company and bid them a lovely day.

I walked away with a smidgeon of self-pride at how far I'd come since the crippling days of shyness and after months of putting my newfound social skills into practice.

And as it happened, our paths kept crossing over the remaining days - on the bus, by the pool, at the beach - almost like the Universe was throwing us together. And they seemed to know everyone - true social connectors.

Having stepped into discomfort and made an effort with small talk, meeting them would have been an unexpected coup had I wanted to make friends on the cruise.

However, my aim was to rest, rejuvenate and, most of all, disconnect. And it seemed I managed just that when disembarking the ship along with hundreds of other passengers I'd never seen before.

Sometimes, the most rewarding connections are made when we embrace the unexpected, turning 'oh god' moments into opportunities for growth and friendship - and take a 10-day cruise around the Pacific.

Friendship Made Easy in your 50s

Hey! I'm Janey Carr

I'm a friendship enthusiast, creator and connector helping single women transitioning in their 50s to build real friendships for deeper connection. Subscribe to our fortnightly email for thoughtful, no fluff stories, thoughts and tips delivered straight to your inbox.

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