You can’t just walk up to someone, like you did when you were a kid, and say, “Hi, I’m ________! Want to be my friend?” Instead, you meet someone and think, “She and I have so much in common! We should totally hang out!”
But you’re never quite sure how to follow through.
Friendships feels all awkward and vulnerable when you’re a grown-up. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In this post, I’m going to show you why I believe inviting people over for meals is one of the best ways to build friendships.
1. Choosing who to invite makes you think intentionally about friendship.
This might seem obvious, but when you invite someone over, you get to decide who that is.
In most other areas of life, you are thrown together with others who may or may not be like you — school, work, your neighborhood, your kids’ activities, sports teams. You don’t always get to choose the people in all those settings.
But in your home, you call the shots. You can pick the people that you’re most excited to spend time with, whether it’s someone that you want to get to know better or a close friend that feels like family.
You can also use meals in your home as an opportunity to bring like-minded people together, to create community. Maybe you want to invite all of the neighbors on your street. Or a couple of friends who enjoy the same hobby as you. Or 2-3 women and their kids from your moms’ group for a playdate and lunch.
Shasta Nelson wrote a book called, Friendships Just Don’t Happen, and she’s right. You can’t just wait around for friendships to form. You have to be intentional. Thinking about and choosing who you want to invite over for a meal makes you think about which friendships you want to invest in.
2. Inviting someone over shows that you care.
When you invite someone into your home, you’re showing them that they’re important enough to you that you’ve cleared your schedule for them. You’d rather spend time with them than catch up on your favorite T.V. show or work on a home improvement project. You’ve made time to hang out with just them.
You’re telling them that they’re worth the effort that it takes to clean your house before they come. They’re worth the effort of planning and preparing a meal.
If it’s someone that you don’t know very well, inviting them over says, “Hey, there’s something I like about you. And I want to get to know you better.”
If it’s someone that you’re already friends with, you’re communicating, “You’re important to me. I want to make time to catch up with you.”
3. Welcoming them into your home builds trust and intimacy.
Sometimes, when I’m talking to someone about building friendships through meals in your home, they say that you can do the same thing in a restaurant.
Believe me, I love a good night out at a restaurant as much as the next person. I love that someone else besides me does the cooking or cleaning, and everyone can relax and just focus on each other. I totally get that, and if that is what works best for you, then go for it!
But as a mom of four, I can’t relax very easily with my kids in a restaurant. I’m busy cutting up food for my three-year-old or glaring at my older kids as they flick each other with straws. The only way I can truly enjoy a restaurant meal and focus on conversation is if I go out with my girlfriends and my husband watches the kids or if we hire a babysitter. And that doesn’t happen very often.
Catching up with friends over a restaurant meal is nice, but your home is a much more intimate setting.
At home, you’re letting your guests into your personal space. They see your decorations, your family pictures on the wall, the memos and magnets on your fridge. They get to know you a little better just by seeing your everyday surroundings, including the piles of school papers or the dog bowl in the corner of the room.
In your home, your guests see that you’re okay with them seeing the real you, and that gives them permission to be their real selves, too.
4. Gathering around a table leads to good conversations.
Some of my favorite things happen around our kitchen table.
Most evenings, my family eats dinner together and we tell each other about the highs and lows of our day. Sometimes our conversations center around something we’re working on as a family. Sometimes we go deep and talk about things that really matter. And sometimes we just play games and have fun together.
Inviting someone to a meal around a table invokes a sense of camaraderie or togetherness, kinda like a family meal. It forces you to put away distractions (like your smartphones) and focus on the people right there in front of you. Whether conversations go deep or you’re telling funny stories, you’re sharing in something together that no one else is experiencing in that moment.
Food brings you together, but it’s the stories, laughter, and conversations at your table that lead to friendship.
Eating a meal with people in your home isn’t the only way to build friendships…but it’s one of the best ways. Inviting someone over shows them that you care, builds trust and intimacy, leads to good conversations, and helps you think intentionally about friendship.
Are there any other ways you can think of that inviting someone over to eat might help you become better friends? Leave me a note in the comments — I’d love to hear from you.