This is a transcription of the Launch Yourself Today podcast interview with Bailey T. Hurley, a writer and speaker who invites women to creatively build rooted community in their corner of the world. With a life-long heart for hospitality, Bailey offers simple friendship habits to help us build meaningful, lasting relationships.
Bailey, thank you so much for taking time to hang with me today.
Thank you for having me here. It’s fun.
You are passionate about friendship and so, I want to know why is friendship so important to you?
Friendship has played a very large role in my life. Even from an early stage, I was given a gift of really awesome friends. And even though we have our family, I think that friends can really step up in a way that is different than a family member. Sometimes I think that moms are always going to have your back, which is a good thing to have in place. But I think it’s important to have friends that champion you and encourage you. They can see your gifts and talents and push you and challenge you.
Even in high school, I experienced that and had really quality friends. When I left high school and went on to college and then later went and got my Master’s degree in Denver, I saw this struggle of how to have these quality relationships. I think it just highlighted how important it is to have good friends behind you. And also, I think that being a part of the millennial culture, there is more drive to move for our jobs and to not stay in one place. Again, if you’re not with your family, then you have to kind of build your own family with the friends that you have.
So, in this transient culture and I especially see it in Denver all the time, I think that having meaningful relationships and being able to know how to find those, how to maintain those and how to grow those, it’s going to be a make it or break it for your experience; I think, as person, in your job and just in your all around wellbeing of life. You want to do it with really great people. So, that’s why I think friendship is just so important and valuable for us.
This may be a weird question, but as I was preparing for the interview, I thought, “You know what? We use the word friend a lot, but how would you define a friend?”
I would define a friend as someone who loves at all times. So, this is not an acquaintance. It’s not someone you’ve met a few times and you’re not really diving in. You don’t count on them to show up for you. You wouldn’t have hard conversations with them, because they’re just surface level. That’s not an important priority for your relationship. But a friend is someone who sticks around for the ups and downs. Someone who you’ve maybe had difficult conversations with, but there is still love and grace there at the end of the day. And I think that they’re also people who have reciprocated this commitment to being a part of your life.
That’s again where I see a difference in friends versus maybe your co-workers – which they can also be friends. Or for us in our context, we host a small group in our home every Wednesday for 30 men and women, and that’s a lot of people. You can’t be friends with all of them, but you’re still maybe doing community with them. A friend is someone who has really reciprocated this level of depth and says, “Yes, I want to know you. I want to see you outside of XYZ. I want to serve and love.” And I think even bear some of the hard things that you’re going through. I think that friendship compared to an acquaintance or even a co-worker, is someone who’s seeing the inside.
I have someone in my life, she must have said, “This is my best friend. This is my best friend. This is my best guy friend.” She’ll say someone is her “best friend” multiple times and I tease her for it. I’m like, “How many best friends do you have?” She’s super outgoing and extroverted and I find that people like that might say they have multiple best friends. Where if you ask me, “David, how many friends do you have?” I would probably say, “I have five or six friends.” So, I think it’s really how I define a friend. There are lots of people at my church or people that I work with that aren’t my friends. I know them, but a friend is something different.
I think the way you’re defining friends is more how I think of a friend. People will say to me, “Who is that person to you if they’re not a friend?” And my response is, “Well, they’re not an acquaintance, they’re just somebody that I know. I care about them, but it is different.” It’s definitely different. I’ve read studies of this – I’m a bit older than you are, I just turned 46. It was my birthday a week ago.
Happy Birthday to me, thank you very much. I have 54 years left of life to live, so I’m not even halfway done. But the further away you get from school – elementary and high school and even college, the more difficult it is to make friends. Do you believe that’s true? And if so, why?
Oh, 100%. There was a study done at the University of Kansas last spring that I felt really put some facts behind what I was feeling and what I was seeing. They did a study on how many hours would it take to go from meeting someone for the first time, to really calling them a best friend. And for them, it was a total of 200 social hours. That’s a lot of time to spend with someone to feel like you are getting close enough to feel like true friends. I think that’s what we’re missing, because in elementary school, you were with your classmates for eight hours a day, five days out of the week. I think going from meeting someone for the first time, to feeling like you’re friends, that could happen in a month. Where now, we have to compete with so many other factors and building in the social hours with someone is just going to take a really long time. I think a lot of people aren’t willing to stick around or see that through. And I also think it’s so easy to feel like someone isn’t meeting your expectations for friendship. So, you might cycle through friends looking for this golden unicorn of a friend that just will never happen.
I do think as adults, we don’t need to have twenty good friends, but we’re just going to have to work really hard to make three to five really awesome friends. It’s going to require us to say, “I’m all in. I found someone that I have clicked with and connected with. We have some shared hobbies.” I, personally have experienced this myself, but having a face to face conversation with the person to say, “I really enjoy you.” This makes me laugh a little bit because it does sound like you’re asking them to go steady with you. But to say to them, “I’ve really enjoyed you and I want to be friends. I want to take this to the next level. Can we make time every month that we can spend together? Can we put it on the calendar and make sure that this happens?”
I think even in lonely periods, having vulnerable conversations with someone and saying, “You know, I would really love if we could move to a text relationship.” So, you can text each other the inside jokes or things that are happening outside of your context of meeting them. To be able to laugh or talk about a favorite TV show, whatever that might look like. Again, I think it’s important to be really intentional about saying, “I really need to spend this quality time with you,” to grow in that. As an adult, I get it. I’m married. I have a spouse I’m developing a relationship with. I have a kid. I have some work projects and I’m trying to get people together who are working and travelling and pursuing their hobbies. So, it’s hard.
Bailey, that’s so weird. You’re so weird. You’re basically asking me to date another guy, that I’m not interested in. I’m married to a woman and I’m supposed to say, “Hey, I want to take it to the next level”?
How do I do that as a guy without coming off as weird?
Oh, man. That is so good. Honestly, even for me, I think you just have to say it. It’s going to be weird, but I think if friendship is that important to you, it’s worth the conversation and it’s worth the clarity. My husband and I have pursued this with another couple, together. So maybe that makes it a little less awkward because the women can be the ones to plan and prep. But we do see a couple every single month for dinner. And we also see them as individuals. So, the guys hang out and the girls hang out each month. And because there’s this level of commitment and we’ve talked about this together, it isn’t weird to say, “Honey, have you seen so and so this month? You need to text him and get that coffee scheduled, because I know you guys probably miss each other. You need to spend that time together.” And there’s an understanding of when he does reach out, that his friend is willing to find the time or squeeze in the time because they both know that they want to grow the friendship.
I do think for women, it’s not as uncomfortable to say, “Let’s become best friends,” and have that kind of language. But I think that’s important, even for men. And obviously the activities will always look different. My husband just usually meets his friends at breweries after our son has gone to bed. But I think as an encouragement for women listening who do have a spouse or a boyfriend, it’s important to really encourage that. My husband and I, we take off every other Thursday. One of us gets to go out and one person puts our son to bed. So even for us, we know our friendships are important. Having these rhythms in place are important. “Let’s go ahead and say, every other Thursday it’s your night or it’s my night and there’s no questions asked.” You know ahead of time, so you can plan ahead of time. I think having that built in, gives us a reason to meet up with people that are important to us.
That is so interesting, because we are taught from an early age that if we want something, we need to ask for it and we to need to articulate it. So, if we wanted something in the workplace, we would ask for it. Why would that be any different in a friendship? We’re just assuming somebody would read our mind.
So, let’s just say a woman is listening today and she wants to increase the quality of existing friendships. If we wanted to try and increase the quality of existing friendships, what would you suggest or say to someone?
I love goal setting. I love planning. And a really tangible way to do this is to get out a piece of paper and write down five to ten names – I always say five to ten, because I have some long distance friendships that I still want to maintain and that I want to go a little bit deeper with. So, I just sit down and think about, “Who am I currently investing in?” “What relationships have really progressed?” Meaning I’ve know them for five plus years, spending time with them is easy and it’s good. And maybe, “What are some relationship that might be new that I’m wanting to invest in more?” So, I write those names down and then on the other side, I write down some life-giving activities that I’m already doing. I really want to fight this lie that I’m too busy or that they’re too busy. Whatever it might be, I think a lot of it is really thinking and planning ahead and then sticking to your plans.
So, write down the activities that you already enjoy. Do you like to get coffee? Great, write that down. Do you like to go on hikes? Awesome. Do you attend a weekly exercise class? Put it on the list. Write down some things that you’re already doing or things you like to do and then look at your calendar and begin to plot names with those activities. So, say, “You know what, I already get up early on Tuesdays to go to my favorite coffee shop. I’m going to text my friend and let’s see if we can meet up together to do that together.” And then, I think the final challenge is to follow-through.
You can only be in charge of yourself. If your friends cancel last minute pretty often or things like that, you can’t control that. But you can control your end of the relationship. I think with the convenience of having a phone to text someone, you can get out of things so quickly. At the end of a long day when you feel like cancelling the plans you made, it’s just saying to yourself, “No, I’m going to do it. I’m going to go.” I think that you will find the reward in fruit for following through with those plans. And again, this goes towards building in those social hours and having that shared quality time.
It really does register with people when you stick to things. They can count on you. They think you’re loyal. They can trust you. And those are good building blocks for these quality relationships that we really want. I think it can just be these small behavioral things that break down or damage those trust blocks that are being built. So, by sticking to your commitments once you’ve made them, you’re just going to build up your relationships that much more and begin to increase the quality of those relationships.
When I’m reaching out to someone, and they’re not reciprocating, or maybe I’ve reached out to them, they’re reciprocating and we’ve got a good back and forth friendship going on and then all of a sudden, they quit reciprocating. How do I handle that? There’s obviously disappointment there for you.
If you’ve been reaching out to someone and they don’t reciprocate. I think that it’s okay to let it go. I have totally experienced this. I’ll ask one time and if they’re busy, I give them two more times. I’ll ask again for another thing and if they say they’re busy, I might begin to wonder. So, the the third time – three strikes you’re out. Which sounds very harsh, but our time is valuable and you want to spend it with people who are reciprocating. So, I think giving it enough time to allow that person the opportunity to pursue a relationship with you and then being able to let that go.
Now, if you’ve had a friendship with someone or are building one and they stop reciprocating, I always go back to communicating. I think giving them a call, or speaking to them when you do finally get together in person and then say, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve cancelled our plans the last three times and that has been really hurtful to me. Was there a change in your schedule? Is there a change in our relationship? Have I unintentionally done something that has upset you?” I think it’s important to be upfront about how it made you feel. There are two things that come out of that, either you get your clarity and you no longer have to fill in the blanks. I always say, silence is our worst enemy in friendships, because the more time we waste trying to figure out what our friend is doing, the more you are filling in blanks with all sorts of negative things. It’s harder to recover things that might never have been true about the friendship in the first place. So, I think that you’ll get clarity and maybe there’s also a peace and you’ll walk away thinking, “Oh, man. I didn’t even know that their dad got sick and this whole time I was thinking that they hated me.”
Again, these languages make me laugh, because it does sound like dating. But it does unfortunately open up a conversation where the outcome might be that your friend has moved on or maybe they found another friend or group of friends that they’d rather invest their time in. It’s okay to close a chapter on that friendship. But I think clarity is a peace giver, whether the result is positive or negative.
In our current culture there’s a term we use; “Ghosting”. This is different than just not reciprocating, but that is one technique that people use, rather than articulating what the challenges are in a friendship. Let’s say that I don’t enjoy being with someone anymore, or maybe all they do is talk about their problems, or the friendship has become all about them or maybe the activities that we’re doing are just different. There is a myriad of things that could have changed. How do I go about processing that in my own head and heart, if I’m not enjoying a friendship anymore? Because for me, I feel guilty about it. I’m spending time with them and I just become resentful of them because they’re taking my time or it just feels awkward and I feel bad for not hanging out. How do you deal with that?
I think it depends on the level of friendship. I’m sure everyone has experienced this. If you think back to a college roommate that you had and you really enjoyed spending time with them. You were so close in college and then you both left and kind of kept up. But then both of you got married and there was this natural, peaceful close to the friendship because the seasons of life have changed and you’ve never had to have this conflicting conversation about it.
But I do think that you will come upon friendships where you might feel that they’re always negative or it doesn’t feel healthy or good anymore. And unfortunately, I feel like I have failed in this area. I might not have always been super clear on a direction because typically it does end with us both spending less and less time together. And then someone might initiate again and maybe you come back and things are better and you have totally moved past what was bothering you in the first place. Sometimes time is the best way to allow a friendship to heal when there has been bitterness or an unmet need that one friend is feeling in the friendship and that may have been hurtful to them.
I do think, if you are brave enough and bold enough, it does come down to having a conversation about it. It’s okay to say that there is a season and a change that’s happened in the friendship and it might not be forever. For the benefit of your friend, I think a having a conversation is a healthier path for both of you. Rather than ghosting them or ignoring them or by saying, “I’m busy,” every single time they want to get together. I think that’s a nicer way of saying you need a break.
It’s hard, because being upfront and articulating that change makes me feel like I’m going to be hurtful. But if both people aren’t on the same page in a friendship, the other person’s going to get hurt no matter what. Whether you keep saying you’re busy or if you’re upfront and say, “I need a break.” It’s going to be painful.
It is going to be painful. If I could give a tangible example, I think about a friend of mine who was in a small group setting with a lot of women who were pregnant and or had babies and she was dealing with infertility. And every week she would leave small group and she would say, “I feel so bitter. I feel angry being there. It’s nobody’s fault, but this is very hard for me to maintain these relationships right now. I personally can’t seem to get over this hump.” This was more of a formal setting, so eventually she met with two women who were leading the group and said, “I need to step back. I’m going to be away from this group and I don’t really want to develop these friendships or relationships right now, because this is just not for me. This is for a season of life and I need to heal. I need to work on some other things. I need some time.”
This wasn’t a, “We’re done, I never want to see you again.” And maybe she did go back, but a part of me thinks that if she never went back, I think that there was clarity amongst the group of why she left. And if she did come back, I think there’s this understanding and hopefully her friendships are much deeper after that. By being open, it’s easier for others to understand you and to see what’s hard for you. Your friends will know how to love you in a new way. So, I think using the language and saying, “This is a season and I cannot be in this relationship right now.” It’s not never, but by giving it a timeline, “Hey, in two months, would you do me the favor and send me a text? I would love to follow-up on where I am now versus where I was back then.”
Okay, so I need more friends. I have very few friends. How do I go about that as an adult? What does it look like to find new friends?
Start by looking right where you are. Look at the people in the class at your gym. Look at your coworkers. Look at your neighbors. I am very shocked by some of the friendships that I have made on the elliptical or pushing the stroller around in my neighborhood. The real game changer for me started from sharing names; introducing ourselves and then exchanging phone numbers and following up. Sometimes you can even have a few acquaintance-like meet ups.
Okay, for example at the gym, this gal and I went to the same class. Every week we would say, “Hello, how are you? I didn’t know you worked out here.” Those kinds of conversations. And eventually I would say, “Hey, come join me on the bikes. Let’s chat. I want to get to know you a little bit better.” And then after a little while we ended up exchanging numbers and saying, “We both like exercise,” so we would meet to go on walks. It was just a very natural thing.
I think the process of looking around and not being afraid for things not to work out is really important. I’ve had coffee with a lot of women and it has never gone any further then that one time, and that’s okay. It’s important to not feel uncomfortable about that. But for the ones that do work out, follow up and to keep asking them to do things with you and keep getting to know them. And then, I think not being afraid to say to yourself if a six month friendship isn’t clicking, “I’m glad that I pursued that, but there’s other women that I think are a better fit.”
One of the challenges that my wife and I have had with couple friendships is that I’ll connect with one of them and she doesn’t connect with the other individual, or vice versa. So, if it’s a husband and wife, I might connect more with the wife, just because of the personalities or interests or whatever or vice versa. Have you and your husband ever had that challenge? Where you’re trying to connect with another couple and he comes home and he says, “Oh my God, that was so boring. I don’t ever want to do that again,” or vice versa?
Oh my, yes. We definitely have and it was difficult, because it was a previous friendship that my husband had. When we got married, he was so excited, “This is awesome. We’re all going to be best friends now.” And I did not click with either of them.
You hated them?
Oh, it was really rough. And I think they hated me too, so you know what? It was mutual. Instead of reciprocating love, we were reciprocating hate. It was very, very difficult and I gave it my best effort.
What did you do? Tell me about this, because people need to hear about this. These are real life challenges that people have. Where they like, “Bailey is just way too nice. She seems way too nice for us”?
I think it was difficult because when we were all together, it was okay. I think his friend just really struggled. Because you know, best buds and then the girl comes in, “Oh no, she’s the new best friend and I don’t like this very much.” So, he wouldn’t make eye contact with me and he wouldn’t speak directly to me when we were together as a group of four. So that was definitely a little uncomfortable. Besides the passive aggressive actions, my husband and him were having lots of conversations about, “Why you guys do things this way? It’s different then the way we did things.” I just think that was really hard on his friend. I felt like I had enemies when I was spending time with them. So, lots of tears were shed and there were a lot of conversations with my husband.
Your husband was crying that much?
I bet he was, it’s his best friend and you hate him.
I know, we even had to bring in a third party.
Oh my gosh. You guys are serious friendship makers.
I know. We had to bring in a third party to help us evaluate and apologize and reconcile. But with that reconciliation, it was said, “We will not be friends as a family.” If we see them, we are friendly and my husband and him still spend a lot of time together, but there’s no longer this pressure.
I think as couple friends it can become difficult if there isn’t a match on both ends. I felt that my husband wanted it so badly and he just wanted it to work. He would even say, “You’re free and she’s free,” while we were both standing there. “You guys should go do that,” and we’re like, “Uh, we don’t want to.” I think for him to let go of this dream that we were going to be close family friends, it relieved me from that pressure and we could move on. I’m so thankful that he has that friendship and that influence in his life and that he can pursue it, but I was grateful when he stopped asking me to pursue it also because it clearly was not working out. So, yes, that has definitely happened. And I think now when we meet couples, for the most part, we do both typically enjoy both individuals. So really, we’ve only maybe run into this issue one time and it was a very big issue.
That’s intense because he had a really close relationship, so he had a lot of expectations. I do think that’s a common challenge for couples. There are people that I know my wife connects with on a regular basis and we don’t necessarily connect as a couple and that’s okay. My wife’s good with that and vice versa. I have other guys that I connect with that we don’t necessarily connect with as a couple.
You’ve used the word community and small group a couple of times in ways that I’m not sure people quite understand. What is the difference? Or is there a difference between making a friend and being part of a community of people?
Yes, they are different. They can overlap, but they are very different. A community would be any type of group that you’re in. Whether it is your work community, or it’s a small group community through your church. Maybe it’s your trivia group, where there’s a larger number of people and you’re participating actively as a community member. Meaning you respect everyone. You find an appreciation for everyone. You might not get along with everyone or see eye to eye on things, but you have a shared enough bond that you’re in it together. Whereas a friend can be in your community, but they’re someone who you have more regular, consistent and deep conversations or shared time with. These are people who you have probably spent a couple of years getting to know or working on that relationship.
When it comes to a community, I think of our personal small group that we’ve been meeting with for over two and a half years. Some of those folks, we’ve known for two and half years and some we’ve known for two months. Do we love and value the community? Yes, but we probably only have a few friends that we share everything with. Where we let them into the insides of what’s going on in our life and even into the dark sides. Whereas community, maybe you keep things a little more surface level or you hold some things back. You have to build that trust in that relationship. I think it’s okay to not have everyone be your best friend in your community.
It seems like we need both in our lives. In the friendship they get to see not only the great sides of us, but the challenging stuff too. There is a reciprocal relationship. And a community could be inside your faith based organization or where you volunteer or at the workplace. Some workplaces you’re in and out and other workplaces there’s connection and a community. Some people in our area have running clubs or maybe it’s bowling or some sort of activity. It feels good to be a part of a community where people know you. People care about you and they know if you’re missing, but it’s not always one on one time.
Yeah, and I think that communities are where friendships really happen. If you are asking yourself, “Where do I find a friend? Where’s my next friend going to be?” Typically, they come from your community. There’s already a level of connection to build off of, rather than just finding a stranger in the grocery line and randomly saying, “Hey, let’s be friends.” There’s no connection there and there’s no previous context for that to go further. But in your community, it absolutely can develop.
A couple of months ago, my wife and I were at our local grocery store. We were getting a salad to go and this younger gal came up to us and just started talking to us. I don’t even know how the conversation, but and all of a sudden, we’re talking about where she lives and we’re having this conversation with a twenty-something gal. I looked at my wife and I’m thinking, “Is this an MLM pitch? Is she getting ready to pitch us something? Or is she trying to get us to go to her church? What’s going on?” I swear, we could have had dinner with her at her house that night if we wanted to. We walked away and we were laughing because I think she just really needed friends badly. So, although that was a bit awkward, I admired her level of intentionality in saying, “I’m going to connect with people in my community,” and then find a way.
One of the opportunities that you are giving our listeners is something that you call, “Friendship Journal Prompts”. I downloaded this last night myself and it is a faith-based type of tool, but even if faith is not a part of your life, I think it’s a great stimulus to help us think more about friendships. Tell us about what these are and where they can get them.
Yes, so this is an eight-page free download and it specifically walks you through how to define friendship for your season. I think one thing that we struggle with as adults when making friends is the habits that we have used in our friendships in high school were not the same that worked in college and they were not the same that worked when we got our first paying job. Things change and even for myself, when you step into marriage for the first time, your relationships change. The way you spend your time changes. If you just got a new job or moved to a new city, you need to define, “What does friendship look like for me right now?”
So, these journal prompts kind of walk you through some things like, “What has worked for me in the past?” “Where do I find quality in my relationships?” And then maybe current day, “What am I lacking?” Or, “What have I forgotten about?” Or, “What don’t I practice anymore that could really be helpful?”
You can find these at www.baileythurley.com. On my main website, when you pull up the homepage, they’re right there up top to download and for me personally, this is something that I do twice a year. And even when I think I have a good foundation for what friendship looks like in my life, I still need to kind of come back and say, “Uh oh, where have I gotten side tracked or lazy?” Or “What areas of my life have I missed my friends?” Or maybe I’ve forgotten to reach out to them on a regular basis, so I think this is a really good practice to come back to over and over again as you continue to grow as a friend.
That’s so great, so go to www.baileythurley.com to check that out. Bailey, we’ve spent 45 minutes together. You are not my friend yet, we have 199 hours left to go in order for you to be my friend. But I like you. You’re smile is amazing. You’re very warm and welcoming and I can see why people would love to be your friend. I don’t know what those other people were thinking. They’re missing out on a great friend in Bailey. I just love what you’re doing. It’s such a unique passion that you’re helping other people cultivate. I think that it’s something that we don’t often want to articulate or think about and I just admire what you’re doing. I think that it’s impacting a lot of people’s lives, so thank you for what you’re doing.
Thank you so much, David.