Scottsdale Author Nicole Zangara on How to Make and Maintain Female Friendships
From an early age, Nicole Zangara knew she wanted to help people.
Courtesy Nicole Zangara
"I was always that girl who was like, 'let's talk about our feelings,'" she says.
It make sense, then, that she would follow in her mother's footsteps, becoming a licensed clinical social worker with a focus in helping women in their relationships -- particularly the interpersonal connections of female-only friendships. She wrote a book to that effect, Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, ($12.95 available from Changing Hands Bookstore and other sellers) a mix of anecdotes and advice that was released in 2012.
"I was at that age where I was looking at friendships changing a lot and thinking, 'what the hell is going on?' I learned to put a voice to that [with the book]," she says. "I wanted to put a voice to something that a lot of women don't talk about."
She's taken her advice beyond bookshelves as well, hosting frequent workshops at the Fresh Start Women's Resource Center in Phoenix.
"What it ends up doing is it brings these women together, and we have a discussion about their friendship struggles, currently and in the past," she says. "I think so many women are craving this support and validation."
The 30-year-old author and social worker, who now lives in Scottsdale, called New Times recently to talk about why friendships get more difficult as we get older, how to make them last, and how to know when to let go.
As kids, people are bonded over simple things: liking the same toys for example. It's no secret that making new friends is harder as one gets older. What advice do you have for adults looking to make new friends?
When we're in school you go to school every day and see your friends, or when you're in college you have a plethora of people around you. The older we get -- for me I moved around a lot -- it gets harder to meet people. There are [services like] meetup.com and a lot of times there are events in your area at a local community center or [through] groups on Facebook. I'm not religious, but I always tell people to try a temple or a church as a great way to meet people. It's kind of searching for stuff and finding out what's around in your area and just going. I always tell people, "just go." Even if it sucks, go again -- because you end up meeting different people.
It's kind of like dating, almost.
Yeah! I compare dating to making friends in the book. I mean, how similar: You're putting yourself out there. As we get older we have less time and less patience. For me, the best way I've met friends is through friends.
What was the longest female friendship you've had, personally? What made it work?
This is a friend from graduate school who I've been friends with for eight years. We don't live in the same state [anymore], she's actually somewhere else. It's this idea that we're always checking in -- we have our weekly phone calls, even through distance and our busy schedules we always make time. It says so much about the friendship when [you consider] there are people here [in Arizona] I don't talk to or see that much.
So making time is the most important thing people need to do to make something work long-term?
Yeah, I mean, I have friends where they moved or I've moved and we kind of talk about "ok, I still want to keep in touch," but it stops or fades. Again, it's like dating: I'm not going to put a lot of effort into this if you're not going to. Life's priorities change.
What strengthens or weakens relationships between women?
I think jealousy, obviously, tends to weaken it. When women get in a really bad spot and their friends get amazing news or something happens for them being jealous or having competition (they're engaged, we're still single; they're having their third baby, we're having trouble getting pregnant), I think that can be really tough and knowing the difference between being happy for your friends and not letting it get in between the friendship.
Putting in the time and effort, whether you're there or with an e-mail or a phone call. I always tell people to reach out, even if it is a text message saying, "hey, wishing you a good day." I don't mean this corny long, "I miss you, I love you" message or something like that, but this idea of thinking about you. A lot of times we don't acknowledge or treat our friends with the same decency we would with a romantic partner, for example.