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The #LightTheWorld service calendar for Wednesday, December 4th invites us to strengthen acquaintances with co-workers or classmates. In that spirit, let’s revisit this article, originally published February 2018 (modified).

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So busy that friendships have stalled? These quick-start strategies can spark emotional connections until full-powered charity roars to life like diesel fuel. [Useful for both men and women!]

1. Skip the dinner invitations. Ask friends to join you for ice cream instead. No kitchen mess. No cooking performance pressure. Ice cream can sit in the freezer for weeks and be ready on a moment’s notice. It’s easy on the budget, and you needn’t take longer than an hour. Similar instant treats include root beer floats, banana splits, watermelon, or green smoothies.

2. Share articles instead of books. Book clubs are tough for busy people with limited reading time and many competing priorities. Instead, have everyone share a 2-3 page article they found interesting during the month. You might be astonished at how synergistic the discussions become…and how many new friends might be willing to participate. An email discussion group might also work for some with busy work schedules.

3. Start the hallway question of the day. Quit smiling apologetically in the hallway when you necessarily rush past someone you’d like to know better. Instead, agree together to build your friendship line upon line. Each time you cross paths, exchange your answers to a single simple question. You might ask, “What’s on your bucket list?” “What magazines do you enjoy?” “What’s your comfort food?” If you brush past each other twice a week, you’ll be old friends in just a few months. It’s like jogging just 1 mile a day together. By day 26, you’ve run a marathon in tandem.

4. Ask them to cook for you. The invitation goes like this: “Hey, I loved your potluck dish at the ward/office party. If I buy all the food and do all the clean-up at my house, will you come over and show me how you made it?”

5. Think micro-service. Bring in a sandwich and chips for someone’s lunch. Program someone’s remote control. Weed a single flowerbed for them. Entertain kids for 15 minutes with bubbles on the front porch while mom takes a shower. If you’re already getting together with friends for another purpose, build a 5 minute service flashmob into the outing. In just 5 minutes, a handful of friends can rake someone’s leaves, shovel a driveway, fill someone’s dishwasher, or simply serenade.  

6. Never text a compliment. Next time you love someone’s presentation, lesson, or testimony, save the compliment for a phone conversation. If necessary, text this: “Call me when you have a minute.” Then personally explain what you loved and ask more about where your friend came up with the story or idea. Friendships that include phone conversations convey more emotion and sincerity. They lesson the likelihood of misunderstandings. They give you the flexibility to talk together even when driving or doing housework. And they are more likely to last over the years even if one of you moves away.

7. In meetings or classes, map who sits in each seat. Make a habit of always sitting by someone new instead of in the same old spot repetitively. Then, if you’re new, have an old-timer help you map the names of others present, so you can practice names while people comment. If you’re the old-timer, map the names for someone new. The “seating chart” can continue as a helpful reference at home if you also snap a picture of the group.

8. Embrace short notice invitations. Too often, we lamely offer: “we should get together sometime.” Why not act on the impulse today? If your friends are not available, at least they know you were serious about the invitation, not just polite, and you can set a tentative date as a placeholder on the calendar. You might change it, but at least it’s in motion. Remember the dating rule of thumb. When a guy is truly interested in a girl, he doesn’t say, “I’ll call you sometime.” He says, “How about tonight?” or “How about tomorrow?”

9. Fast forward to the last hour. If you want to move casual acquaintances into the mode of old friends, consider something unconventional. Ask a friend (or several) to imagine that you’ve just had a slumber party or campout together, but to fast-forward to the morning afterward. Think family reunion style—where everyone sees each other’s bed hair. You say, “Party starts at 7 am, my house. Don’t bother showering. Just tumble out of bed and come over in pajamas with whatever box of cold cereal you can grab on the way. We’ll only be an hour for breakfast, but it’ll be real.” You could also hit the gym together afterward.

10. Work on your x-ray vision. Several wonderful friends likely remain in various disguises undiscovered around you. Ask God to help you see past their intimidating talents and looks, their apparent confidence, their differing ages and life stages, or their disabilities.  Maybe they don’t look like they need you. But you might just discover how much they do. And how much you need them too.