Actionable Ways to Build the Connections You Need In Your Community

Friendship IRL Podcast Episode 48 with Michele Riechman - Actionable Ways to Build the Connections You Need In Your Community

Podcast Description

Moving somewhere new? Here’s some advice from today’s guest: Get stuff on your walls.

Michele Reichman is a personal trainer, health coach, mom, and, most pertinent to today’s conversation, a military spouse. Often, her family doesn’t know how long they’ll be in a place, so when they get there, they waste no time turning it into their home. 

Creating community is her way of doing that, and today, we discuss actionable ways she does this, from joining local groups to using social media as a tool. 

Because for Michele, it’s not even that community and friendship are NICE to have – it’s a necessity for her and her family.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • How sometimes it can feel awkward asking somebody to do something with you – and how to get over that awkwardness
  • The Liking Gap (which you can learn about in Episode 41) about how we assume people find interactions with us less enjoyable than they actually do
  • Modeling friendship for the next generation, and the tips Michele gave her daughter about inviting a friend to hang out
  • Getting stuff up on the wall – i.e., taking action on things fast, from saying that first “hello” at a party to joining local groups/events/meet-ups, especially after a move
  • How Michele found people in her new home with similar interests/ideals, from hosting a boot camp and joining a church to using the “search” tab on social media
  • The different kinds of relationships you can form with people in a new community – for example, Michele’s old neighbors were like second grandparents to her kids

Reflection Question:

When you move somewhere new – or, if you were to move somewhere new – what would be your first thing you’d need to “get on the wall?” 

Would it be finding a gym? Finding a walking buddy? Meeting substitute guardians or “grandparents” for your kids? What would you need to feel at home in this new place?

Notable quotes from Michele:

“How can you get those connections as quickly as you can? Whenever we move – we don’t have a ton of things that we hang up in the house – but I try to do it right away, because if we’re only going to be here for a year, I want to get that hung up in the house. I know some people who I’ve met that have moved for a year and they haven’t hung up things in their house. It’s the same idea with friends. Try to do that as quickly as you can. Find that Facebook group, those local events – whatever it is that you’re more likely to get connected.” 

“Every time we move, it pushes me to make the opportunity to make connections and make friends here that feel like family, because that’s what we really need. And that’s what takes away our anxiety and fear – knowing that we have people that we can call on.” 

Resources & Links
Michele can be found on her website and on Instagram.

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Until next time…

Take the conversation beyond the new podcast on friendship! Follow Alex on Instagram (@itsalexalexander) or Tiktok (@itsalexalexander), or send her a voice message directly with all your friendship thoughts, problems, and triumphs by heading to AlexAlex.chat and hitting record. 

Episode Transcript

Podcast Intro/Outro  00:02

Alrighty, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers!

Podcast Intro/Outro   00:18

Hello, Hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends… They would tell you; I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you, too. 

Alex Alexander [Narration]  00:50

Today’s episode I’m recording with Michelle Reitman. Michelle is a woman who wears a lot of hats. She’s a person who needs community and connection and support just like any of us. She’s a personal trainer and a health coach. She’s a mom, a wife, a military spouse. And this episode is so rich with actionable ways, real people like Michelle, because these are her examples, are going out there and making community and connection. I’m so grateful to everybody who comes on here who has a military background, because I think that the need to make connection is so accelerated when you’re having to move around with the military. And in this episode, Michelle says that it’s not even the community and friendship is nice to have with each of these moves. But it’s necessary. She needs people who she can call to watch her kids for an hour or chat about life, have fun as a family. And so when they move, she does all sorts of things to be really intentional about building community and connection about at least finding a few close friends. And today, she’s going to share some of those tips. Things like joining your local Facebook groups and using the search bar, joining community organizations, things like that, how she approaches all these moves with the need for community and friendship with her kids. Whether she feels like this is an actionable skill set. Spoiler alert, she does. So before I give away the whole episode, let’s just dive in. Hi, Michelle, how are you? 

Michele Riechman  02:41

Good. How are you today? 

Alex Alexander  02:43

I’m good. I’m good. I’m excited you’re here. And that we’re gonna talk about building community when you are moving around the country, kind of that adaptability and resilience of having to make new connections when you’ve upgraded yourself and your whole family. So if you wouldn’t mind, tell us a little bit about your situation, about where you ended up. 

Michele Riechman  03:15

Recently about… let’s do it in months, five months ago, we moved from the Midwest to Arizona. So my husband is in the military. So he was a reservist. But this gave him a full-time active job. So it was a really good opportunity for him. But it was a really big move. So we’ve always lived sort of in the Midwest, like 5-12 hours from our family. It always felt like that safety net. So this move definitely felt scary. I was also a little scared to live in the desert. I’m like, you know, it’s super hot in the summer, we haven’t… we’re starting to get they’re not quite there yet. But like, like, scorpians and all the different steps. So that was a little like, I don’t know what we’re getting into. So I was really scared to leave my family and be a plane ride away. But it’s actually been really good. And that gives me… every time we move, it sort of pushes me to make the opportunity to make connections and make friends here that feel like family because that’s what we really need. And that’s what takes away our anxiety and fear is knowing that we have people that we can call on. So when we moved recently, there’s like Facebook groups everywhere. So there was like… our neighborhood has a Facebook group for moms. So I was able to meet some people through there and just asking them like, there was some posts about something that made us have something in common together and then do you want to meet or we can get the kids together? Or a couple people I’ve asked like, do you just want to go for a walk with me? So it’s really taking that first step that feels a little awkward. And I’m very introverted. So I just need like a couple of close friends to feel good but it always feels hard, like asking someone to do something with you. But thosepeople really want that to, like both of us do. So it’s sort of getting over that little awkwardness, to start making connections and building friends with somebody.

Alex Alexander  05:09

You’re so right. There’s actually some paradigm, I’ll have to look it up. Studies show that we all assume people don’t want to talk to us, aren’t interested in a hello, when you’re in the coffee shop. But studies show they are. People want that, so if we can just go into our interactions, assuming that people do want to connect, we are way more likely to make connections, obviously. But also, I mean, just put ourselves out there. If you have never noticed before that I record my episodes of the guests pretty far in advance from when they’re released. Well, here’s your example. Because I didn’t know what this was called. I couldn’t think of the name at the time of recording. And I have since released a solo episode all about this. So if you go back and you listen to episode 42, this concept is called the liking gap. And it’s where studies show, we assume people find interactions with us less enjoyable than they do. And I’ve described this the easiest way is, you know, if we had an app where you and I interacted, we said hello on the street. And then when you turned around and walked away, and we both got a notification, and it asked us to rate how enjoyable the interaction was. And then it asked us to rate how we did, like how I did in the interaction, and I rated myself a six. And then we got a notification again, that gave me your score. And I remember I rated myself a six, but maybe you rated this interaction, it was enjoyable, and you gave it a nine. So the liking gap, there is a three. We are constantly assuming that other people find interactions less enjoyable than they are. So go listen to episode 42. If you want to dive deeper into the liking.

Michele Riechman  07:14

And I didn’t mention, I also have four kids so that… that also makes an important part. Yeah, but it also gives me a way to connect with others too. But sort of going off of what you just said, my daughter who is 16 I remember she was feeling scared to ask someone to do something with her. And I’m like, okay, if we flip it, like if they asked you to do the same thing, how would you feel? Like I’d be really excited? And we’re like, yeah, so her friend would probably feel the same way if she asked her. So, you know, it is that mindset shift that it’s easier for me to tell my daughter that. So you know, then when we think about ourselves, but we also have to think of how would we feel if someone asked us? 

Alex Alexander  07:52

Yeah, that’s such a great reminder. I think quite often on this podcast, it comes up of the idea of like, we should just think as if we’re kids a little bit more when we’re making friends. Because you have less of that anxiety. You know, you’re like carefree. It’s like, “Oh, do you want to be my friend? You want to go play on the monkey bars? Yes? No? Okay, well, I’m gonna go play on the monkey bars. Maybe I’ll see you over there.” And I think that comes up quite often. I love the advice of telling your daughter that.

Michele Riechman  08:23

Yeah. And just this week, someone posted, it was like a local realtor. She was just having this event called Ladies and Latte just for people to come together. And someone had this.. it’s their business where they sell clothes, sort of out of like a trailer thing. So it was just a fun little event. And she had coffee. And I was at a spot where not many people were looking at these different clothes and someone else was there. And I’m like, “Hey, my name is Michele, and what’s your name?” And we just talked a little bit and then after I messaged her on Facebook, like, “Katie, wanna walk?” And she’s like, “You know, thank you so much for talking to me, like I’m really quiet…” But she was just so grateful that I talked to her. And you know, it was like, good for me too, because I wanted to talk to and meet somebody too.

Alex Alexander  09:09

Another good reminder, this just popped in my head was like, we always want to be invited to things. We always want to be invited, this extra huge reason friends… established friends find us. If they like aren’t invited to something, we always want to be invited. Now, again, not everyone always wants to go, maybe… maybe we’re gonna say no, but you always want to be invited, you want to be included. And so remembering that when you’re nervous about making the invite or initiating the contact, just another way to think about it. I love that she also gave you I guess the feedback or the affirmation afterwards, like thank you for doing that. That’s really sweet of her. 

Michele Riechman  09:50

Yeah, because it’s a little vulnerable. I’m like, yeah, like, you know, I feel awkward too. Like there was a lot of people I didn’t talk to at that because maybe they were talking to someone else but it’s just finding those people and just sort of stepping out of your comfort zone a little bit. 

Alex Alexander  10:04

Yeah. I also think that I have this thing when I go somewhere new. And you have that kind of anxiety, maybe a party or whatever. Making that first awkward hello, is the worst the time between when you get there and you make the first hello, is when you’re overthinking at the most. So I go in with like, how fast can I get that awkward period over with? Like, just enter some conversation. Because after that, it’s so much easier to do it again or bounce around. So I was trying to shorten that awkward beginning time the most.

Michele Riechman  10:44

I love it. And it’s always hard when like… or when you just feel like you’re not talking to anybody, and you don’t know how to go talk to other people who are in little groups, I always find that hard too.

Alex Alexander  10:54

Yeah. When you joined the Facebook groups when you moved, was there anyone in particular that you were looking for?

Michele Riechman  11:04

So I first started with looking for the neighborhood and we live in this really awesome neighborhood. And we picked it out strategically. But the neighborhood, it’s like sort of like a small town feel. It’s a really big neighborhood, like 20,000 people. So it’s like a small town itself. But they really try to build community. And out here in the desert, there’s not a lot of like green spaces and neighborhoods. And like a lot of people, you have backyards. So this neighborhood has like green spaces and lots of parks every couple blocks. So it’s really set up to connect people. And they also have different events within the community. So I looked up the name of the neighborhood, and they have a moms’ group. So that’s been a really good groups that we go back in and see what’s going on. And there’s also a local military group. I don’t go on that one as often. But I think always searching like your neighborhood to find local stuff is a good way to go. Or something like mom that you have in common. Or maybe you like walking or that common interest that you want to find other people that do the same thing.

Alex Alexander  12:11

Yeah, I always like to say, it’s great when you do that. Because if you look for that common interest, because then your time spent doing that thing, or reading about whatever people are talking about in the Facebook group also suits that interests. Like, even if you didn’t make a connection, meeting up with someone, you still got to walk. It takes a little pressure off the interaction, and makes it a little more fluid. So you can just like keep going and doing this thing because you like it anyways, or you are interested in it anyways, or it’s important to your life. Either way.

Michele Riechman  12:50

Yeah. And so I am also an online personal trainer and health coach. So I started a local boot camp class. It’s not like a hardcore boot camp. But that has been another good way to use something. And I like to meet new people. And it’s nice because people in there are making friends with each other. So it’s really fun to see other people start to make friends with someone who’s also health minded. Because if you’re on a health journey, sometimes if you’re not around people who aren’t health minded, it can be hard. So it’s fun to see other people in the class coming back and making friends and community too.

Alex Alexander  13:25

Yeah, and encouraging each other and being able to, like support each other in this goal. Yeah. When you’re in the groups, do you have any parameters on yourself? Or a mindset? Like how much you’re engaging in the group? And then I think in order to actually actively want to make community and use these Facebook groups as a tool, a lot of people are going to join and just kind of watch. So are you trying to like actively post and engage? Like, how do you pick what you’re doing in there?

Michele Riechman  14:02

Yeah, I try not to spend too much time on social media for my personal life. So I use that more strategically. So I might go into the group and search something like if I’m looking for a local school or something like that. Use the search function in the bar, and then you can see posts, and you can search most recent ones. So, I do that. And maybe every once in a while, I’ll go into the group and just scroll the recent things and see if anything interests or I will make a post. Like I just posted, my daughter wants to go into the psychology field. She’s still in high school, but I asked is there anybody who’s a counselor in here that could talk with her? You know, so people might reply to that. So I might post different things. But I try not to scroll too much. Because if you’re really just scrolling, you’re not gonna get anything out of it. But you can find events or different things that you’re looking for. 

Alex Alexander  14:55

I liked the search. I never thought about that. And I think it’s genius because I talk a lot about when you’re saying like, the walking group or your health group, if you can kind of think about what you want out of certain connections, like what you’re looking for, what you’d like to do with your time, you can filter. So, a search is literally a filter. That’s such a great way to take those big overwhelming groups and not get caught up in them or overwhelmed. Maybe overwhelmed might be another way.

Michele Riechman  15:26

Yeah. I mean, you could spend a lot of time in there just looking and reading through people’s but if it’s not going to apply to you in a way that’s going to help you or you’re going to take any action, then it gets to be the time waster.

Alex Alexander  15:39

Yeah. So it really sounds like there’s a focus on you finding connections. And I think a question a lot of people might have is, are you doing something similar to find, families who want other similar families to hang out with? Or couples? Or kids? Are you actively doing any of that? Are you kind of going with the mindset of, you know, if you find some connections that will help find those other ones later?

Michele Riechman  16:09

Yeah, so I would say like a little bit of both. So I think being a mom, it’s a little easier. Like, “Hey, do you have kids? We can all get together.” Like, that’s a little bit easier. As I said, the other day, when I met someone and asked them to go for a walk, that’s almost a little harder. Like when it’s just a friend for yourself, I don’t know why that must be a mind block thing. And the other way, we’ve gotten involved with our church, and they have small groups, so we were really looking at churches that had good communities, because then you can get connected. Me and my husband go to the small group together. And we get connected with other couples and other families. So that has been a big help, too. And then also trying to, especially my oldest daughter, she is homeschooled. So I also… that was another thing I use the Facebook group for. Like, who else has homeschool teens here and like trying to connect her with those other people and doing that for her? The younger kids, they’re in school, so it’s a little bit easier to find people at school. And the other nice thing here is like, the yards are really small, like I was saying. So a lot of the kids will go out and play at the parks or in the front yards. So, it’s a little bit easier, I feel like, for the kids to meet other neighbors around because the kids are out playing. We were here during the winter, which is the nice season. And that also means trying to meet some of our neighbors and connect with them too.

Alex Alexander  17:33

Yeah, I mean, that is a perk to being in the desert and being where it’s warm, at least in the winter. In the Pacific Northwest, I live in Seattle. So there’s a lot of talk about how hard it is to make friends in the winter here. Because everybody’s inside. And that everybody can’t wait for summer. Because when you’re outside, moving around, you bump into more people, you see more neighbors. I really think honestly, just thinking about that is maybe a good thing to acknowledge, like using that time, being really intentional when everybody is outside in the winter ,in the desert. Like this is the time to go out and meet my neighbors instead of be like, “Oh, I’ll do it later.”

Michele Riechman  18:18

Yeah. Or it’s like sitting on your front porch instead of your back porch.

Alex Alexander  18:21

Yeah. So you said you’ve been there for about five months? How would you say it’s going?

Michele Riechman  18:28

Yeah. So I would actually say it’s going really well. Like I said in the beginning, I was pretty scared to move all the way across the country and into the desert. And then the kids really didn’t want to leave their friends. But we all have really settled in well, like, the winter is amazing here. I told my husband, I’m like, we’re gonna have to be snowbirds. Like I get this. Like it’s so nice to be able to be outside. And I feel like it took us a while to find a church that we liked. And then church community, but we found that. It takes a while just to transition and settling, get the kids in school, like buying some sports. There’s just a lot of different things not just for myself, but the family as a whole. But I would say it’s gone really well. Like I have made a couple of friends already. And the other thing I would like to add is staying connected with old friends. So where we lived before, I had a really good friend. And we would always walk and pray together typically once a week. And if we couldn’t do it in person, sometimes we would do it on the phone if it was raining or something like that. So, we have still done that. So obviously it’s on the phone all the time now. But still being able to stay connected to her has been really important because especially if you’re someone who moves a lot or even it just gets really easy to let friends go and forget to call them because we get busy or we’re trying to make new friends or do different things, but keeping those old friends I think is also really important because I have that person I can still talk deeper to right now. But I’m still making these newer friends that I may not feel as comfortable sharing some deeper stuff with.

Alex Alexander  20:09

Like that older friend, you’ve built that friendship, and it serves a very important need in your life. So like continuing to appreciate that and participate in that. And I’m sure you fill an important need for your friend that you moved away from. When you meet with that friend, is that like a consistent scheduled thing? Or do you just touch base once a week and kind of see where it goes? How do you keep it consistent?

Michele Riechman  20:38

It does get a little tricky, because we do try to… we just walk and talk on the phone typically on the weekends. But sometimes there’s weekends we’re traveling. So there’s been like a couple of weekends where it’s been missed. But then we’ll try to text each other, send a voice message about what’s going on. But usually, towards the end of the week, like today, she texted me like, “Hey, are you available Saturday?” Like gives me a couple of times. So one of us tries to do that. And I also remember when we first started doing this, I felt like I was always the one who texted her to ask. But she’d always be, “Thank you for calling. Thanks, you’re texting me.” And I feel like lately, she’s been the one texting me. And I’m so glad she does. So I feel… I just want to say that because sometimes we feel like we’re always the one that has to reach out. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that person doesn’t want to.

Alex Alexander  21:33

No. Yeah. Sometimes it’s just like capacity or…I also… I talk sometimes about how I think… I’m sometimes… I go through phases. Sometimes I’m the initiator. And I have friends who are never the initiator. But if I really think about it, they do other things. Like they always plan everything. So I might initiate it, but then I kind of just forget about it. And they always plan it. So really, we’re both bringing a skill even though it’s not like the exact same thing. For me, I think that kind of equals it out. Everybody might not. But I think it is a way to like show you, you know, are still like investing something into this friendship equally. Now, being in the military, do you know how long you’re going to be in your location? Does that change anything for you?

Michele Riechman  22:29

Yeah, just living in uncertainty. So yeah, with this one, like his job, the contract, whatever they want to call, it was only for like 9-10ish months. But most likely, the military will extend it, but waiting for funding. Like, it’s the way the job is slotted. So a little bit of like, we have no idea how long we’ll be here. And that’s sort of hard, like when you have kids and like, and the different grades they’re in. So I honestly just try not to think of that too much. Because I know whatever happens, like, we will be okay. Like we are resilient, we are adaptable. But hopefully, most likely, I’m hoping we’ll be here at least a few years. And potentially it could be longer, but it will be like waiting for things to get approved. And if anybody knows the military, that is never fast.

Alex Alexander  23:25

I will send all my good thoughts to you that that extends for a while, because I’m sure it’s so nice to have a little bit of stability for a period of time. And you know, I just have to applaud you because it sounds like when you moved, you knew this was a big priority for you and your family to build community there. And a lot of people… the example that comes to mind, that I hear a lot is people will tell me sometimes when life really starts to shake up in like your late 20s-ish, that maybe people are losing friends or people are moving away. And then they’ll say, “Well, you know what? It’s fine. I’ll just wait to make friends until next life marker. And a lot of times what I hear is like, I’ll wait until I can make mom friends or I think I might get a new job in a different city and I’ll just wait until then. And that like perpetual waiting is hard. Like it’s lonely, number one. But then I think it just adds even more pressure when you hit that milestone. Like what happens if you moved to this new city and the new job has you working wild hours and then suddenly, two years pass and you haven’t made a single friend in this new city? So I really applaud you for just going for it even though you don’t know.

Michele Riechman  25:00

Yeah, and I really do feel like, because I know that I’m going to have less anxiety, I’m going to feel better if we make connections and friends when we move. So it really was one of the top priorities when we moved, and it doesn’t have to be a ton of people. Because again, I’m an introvert. I’m good with a few good people, but still even I want to keep expanding and reaching out to other people, too. So yeah, it definitely was a top priority. 

Alex Alexander  25:30

Yeah. I have this phrase I say, which is, ‘Building yourself a support system is the ultimate self care.’ It’s like the foundation that allows you to do all the other things in your life. You know, if something goes bad, you have people to call for health reasons or mental health or to, you know, feed you or knowing you have someone makes such a big difference.

Michele Riechman  25:57

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, that’s why I felt scared to be a plane ride away from my family. Because we live before… even if it was the 12 hours, we live 12 hours from my mom. Like, I knew she could drive and get there in a day. But now the plane ride, that’s more complicated. But in the back of my mind, I’m like, okay, she can still fly out here if I really need her. But we’re going to also, obviously, build connections here too, and… people we can trust and know, you know?

Alex Alexander  26:25

Even if it’s people that feel like that interim until she could get there for a longer period of time, any of it is valuable. And you know, you said earlier in the episode, like trying to build those friends that feel like family, are there any traits or actions or activities or things? Like, I think that’s different for a lot of people what that would mean, what do you think that means, maybe to you and your family?

Michele Riechman  26:53

Yeah, I think just a family who would have, you know, similar values to what we have, maybe how we’re raising our kids, that’s probably more who I tend to gravitate to. And those would be the people who I would trust if something came up, and I needed them to watch our kids. And also like the similar interests. So the couple of friends I’ve made, like I walk with them but that’s an easy thing to ask someone to do for me. So, I think finding those similar values.

Alex Alexander  27:29

I love that. I just think it’s… you know, people say that, like, friends like family, and it’s just so different for everyone. And I think if that’s something you’re looking for, right, it’s just good to like, have a sense of what that would feel like to you, kind of always having that idea of what you’re building towards in these connections, what you’re hoping for, like what it looks like. Because if you don’t, then you’re just walking around taking a bunch of actions and like not even knowing what would feel right, you just might be on autopilot and end up somewhere where you’re like, this isn’t really what I wanted.

Michele Riechman  28:07

Yeah, and where we used to live before, we lived there about five years. But our one neighbors, a husband and wife, they were about the same age as my parents, and they loved our kids. And they were like grandparents to our kids. So there’s also different types of relationships and things too. And I really enjoyed having them as neighbors, because I knew they really enjoyed our kids. We enjoyed having them, and we trust them. And obviously they were right by our house too.

Alex Alexander  28:40

That is maybe my favorite example of this whole episode. Because I talk about this all the time. Like people have to move around or different life circumstances, like things come up. And there’s so many people, you know, people of a different generation that wish their grandkids were close or wish that their kids were close. And if they did look around their neighborhood, maybe they would find a family that wants that kind of connection, because they don’t have their grandparents close, or their parents close. I just that’s such a beautiful example of how you can build these like supportive connections wherever you are.

Michele Riechman  29:22

Yeah, so it may not be the exact person or thing you have in mind. But if we think of like families as a whole, or how like community functions, it’s different ages, different people and different things.

Alex Alexander  29:37

Yes. I mean, that’s why for as many marketing people who have told me to niche down on this podcast, I refuse because if I’m just… I don’t know telling a bunch of millennial women to befriend millennial women, then what about the men? What about people of different generations, older generations that wish they had that family feeling? What about kids that need aunt and uncle type support? Like, yeah, it’s all connected. And people just want… they want those connections. It’s pretty simple. People want to feel connected.****** 

Michele Riechman  30:19

Yeah, different types of support to at a different time when my older kids were younger, I did a mops group. So it’s like mothers of preschoolers. But it was really good to meet with other moms. And then I remember as my oldest was getting older, it was like, I really wanted to know, like, moms who had older kids than me. Yeah. Because I wanted to learn from them or hear from them or like, ask them questions. So having those different? I don’t know if that’s quite generations, but you know, that different age different stages of life? Yeah,

Alex Alexander  30:50

just like a slightly different perspective. Maybe it’s people who you could say, was that transition to middle school hard? What happened? With your kiddo, anything I should think about? are we anticipating? Yeah, I think that’s a very real thing to want. And then you’re having to go out and find that and build that and connect with new people, whether it’s in your church or at the playground, or in a Facebook group, like having some intentional idea of the types of people you want to ask for. I love that, man. You’ve really been doing this intentionally for a while.

Michele Riechman  31:29

Yeah, and honestly, if my husband wasn’t in the military, and… so we got married, as soon as I got out of college, so maybe I think I was 23. Because I have my master’s in physical therapy. And as soon as I graduated, I moved to Arkansas with him and obviously didn’t have any kids yet. But I was working. So I was able to make some friends through there. And then, you know, once we had our daughter, then we moved after that, but it was… it forced me to be intentional and get better at this. So that probably started… I’m 41 now, so it’s been a while. So I feel like it’s definitely gotten easier. And it’s definitely a skill. You can grow whether you feel like that’s not you.

Alex Alexander  32:18

Do you feel like when you move, every time you move now, I mean, it kind of sounds like you do, but I don’t want to assume, like you’re just going to trust that you have this skill, and you will find what you need. Like it’s sad to leave what you had behind. Surely, that’s always sad. But also, it’s going to be okay, you just like trust yourself that you can do this. 

Michele Riechman  32:40

Yeah, I know that I can meet people. And I think, I mean, the way Facebook has grown like, it is really nice when you move. Like, you know, there’s ups and downs to social media. But that has helped and made it easier than what it was when we first went in the military. There was Facebook, but it wasn’t what it is today. And that’s not how… you had to meet people in person. And so that was a little bit harder. So the whole Internet has definitely helped make it easier. But I do feel confident. And I do have just faith that it’s gonna be okay. I can do this, you know, things sort of always work out when you’re putting that effort in.

Alex Alexander [Narration]  33:24

Technology is a tool that we can use for our friendships. There are so many different apps and resources, I mean, simply video calls, text messages, but then you have things like Voxer, or Marco Polo, yet in Facebook groups where we can use the search bar to search for the types of friends and people and activities that we want to connect with. We have so much opportunity at our fingertips. And it’s just how we choose to use these tools in our lives, to actually take action. To take action and build the friendships you want. Find the connections that feel right. I don’t know about you. But I’m gonna take a second and just audit the tools that I do have, and whether I’m using them. What’s on my phone right now that I downloaded at some point, and I’ve completely forgotten abou? Because maybe it would help me out in one of my friendships, maybe it would make a little easier. And if it’s not an app, maybe it’s simply just putting time in my calendar to send the text messages, respond to everything, reaching out and scheduling consistent phone calls or facetimes. I think it’s really empowering to feel like no matter what life throws at you, you can build connections that you need. And I don’t think that’s a very common thing and a lot of people don’t don’t feel that way. But when you do, it’s like you have this superpower. I really feel that way. I think so. That’s how I felt when I realized I had that skill set after a really big life transition that left me crying for days and like sad, and everything changing. I truly hope that, like part of my reason for doing this, I want everyone to feel that way. 

Michele Riechman  35:24

Yeah. And I will say it’s not like I was competent the whole time. You know, I said, I was scared to move and like, you know, you still have some of those fears and worries, but it’s like, you have that overall arching, like I can do this, it’s going to be fine. You might have to work through your fears a little bit. But really knowing in your heart that it’s gonna be okay.

Alex Alexander  35:48

Are there any, maybe parts that are hard all the time, kind of like you already know they’re gonna be hard, but you know there’s something good on the other side? Or maybe parts that make you really anxious? Or… you know what I’m saying? Like, there’s like a lot of resistance usually push through, showing up in person, or… ?

Michele Riechman  36:08

Yeah, I think my biggest.. I don’t know if this is quite what you’re getting at, but my biggest fear was just like, well, what if something happens to me or the kids or my husband and we need help? Like, you know, it’d be the time you call your mom and emergency. What are we going to do? So that was probably my biggest fear moving this far is just knowing that you’re not going to have anybody to call at first or, you know, until you make those connections. So that was probably my biggest fear. But yeah, in the back of my mind, like, okay, my mom will play out here. And pretty soon, we are able to meet our neighbors. And you know, not that they were super close right away, but knowing that there’s a couple people like, “Hey, we would call.” And people probably would want to help. People are generally nice, and I feel especially around military bases. If people even aren’t military, they’re just really friendly and really nice and want to help people too. 

Alex Alexander  37:12

Yeah, I mean, they’re probably like, wow, you you moved across the country. You did it. And I’m happy to be here for you. Yeah, probably almost that’s like an expectation of these people probably need somebody who might come over. Like, I can totally do that. That’s not hard to come over and watch the kids for an hour in an emergency. Sure. I mentioned this made me think in a previous episode I did with a friend of mine. They don’t live close to any immediate family. Like before they had kids, they moved away from immediate family, they’ve settled in the Seattle area. And they considered moving back towards family. But the truth is like, they really love it here. And they have built this thriving life here. And then they had kids. And that changed a lot of their friendships. And they’re so close to a lot of people, but they’ve been really intentionally building community for their family, not just the friendships, maybe they have individually. And I am very close with her. We talk all the time, and I know their kids, I’ve spent time with their family. But it’s not like I am the closest person to them, maybe. But they asked me one day, they were like, “We need to put down an emergency contact at our kids school. We trust you and think you would handle an emergency really well. Our kids would recognize you and know you, and like know your name and you would be familiar. Can we put you down as their emergency contact?” I was like, that is such a beautiful way to show an intentional ask. Like, I think a lot of people be really overwhelmed by that, but well, not to make the ask. But for me on the receiving end, it’s like okay, so if something ever happened, right? So, it isn’t some big, regular time commitment. Like if something ever happened, of course, I would go get their kids and pick them up and take care of them. Like, yes, I would go get them. That’s what that made me think like, there really are ways, even though maybe I’m not there all encompassing person. You know, I can’t replace their parents, necessarily. But that is something I can do for them as a friend. 

Michele Riechman  37:13

Yeah. My husband did eight years active duty and then he got out of the military so he could go to nursing school. He wasn’t going to be able to do it and stay in so he went to nursing school and was doing the reserves. So during that time, we chose to move back by my family. And he still had to commute then to his reserve weekends. So he had to go away for like three days every month. And that’s on top of when he was in school, or then when he had a full time job. And it was a lot. And really living by family, it just like wasn’t what we expected. 

Michele Riechman  39:47

Yeah, I’ve heard this too. This is a common thing on this podcast.

Michele Riechman  40:25

Yeah, it wasn’t what we expected. And then it was like, we are living away from a military base. And the reserve weekend days just add up, or there’s extra things here and there. So, you know, a minimum of 50 days a year, he was gone on top of a full time job. And it was just a lot. Like, what are we doing? So we moved by our own choice to move closer to a base. And it was a good decision. But I had that in me like, we’re still only five hours away from my family. And we’ll be able to make friends and have what we need there. And our life is going to be so much easier, because he’s not going to have to be gone for the weekends, it’ll be like a normal job, you know, where he goes eight to five, and he’s back home. So, we did have that transition too.

Alex Alexander  41:16

Yeah, which I’m sure it was a hard choice. And is one many, many people have made and also one that a lot of people when they hear that are gonna be like, “I can’t believe you moved away from, you know, your family. Your family was there.” And some people have just like so much support. Don’t say you didn’t. But like, sometimes no matter how much support you have from your family, it can’t make up for the fact that it’s creating these circumstances where your husband’s gone for so long. Like you just really have to look at the overall picture. And then trust that you can make a community for yourself.

Michele Riechman  41:53

Yeah, and it’s like, well, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll come back. But it was good. And we ended up staying there for five years till we came here. So…

Alex Alexander  42:02

Man, you have really… you have done it. The things that I talked about in this podcast, this is such a beautiful example of just making the decision and like allowing the time and space and being intentional. Like slowly building what you need for this season of your life and your family in this moment, I’m like checking in on that all the time. Similar way with the example of like finding parents who are a little older, even just like these slight shifts. You did this on your own, but I’m like, look, it’s possible.

Michele Riechman  42:42

Yeah, and that again, I don’t think I would have done that if it really wasn’t for being a military spouse. Like if we just lived wherever we lived. I don’t think I would have developed these skills in this. Like my sister, she’s a little more talkative, quite a bit more talkative and extroverted than me. And she could always make friends more easily. But now once we’re adults, I feel like I probably have more skills in making friends and how do you get connected in a community when you move than she does because I’ve had to do it. And I know what I need to sort of function.

Alex Alexander  43:19

With each move, are you finding that your kids are developing those skills? Like is it getting any easier for them? Kids, this is so hard for kids to move all the time. I get that.

Michele Riechman  43:33

Yeah, and especially my oldest, she’s 16 now, so she’s probably moved the most. But I do see this confidence in her and she’s pretty quiet and introverted, too. But she has developed more skills in going up and talking to people or like I gave that example of asking someone to go do something when she felt awkward and especially moving here. Like she’s just been up for it. And I think she knows she needs some friends too. And I think it’s hard with teenagers a little bit. Everyone’s different. Like she’s not on social media, like in all of that. And it’s hard when, you know, kids are just on their screen and they do different things. But again, through me finding people in the Facebook groups, like does anyone have a team connecting them or through our church, she’s been going to like a youth group and Bible study. So she’s made friends then but she’s still teaching her like, you have to also ask them to do something like outside of that group, or whatever it is.

Alex Alexander  44:38

Well, I mean, it’s really beautiful because you’re modeling the behavior, like you are also doing it. And then there’s obviously a value for your family. So it’s something that you’re prioritizing, and you’re helping her with, you’re like having discussions around. There’s just so many pieces here that are trickling down and giving your kids a skill set that you had to teach yourself. They’re just like learning as they grew up. And then they’re gonna have it forever.

Michele Riechman  45:07

Yeah, and especially my next oldest is 12. And he’s a boy. And he did not want to move this time. He’s like, didn’t want to leave his friends. And he’s the one that’s a little more like high-strung. And when we got here, he’s like, “I’m not making any friends”, because he didn’t want to lose them or leave them. So for a little, I don’t know how long it was, a month, I don’t want to quite… he was like, “I’m not going to make friends.” But then he loves to play outside and go to the basketball court. So, he has made friends and he’s playing with them now. So he will remember this move now that he’s older and he’ll be able to take that piece with him. Like there’s a couple of friends, he still stays in contact with from where we lived before. But now he also knows he can make new friends. And it is sad to leave friends. Like that is okay for him to be sad too.

Alex Alexander  46:03

Yeah, I mean, it is sad. And as adults, sometimes it’s sad, because we choose to move. And sometimes it’s sad because our friends choose to move. And then we’re left, you know, needing to find somebody else to go on walks with or play outside basketball with whatever it is. So like, we don’t always get to pick and I think it’s such an important skill that whether we choose or somebody else made a choice that is now impacting us, we can be sad. And then we can go find what we need later. When you were saying that your son keeps in contact with friends from your previous location, and you said he’s 12, is there anything that you’re doing to like facilitate that?

Michele Riechman  46:55

I am not. So we did finally get him a kid-friendly phone, like he didn’t have a phone. And he was pretty upset when we left that he’s like, “I don’t have a phone. I can’t like keep in contact with people.” But he got his one friend’s phone number. And then the other one is linked through kids Facebook Messenger, which he has to use my phone for because he doesn’t have apps on his phone. But no, he has done that himself. Because I’ll sort of see the messages that he’ll send. And like boys just don’t really like talk that much. Like their conversations aren’t much of nothing. But that’s, I think, pretty normal for most boys that age.

Alex Alexander  47:36

Yeah. I mean, he still feels connected… the same conversations are similar he would have in person. I have a friend who realized a few years ago, that she is the gatekeeper for her kid’s friendships, right? Like, her kids didn’t have technology. So if her kids wanted to see their friends quite often outside of school, it was, “Mom, can I see my friends?” And then her having to do the work? And then the in between times, the kid has no way to initiate. So I just always like to ask that question. Because I think it is a really interesting thing. I think it’s a beautiful skill, you’re teaching your kids to like stay in contact. Because quite often, you make friends, I call them friends of proximity, at school, at your neighbors Church, the places you frequent as adults at work. And that’s how a lot of people make friends. But when people move, like you and your friend doing the walks and talks, I think it’s really beautiful to give kids sometimes, ways to learn that as a kid. So that you don’t wake up one day in your 30s, 40s, 50s moving away from your closest people, and you’ve never had to really think about how to intentionally stay connected if you really care about them.

Michele Riechman  49:05

Yeah. And I will say like, my husband is terrible at that. And that’s probably a little bit more of a guy thing and then just him too. But he’s horrible about staying in contact with his old friends from high school and college and then sort of complain about it. But I’m like, You don’t ever message them, text them or call them. And there’s like a real disconnect and it’s… And he’s almost like, I know I need more people around me. Like he’s not quite as much like that. So there’s a difference there. But it is interesting because he’s probably the complete opposite of me. But he’ll go along if I’m gathering something. He’s definitely not that initiator either. So if I gather something or like he would be super excited if someone asked him to do something, too.

Alex Alexander  49:55

Yeah. I have a lot of episodes in the works about men’s friendships and this… your husband’s example aligns with all the things. And I am obviously going to record like 20 episodes on this, if not more. But the very short thing is society really tells people, tells everyone that your family’s social wellness is women’s work. Like guys are not encouraged that that’s like their duty even to facilitate their own. So that’s like a really common thing. And I think a lot of guys aren’t even aware of it. So, you know, it’s just maybe bringing awareness to start and then having people see that it is a skill set. Because I hear this story… like, this is very similar. I hear it all the time.

Michele Riechman  49:56

Yeah. And he’s supportive or encouraging of me making friends. And granted, I have an online business. So I work from home. And he is in person with other people. So he does get that there. But yeah.

Alex Alexander  51:03

Yeah, it’s not like he doesn’t have friends. You know, he’s has work friends, probably. And he does have those old friends. They just don’t stay in contact, which can be hard when you want to reconnect sometimes. So like, yeah, it’s just… it is socialized in a certain way currently. And hopefully, we can start to see it and change that in future generations so that we’re not repeating this. Let’s hope that someday your son has a thriving community of friends and like, has this skill set someday. Yeah. 

Michele Riechman  51:40

Yeah. Like, as you’re saying that that’s what I was thinking like, okay, he’s automatically texting or messaging his friends without me doing it. So he is doing better already at 12. But yeah.

Alex Alexander  51:54

Yeah. I mean, I really think it is a shift that as many people… as many guys as I can get to hear this now that are interested and want to change. But if nothing else, I hope that the next generation isn’t under this guise, that they can’t also build these connections for themselves.

Michele Riechman  52:16

Yeah. And you know, I think that guy to guy conversation is going to be different than a lot of girl a girl conversation. Like, it might be more topical. And that’s okay to like, send a message to a guy friend, and it’d be something short and sweet. But it helps you to stay connected with them.

Alex Alexander  52:35

It just helps you stay connected. And I say this all the time. Like the only shot, the only shot of a more connected or vulnerable conversation is if they start talking. So if they start talking about the topical, the interest, the sports, the golf, the house, the yard, the work, whatever, if that’s what it takes to get the conversation started if they don’t even start it, it will never get to a deeper question. So, you know, instead of harping on how like, well, you’re not really talking to them about anything, it’s like, well, if they don’t start talking, they’re never… there’s no shot.

Michele Riechman  53:16

Yeah, there’s that… the start of the conversation is always more topical.

Alex Alexander  53:20

Yeah. But I sometimes think guys get like a… do you even really need to talk to him about that? Because it’s not even that important. And then they don’t, and then it just like perpetuates the cycle. Again, other more episodes. But…

Michele Riechman  53:40

Yeah, one of my friends her husband is very talkative and extroverted. But he has a couple of friends there. They use one of those walkie talkie type apps. So they’re, like, you know, connected through that. So I think that’s really cool, too.

Alex Alexander  53:55

I love that. I’ve been trying to get more people in my life onto those apps, because I think they help with some of those just like random things, I would love to tell them if I saw them more frequently than I do. Little shifts we can make to try it. And again, like, maybe build new connections, but keep the ones we do really love alive. And that can look like weekly walks or walkie-talkie apps or random 12-year-old boy text message threads, whatever it is.

Michele Riechman  54:31

…emojis, I think they do some of that.

Alex Alexander  54:33

Well, it’s got to start somewhere, right? It’s not what I want to send, but who am I to judge? I’m not a 12 year old boy. Michelle, if somebody was thinking about packing it up and moving, i there any final words of, I don’t know, advice or thoughts, something you would tell a friend who’s thinking about doing this? 

Michele Riechman  54:54

Yeah, I think if you are confident and it doesn’t have to be 100% confident, but if that’s like where you’re supposed to be, and you know that’s where you need to be in your life right now is to go for it and work on just like we talked, how can you get those connections as quickly as you can. So whenever we move, I try to… we don’t have a ton of things that we hang up in the house. But I tried to do it right away, because it’s like, if we’re only going to be here for a year, like, I want to get that hung up in the house, because I know some people who I’ve met that have moved for like a year and they haven’t hung up things in their house. So it’s the same idea with friends. Like, try to do that as quickly as you can. Find that Facebook group, those local events, like whatever it is that you know you’re more likely to get connected, and spend that time doing those things and make sure you leave that time in your schedule to put time into that because it does take some time.



You’ll get the full scoop on everything we’ve been up to in the last seven days – podcast episodes, blog posts, and updates, plus an exclusive note from Alex every week with her latest, unedited thoughts. 

Alex Alexander  55:52

I am going to forever use that analogy and credit it to you because it’s so perfect. I’m the same way. I want to get the stuff on the walls, because otherwise, what even was the point? Michelle, thank you so much. Thank you so much for being here. This turned into such a beautiful conversation. I think there are so many gems for people who are either moving around or just people who have lived somewhere for a while and want to be more connected in their community and for their family or for themselves. This is the… I think the second episode I’ve done where people have talked about how impactful Facebook groups are for making friends. I have never used Facebook groups for making local connections. Maybe that’s a good way to put it. I’ve definitely used it for making business connections. But I feel a little inspired, feel like I need to go give this a test run. Join a couple groups, pop in there, use the search bar, see what I can find, even if it’s just for simple connections. Because I think that was such an actionable tip. I mean, this whole episode was full of actionable tips on things that you might try or not. And if you do, reach out, let us know. I’d love to know what you give a try, what works, what feels weird, feels sticky, what feels awkward, what you try a second time. Let us know. Until next week.

Podcast Intro/Outro  57:29

Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you. You can find it at alexalex.chat. You can also find me on Instagram. My handle, @itsalexalexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts. Now if you want to take this conversation a step further, send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out. No need for a teary Goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week.

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Hi! I'm Alex.

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Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm just a gal who cares deeply about community + friendship. Why? Well, I didn't have a healthy support system growing up.

So I built one... out of friends. I believe a healthy support system is the ultimate self-care.

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