I got into a huge conversation recently with an old friend of mine. He’s in his mid-30s, self-employed, and works from his home in the burbs. He recently broke up with his girlfriend, and is newly single and realizing he just doesn’t have the group of friends that he did in his 20s. I’ve had the same conversation with other friends in their late 20s and 30s (and 40s)… how the fuck do you make friends as a grown up? I was reminded of a question we got recently from a reader asking about making friends, saying, “I’m not cool like Ariel so I can’t just meet people out dancing.”
Uh, thank you for that adorably vintage impression of my life, sweet reader… but my social life hasn’t revolved around going out dancing in over a decade. When I think of the friends I’ve made in the last 5 years, they’re people who’ve come to me via parenting groups and book clubs. They’re people who moved in next door, or who my mom introduced me to. This is not the way I made friends in my early 20s, when it was all pills and back-rubs and speaker-stack hugs. Those people are still my friends too, but these days I make friends like anyone else: through mutual interests, people, or groups. It took effort to make these connections — and continues to take an ongoing commitment to stay connected.
Look: I don’t want to dictate that anyone needs to make friends. I’ve got mad love for the introverts, and serious sympathy for those who wrestle with social anxiety disorders — but for the rest of us who are just dealing with run-of-the-mill social apathy? Here are my common sense tips for grown-up friend-making:
Stop thinking friendships “just happen” (or fall into place for everyone but you)
Maybe friendships “just happen” in your early 20s, when more folks are in a state of joyfully stumbling around exploring who they are and what they like and what they want, but in your 30s and older, friendships take serious commitment and time. Lots of folks are busy with stuff (work, housekeeping, general “being a grownup keeping your crap together” bullshit), and so you have to seriously invest time in finding, nourishing, and maintaining your friendships. Don’t let yourself get into a pity loop about how other people have friends just fall into their lives — for most of us, real friendships take real time and real commitment.
Be forward and direct
When I meet someone who I feel like I might click with, I get crazy forward. I have honestly said these exact words: “You seem really cool! Let’s try to be friends!” It’s like kindergarten: HI I LIKE YOU. PLEASE LET’S TRY TO BE FRIENDS NOW. Making friends as an adult is not a time to be coy or play hard-to-get. You have to be direct and forward. This is notoriously difficult in my hometown of Seattle, known for passive aggressiveness and “The Seattle Freeze” … but I think it’s also just endemic of our tech-focused era. (As another Seattleite said, “Apps this good, who’s got time to make friends?”) So yeah: it’s hard to break out of your iPhone bubble and be forward with people you want to be friends with… but it’s worth it.
Don’t talk about making plans; MAKE PLANS
It’s so easy to get into endless loop around “We should get together” and “Yeah we totally should” and “Yeah totally we should maybe do that some time.” If you want to be someone’s friend, contact them with a pitch: “I’m thinking of going to an author reading at the bookstore this Thursday. Wanna go with me and grab a drink after?” If they can’t, then say, “Well, I’d really like to hang out — is there a time that works for you?” Avoid the dreaded “checking calendars” and endless texting back and forth about maybes and bla bla. Pick up the fucking phone, and make fucking plans.
Okay, so you just moved to a new location and you're looking to make friends? Have you ever thought about doing so with a Frisbee?... Read more
Keep trying, over and over again
My general rule is to try to make plans with someone FIVE times before giving up. (And if I’m trying to make plans with a parent, it’s seriously like 10 times!) In my 20s, if a friendship didn’t easily click into place, I’d bail. Here in my 30s I’ve learned that we’re all busy and you have to commit to getting over your butthurt when people can’t hang out. Try again. Then try again. Obviously, be sensitive to cues that someone isn’t interested in being your friend (dude, it happens!), but ditch the self-pitying narrative about how no one wants to hang out with you. Friendships take time. Friendships take effort. This is what effort looks like.
When you want to go check facebook, directly contact a friend instead
This is something HUGE that I’ve been trying to work this year: Instead of pacifying my loneliness with passive social media consumption (which gives the sensation of socializing, but without actually CONNECTING to anyone)… when I feel lonely, I contact a friend directly. One on one. Even if it’s just to say “Hey, you popped into my mind! I hope you’re having an awesome day,” it’s a REAL connection that goes much farther towards maintaining true friendships than passive social media consumption. Everyone likes to feel remembered, and if you want to make real life friends, lurking on social media isn’t getting you there.
Consider organized groups or even churches
This is one of those things that I thought was silly when I was younger, but now I really see the value. When you work alone and aren’t close with your neighbors, you need to find groups of people who share your interests. I’m so happy to have a book club, even when I don’t like everyone in it or hate the book we’re reading… because it feels so good to come together and share an experience with people. Do you like taking pictures? Join a local photo walk! Interested in philosophy? Look for a Unitarian Church and go get your agnostic philosophy on! Have a dog? Look for a meet-up!
Remember: most people only have 2-3 close friends
I think many of us have gotten the warped impression that everyone but us has these huge groups of close friends, and it’s just not true. Again, it’s easy to get into a looping victim narrative — and that time spent feeling sorry about not having enough friends is time you could be dedicating to cultivating a couple close friendships.
These are the things that have worked for me, but I’m super curious — how do you guys make friends? Is it really basically just like dating, but without the sex?
Comments on How to make friends as a grown up: stop being a victim, start making plans
LOVE this. This is good information for everyone, any age.
Thank you. Some very good points. I need to make, more of an effort, that I have been. Most of my friends are very busy with their lives, and their extended families. And they check in with me via testing, but texting doesn’t get me out of the house, doing something. My problem is finding friends that want to do something outdoors, and not sit around and talk or drink all night. Women are so hard to read sometimes, and you don’t want to push yourself on someone, who doesn’t have any interest in being friends, but not asking, more than twice, is not a great effort either. Definitely going to find groups with similar interests and go from there. Have a great day.
I needed to read this right now! I’m trying to make friends in the city I’ve lived in for seven (!) years.
I would’ve never thought to try to make plans five times before giving up. I would think 2-3 times would be a sign that it wasn’t going to happen.
Joining organized groups is a good one. If not a church or neighborhood group, then volunteering with an organization. I’ve just started doing that and have found that even if I don’t meet anyone I’m interested in pursuing as a friend, I still have a good time and feel like I’ve done something good.
Agreed on the volunteering point: I have met so many people just by signing up to work for various groups that provide services/entertainment that interests me. Eventually, when you end up in the same circle of folks over and over again, it gets easier to branch out to seeing them beyond just your mutual activity of interest.
Another “YES!” for volunteering! I work for the National Park Service, and we have a large group of volunteers here at my monument. While it makes my job easier to have them around, it also warms my heart to see how many of them have made such great friends here.
Hey, I’m in St. Aug too! Wanna be friends? 😀
Me too! We should have like a meetup or something.
I totally agree with the volunteering thing! I just joined a volunteer program where you volunteer at a series of organizations, but with the same group. I just went to the first one, and I really liked everyone who was there! I have a feeling I will make at least a few friendships out of it. I had the same rationale when I signed up. If I didn’t like anyone, it would still be doing something to help people.
That sounds awesome, what’s the name of the program? (maybe they have it in Austin TX!)
meetup.com is awesome for this if you don’t want to do a churchy thing. I went to ONE parenting meetup and met some lovely ladies who happen to live IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD! We’re now planning a 4th of July barbecue. It’s awesome!
I second the point about actually making contact with your existing friends. I have moved around my whole life, and my young adult life has been particularly transient. As a result, I have lots of awesome friends, but most of them don’t live anywhere near me. Some of my closest, longest-lasting friendships during this time are with people I haven’t seen in years, but we have continued to carve out space for each other in our schedules. It can be a little weird at first if you aren’t used to actually calling the friend in question, but once you are woven back into the fabric of each others lives in this new way, it’s shockingly normal.
Agreed! My husband was a military kid who moved constantly, and routinely says he’s jealous of the number of friends I’ve known for multiple years, 10+, or even my whole life. He doesn’t realize that the few friends of his that he’s stayed in touch with are now going on 10-12 years… even if he only lived in close proximity to them for short periods of time.
THIS! My best friend and I have been speaking every week for EIGHT YEARS! The weekly continuity has helped and we try to get together at least 3-4 times a year, even though we live about 200 miles apart!
But then I need to remember to make friends in-town and not just rely on my 1 awesome phone friend (as well as remember that I don’t have to have just one awesome phone friend!)
Lately I’ve been having luck cultivating friendships with people I only knew very casually.
That random girl that I met in a meeting at University that I barely ever spoke to, but added on Facebook? Hey, it’s been 7 years, but I comment on her stuff, she comments on my stuff, we think alike, I get the feeling we’d be good friends. So we grab coffee and hit it off. Another new friend: the cousin of my elementary school BFF. Haven’t seen her in 15 years since we were children; turns out we live close to each other now, and our adult interests are very similar!
The internet seems to play a role in all my real life friendships, haha…
When facebook first came out, people would be weirded out if you commented to their face about something they posted. I think now that we’re so used to social media, the line between facebook and real life is blurred. People don’t find it strange anymore if you go up to them and start a conversation based on pictures or links they posted, and people will reference things they’ve posted in face to face conversations. Which is great for me because I don’t like having entire conversations on facebook!
Social media shouldn’t be your entire social life, but it sure helps as a starting point sometimes!
I love Facebook! It made my 25th high school reunion easier – not everyone was a stranger that I hadn’t had contact with in 15 years, there were already casual relationships in place because we see each other on-line.
It’s also helped me build relationships with cousins outside of my immediate family group. My family moved away when I was in grade school so I didn’t grow up with any of them and only saw a handful yearly when we went home to visit. Thanks to FB I have connections to a family network that I wouldn’t have any other way – including the young ones that are 30 years younger than me.
I’ve found you can have close friends for different things in your life. Which is much easier than the dating! When I was younger that seemed like a horrible thing to say. Yet after I came to terms with that philosophy it became much easier to be a good friend and meet new people. The people I befriend are genuinely great people, but not all of them have the interest or stamina to be the coveted “bestie.” So I have some friends who I don’t go into much personal details but can nerd-out over [hobby]. Other friends loooove commiserating and discussing the difficulties in life. And a select wonderful few just enjoy chilling on the couch and letting life happen.
off-topic: Why does Gravatar work for some people on OBH&L but not everyone?
I’ve had no problem getting my Gravatar to work. Perhaps the e-mail address you use to post, and the one you signed up with do not match?
And I think many OB commenters do not use Gravatar.
But I’m not familiar with all their tech, so perhaps someone can give a better answer.
So as not to derail this convo, let’s talk about gravatar over here: https://offbeatempire.com/gravatar 🙂
“Just like dating but without the sex” strikes me as a super-apt description of it — ESPECIALLY trying to make “couple-friends” (where it’s not just a matter of one person liking one other person and being liked back, but of two (romantically involved) people liking two other (romantically involved) people, and both being liked back by both of them — plus you have four schedules to work around).
In the late-teens / early twenties, if you live in rez at university, friendships (and romances) seem to just happen organically, but as soon as you’re out, meeting people can be more difficult, and turning people you’ve met from casual acquaintances into actual friends can be super-hard. At this point, all of my closest friends are from first-year university (when I lived in rez) and before. This means that I have two close friends (who are married to each other) who live in the same city as I do, and a couple others scattered across the continent — plus a large number of acquaintances, both locally and scattered, with whom I basically never do anything.
My husband and I are trying to turn some acquaintances into friends, but it’s slow going between our schedule and theirs. So far, we’ve done one thing together, and it was awesome. We invited them to do another thing, but scheduling didn’t work out, so now we’re waiting for our schedules to be a little tamer before proposing another shared activity at some point.
I completely agree with you about friendships happening organically in college. If only someone had told me that it’s so much harder to make friends in the real world, I may have tried harder to keep the ones I had in college. Nothing like making friends with someone simply because you live near them or take the same class as them.
I also have had a problem meeting people in the past because I moved to a new state to take a Human Resources job. When you’re the HR chick, it’s not a good idea to go out socially with the employees, and I used that excuse to stick my head in the sand, stay home, and not actively make friends. I also married someone who doesn’t have much of a social circle, so not expanding friends there .I guess it would be a good idea to join the book club at the library to meet people…
I agree about what you say about turning aquintances into friends. This is such hard work to cross that line into a real friendship. I often wonder if those people who seem to have billions of friends are actually just counting their aquintances! For me there is definitely a difference.
I have had this conversation (read as: complained to my college friends who I moved away from) so many times. It’s comforting to know that other people struggle with this too, and most people already have the tools to overcome this, you just have to use them.
My husband and I moved from within an hour of our childhood towns halfway across the country three years ago, and it’s only been in the last six months that I’ve really started feeling like we’re making progress on the friend front. Having a baby has helped…
I agree with ALL of the above advice, plus one thing: make STANDING plans! One group of friends meets for a monthly pot luck brunch – mostly moms and babies, a few dads. Another two moms who have babies the same age as mine have started meeting me at our weekly farmers market (there’s music and ice cream and cool people). Also, my husband and I drop the baby off with his grandparents and attend a monthly event at our local bar (a different brewery rep comes and does a free tasting), where we’ve made friends with three other couples that always attend.
Don’t give up!
I would also add Standing Conversations! If you start to talk to friend X every Wednesday when you drive to work, and friend Y when you drive home on Thursday, whether every week or every few weeks, suddenly your drive is more interesting and you are SUPER down with everything happening in both X’s and Y’s life. I even do this with my dad!
Great suggestion! It’s easier for people to show up when they can plan on it happening at the same time, same place each week/month. If they can’t make it, no big deal–they already know when the next gathering will happen. The other advantage of standing plans is that it makes it easier for people to invite their other friends, thus broadening your circle.
Yes Yes Yes to Standing Plans. I met a whole group of random people in my new city by being invited to Friday Night Dinner. I think it started with a couple of guys who were friends in high school, and everyone just invited other people, who invited other people. Every Friday night we meet at a different restaurant, location sent out by text message. Time stays the same. You come or you don’t, depending on your plans and your affinity for the particular restaurant. Even if you never become “besties” with any one person, you still have people to do stuff with, and a social connection outside of work or Facebook. We’ve made couple friends and individual friends, and have gone to festivals and concerts with “the group”. I’m lucky that I wandered into an established group with a main person who sends out the text messages, but there’s no reason you couldn’t start your own similar group. I barely even talk to the girl who introduced me to the group in the first place, but have a good time with whomever shows up!
Standing plans! Yes. this is how my bookclub meets.
I know that right now I am in the “It’s easy to make friends” stage. However, when I move back home from being abroad, I am going to seriously think about making friends and feeling like part of a community.
I am thinking about 3 options seriously: 1) Professional women’s group which hosts talks on different subject every month, 2) Joining a dance class – I’ve never learned to dance, but I know there are many community classes, 3) A local beer & book club that meets at local pubs to discuss book club picks.
I only know a contact in the first one, the rest I read about on fliers at the local library. So I think “Reading Event Ads” is a significant part of my strategy to meet new people.
I have friends scattered all over the place, mostly my good friends from high school and college. The problem I’m running into now in my new city is that I keep comparing the new people I meet to my old established friendships…and they don’t measure up.
How do I get around this?
Try to stop viewing people as competing with each other (A is better than B) and start viewing them as complimenting each other (A is great at X, and B is great at Y!). Try to imagine which of your new friends would get along with your old friends, and try to appreciate your new friends strengths, in ADDITION to your old friend’s awesomeness. Friendships aren’t zero-sum economies — liking new friends does not take anything away from your old friends, so there’s no need to compare.
There’s a reason certain friendships work for so many years even if you are far apart and go through lots of changes in your life. It takes time and effort to build up that level of friendship! So it’s not so much about comparing, it’s about effort. For an introvert to maintain old friendships long distance AND actively pursue new local friendships, it requires a lot of effort and energy. A lot of times I would rather catch up with an old friend on the phone than face an awkward social situation with people I don’t know.
My current local friends are ones I’ve met through clubs based around a shared interest, but outside of that we don’t always have a lot in common. We hang out frequently outside of the club in a large group, and the conversation is mainly always about the club or related things. Still, it’s difficult to try and develop a broader, deeper friendship with a couple people within the group for all the reasons Ariel mentioned in the post! So, I am good at making new local superficial friends, but I am going to make more of an effort using the tips above to try and cultivate different types of friendships. I was just thinking about this yesterday, so the timing of this post was perfect. 🙂
It takes time to develop relationships – which is what you had with your friends from school, but haven’t put the time into the new people you’re meeting now.
I had dinner last night with a friend who is dear to me and the conversation flowed naturally. The first year or so of our friendship, however, was comfortable but awkward at times. Now it’s easy and flowing.
Hang in there and give the new people in your life time to have the relationship blossom!
(Come to think of it, all of my current close friendships had slow starts. So give it time – these new people are just as neat as your old friends!)
Thanks for posting this! I just moved across the country (Florida to Washington) and have a newborn, so I really need a little encouragement in this area. I love your advice! Thanks!
Maggie – where are you in Washington? We’re new to Spokane, and are having a time of it making friends. Are you close to this side of the state?
M! Spokane is actually a pretty friendly place (I just moved AWAY from there after 12 years off and on [mostly on]), but a lot of it can be mobilized around interests. If you’re interested in progressive politics, there are a number of groups that have meetups. Auntie’s Bookstore has great author readings and First Friday downtown is really actively supported by a LOT of people. There is also a thriving pool league where a friend of mine met a lot of her friends. If you like board games, I’m pretty sure that Chairs still has a boardgame night (coffee shop, kid and sobriety-friendly) and I know a number of bars (if that’s your thing) that have trivia nights that end up fostering a sense of community. Oh! There’s also a poetry slam community – small and very welcoming. AND! There are two roller derby leagues (and one youth team) that always need volunteers, members, coaches, non-skating officials, etc.
If there are particular interests or hobbies that you’re into, let me know! I might know someplace where you could meet groups of folks!
I live in the Spokane area! (Post Falls, ID)
The Wanderlust Circus is going to be in Spokane on July 4th. It’s a great family-friendly act based out of Portland, Oregon. I bet a lot of Offbeat Homies would like to go. Maybe a few will see this and you guys can go together! You can get tickets at Tickets West. I don’t really know how to exchange info in order to meet up on a public forum without giving your info to EVERYONE, but hey, it’s worth a shot!
(Also mods, don’t delete me/this! I’m not an advertiser and I don’t make money off of this. Just letting people know!) 🙂
Your concept of trying five times reminds me of my party invite policy. I invite tens or hundreds of people and expect a 20% return rate. Twenty percent or lower. People think I’m popular because I can get 50 people to turn out, but I invited 300 people (or the entire sport listserv). Maybe there’s some inherent one in five law about getting people to come out. You just have to be comfortable with that kind of return. It doesn’t mean anything personal about the asker.
I totally agree with the “make plans” thing. I’ve learned from experience that if my friends and I say “we should get together next week” that it never happens. But if we pick a day, it usually happens or we pick a replacement day if we need to postpone.
I’ve been lucky but one thing I’ve found is that talking about my hobbies with people has been the most helpful in making new friends. If I’m more open about the things I’m into, I tend to discover other people who are also into these things. One woman I’ve known sort of in passing through work for a while has now become a good friend now that we know we share a hobby. She got me even more into it and we text about it, share things, and bond over the hobby. Likewise another friend I met through work but we bonded over loving stationary and then over needing to visit a bookstore.
It takes time and effort to make friends. So if you can’t find them through work, then it can take putting yourself out there. My dude, who has social anxiety issues, has a very small group of friends but he has met people through school and met acquaintances by being dragged into going to a local sketch jam group. Volunteering is great, hobbies are great, and just getting out there to be involved in your interests. But I’m with Ariel, sometimes you just have to be out there and say you want to try to be friends.
My longterm friends and I have drifted somewhat. We’ve all changed and some of us stay in touch, some less. One couple I’m friends with just regularly sends out invites for gatherings at their house. Sometimes no one comes, sometimes a bunch of people come. But doing that and knowing that they are willing to host means I can show up. So if you can be the host, that’s awesome. If you know a variety of people, then inviting them and letting them mingle can help too. Become a social network hub (in the non-online way).
Ahh why is it so hard? I moved to an area where it seems like pretty much everyone who grows up here…stays here! Almost everyone I’ve met in the last 6 years grew up here. Consequently they all have these cemented friends groups that make it hard to get included in anything. My friends are so spread out and all the mom groups in the area meet during the work week. What I wouldn’t give for a girl’s night! I’m always so paranoid when people are “busy” when we’re trying to make plans that they’re actually trying to blow me off that I probably give up way too easily on people!.
Step 1: Stop giving up!
Step 2: Start recognizing that sometimes “old school” groups of friends need an injection of new blood… you may spend an unfair amount of time listening to “good ol’ days” stories for a while, but eventually you’ll be part of the “good new days” stories. 🙂
Yup, you gotta be patient with this one! I joined a friend group that was all of my sister-in-law’s friends, from elementary school or sunday school or gymanstics growing up when I moved here 7 years ago. It’s taken a long time, but I persisted…went to the ‘whole gang’ activities and then started trying to host a little 1-1 coffee dates with different gals. Just now, after a solid 5 years am I finally feeling like I’ve broken into the circle and they are MY friends and not just my sister-in-law’s friends. But I saw them as people I wanted to get to know and so I just kept at it…and tried to leave my self-consciousness at home.
I now live in my husband’s home town. He knows everyone, and when they get together they talk about the good old days, and it’s hard for me to join in that type of convo when I didn’t share that experience with them. Because I’m not part of the “local crowd” I am often overlooked or forgotten when they plan events. It’s hard sometimes to remember that I didn’t get the invite not because they don’t like me, but because I’m not on their social radar being a new person in town. I don’t really have any advice to offer, only that you gotta be patient and keep trying!
You are so right about contacting someone 5 times! Even my best friends, geez, it does take that long just to actually, finally, really get together. So new people? OMG, yes. And it feels like they’re blowing you off, but no, I do it too. We’re all so freakin’ busy / lazy / complicated / nervous / weird / worried / whatever. It’s hard. Keep trying.
I’ve found lately that I approach making friends very much like dating, hopefully without anyone misinterpreting my intentions. I’m in my 20s and newly single, and live in Los Angeles, land of disconnectedness. It’s not easy to make friends here like it was where I’m from, New York, where everyone is out exploring. LA is a vast land of social isolation, from everyone commuting alone in their cars to being buried in their iPhones.
I’ve been keeping myself very busy and socially active in my new singlehood, which has involved both connecting with old friends and making new ones. There are some people I haven’t seen in three or four years, who I’ll message on Facebook with something like, “Hi! I know it’s been forever, but I’m going to [insert event here] and thought it might be something you’d enjoy. Let me know, either way I hope you’re doing well and I’d love to catch up!”
I also make new friends by being pretty blunt about wanting to be friends. What is fortunate about living in LA is that many people my age are transplants from elsewhere and feel like they have no friends, so typically no one looks at me like I’m crazy when I announce my friendship intentions in our conversation and ask the best way to connect with them. I do think they’re surprised when I follow up within a few days (many people here are all talk), and since LA is a tricky city to navigate socially, I’ll usually give a friendship 5 – 10 hang out attempts before giving up.
Sadly here it is completely socially acceptable and understandable to respond to an invite, “Oh man, I’d LOVE to see that comedy show in Los Feliz with you, but I’m over on the Westside and on a Friday I just can’t bear that traffic.” Or even, “Where are you? I’d love to if we can carpool. I have street parking and I got the last spot on the non-street-cleaning side.” This isn’t an easy place to make friends, but my dating-like-approach seems to be working.
…Now at some point I’ll have to remember how to use these skills for actual dating. 😉
Haha, yes! I have definitely pulled the, “You want us to meet you in Santa Monica? Are you kidding?! That’s gonna be at least an hour in traffic.” Darn LA and its absurd sprawl….
Stephanie from Offbeat Families visited me in LA this week and I explained to her, while visiting Santa Monica, that once people move to the West Side, your friendship is basically over. It’s as if they’ve moved out of state. 😉
Why don’t you have a link or something with your comment so other LA Homies can find you and hang out with you???
Remember this post? http://offbeathome.com/2013/06/ways-to-cope-when-you-didnt-get-the-home#comments
So we got the house. We’re going to have a housewarming party, probably in August. You’re coming. Email me.
(see, making friends is easy- ask and you shall receive 🙂 )
I’m in LA too! The North Hollywood area (well… soon. we are moving in a week). I’ve never been that good at making friends and now, staying at home with a baby and not having a car, well… it’s impossible.
We do sometimes socialize with a large group of Mormons, which is nice, but a little awkward since we are SO NOT Mormon.
That last point was a nice reminder for me. I often convince myself that everyone else has a huge group of amazingly close BFFs while I have one really close friend nearby and a couple more scattered across the country. I’ve also noticed that this just seems to be my default setting… I’m naturally introverted, and I pretty much always have one really close friend (aside from my spouse) and then several other semi-close-friends who I hang out with regularly–mostly in groups with my other friends–but don’t dedicate the same energy to as my closest friend.
Ironically, I seem to do this every time I move to a new place… so I now have several really close friends from different times/places in my life.
Something I don’t see mentioned here at all is what I do: Talk to everyone. I know this may only work for extroverted types (and even for me, it’s not always easy).
I have a lot of friends. A LOT. All over the world, all over the country, all over LA. At a party I hosted recently, someone asked me how I knew most of the people there. I went around the room and it went like this:
-Met in an elevator
-Met walking my dogs
-Met behind my last apartment building while cleaning my car
-Met swing dancing
-Met at Ren Faire
-Met at a convention
-Met while purchasing something on Craigslist
-Met at the grocery store
-Met at the gym
-Met at yoga
-Met on the beach
-Met motorcycle riding
-Met on the side of the freeway
-Met at a leadership course
-Met at my store
-Met at an art gallery
Etc. Etc. Etc. I just talk to people and ask them questions about stuff, am genuinely interested in others, and BAM, find out we have something in common. I have so many groups of people from so many different interests I have, but it all just comes down to talking to them- even when it’s not comfortable or I don’t think we would possibly have anything in common. We always do. In fact, the less comfortable I am in a situation, the more it benefits me to talk to people instead of sitting there feeling nervous/weird.
Again, YMMV, and this might be pure torture for introverts. My hubster is more introverted, so he just kinda waits for me to open up a convo with someone, and then he starts to participate after observing for a bit. Maybe that would be good for the more introverted?
This: ” it all just comes down to talking to them- even when it’s not comfortable”
I heard on the radio a few years ago about a woman who did a year of ‘friend dating,’ where she challenged herself to go on a friend date with someone EVERY week. It was a new person each week, I believe, and from it she became really close to several people and found that you don’t always click with people but if you keep putting yourself out there you will find friends. But it takes work.
I’ve wanted to do “blind friend dates” where I set up friends of mine who don’t know each other but would probably hit it off. Or you could do the same at a party, even being explicit about it: “Everyone bring a friend that you think others at the party would like to meet.”
I’ve totally done that… I call it “being each other’s people”. Like “hey Steve, amy and Seth are going to the beach thing tonight and don’t have a ride. I can’t make it but you are definitely each other’s people; want me to pass on her info?”
Love it when my circle ends up hanging out/working/starting new things together and I don’t even end up having to be the hub of it all. I’ve connected circles of friends in other cities, moved away, and nowthey are inseparable!
When I started grad school, our department sponsored a bunch of “speed friending” events. It was structured like speed dating, but with the intention of getting to know people and finding shared interests. A bunch of us realized that we like to cook and ended up starting a monthly potluck group, which has given us all the opportunity to become much closer.
I got similar results with this method doing it for orientation fortnight at university. Best ‘grit-teeth-and-do-it’ time ever.
The idea that friendships ever “just happened” -blows my mind-. I can recall back in junior high psyching myself out to make friends and talk to people (okay, self, go in there talk to that girl who mentioned Star Trek, your opening line is “I really like your Pochacco shirt” ask if she wants to see a movie with you).
Making friends -is- like dating, I don’t do it often and I have a hard time doing it casually (You like this thing I like AND you laughed at my jokes? TELL ME ALL YOUR HOPES AND DREAMS).
As someone who is socially anxious I know it’s a truly terrible idea to compare your social life to your perceptions of other people’s social lives (for me the spiral starts with “normal people do x” and let me tell you nothing good ever comes out of this spiral). Social media is terrible for this because it offers a curated view into other people’s lives; when you’re looking at people offering up the best versions of themselves it’s so easy to compare yourself and find your life lacking (gosh my life isn’t as beautiful/organized/happy as this collection of photos! …. What’s wrong with me?!).
I’m never going to win a competition with my facebook feed and that’s okay; I am totally capable of having (and do have) a small but rewarding social life. My husband is similarly anxious and instead of using this as an excuse to never leave our house, we, knowing each other’s limits, push (gently, but firmly) each other to meet people and do things.
Can I just say, I would kind of love it if a new friend blurted out TELL ME ALL YOUR DREAMS in the middle of a convo. So much of new friendships feels like repetitive small-talk, which can get old fast.
Once, when I met someone new, after a bit of chit-chat she asked my age (I was 24, she was 18). And rather than just moving on, she said, “24? What’s that like?!?” It was the craziest question, because I’d never really thought about it, but was totally great, and really got us both talking about our lives.
I moved countries a while ago, and while it’s been a great idea, it’s hard to make good, new friends (I was bad at it when I was a kid, too, so retro neurosis ahoy!) – I like my partner’s friends, but relying on them or on work people is not a good strategy. I’m going to try meetup.com as well and bear your tips in mind!
Sometimes being bad at making friends is a way to actually make friends.
One of my best friendships came about because we didn’t like each other at first, but were forced into a group to work together. Throughout most of the project we were fighting against each other, being a bit mean, etc. Then we realized we would never get anything done if we were being so standoffish with each other. By the end of the project, we were BFFs!
Oh dear me, this is so relevant to me at the moment! Going through a lot of life transitions (basically revolving round finishing my PhD and getting a real job), I realised I didn’t have that many close friends any more, because all my school and university friends have moved to London. Now, I can visit them and all, but it’s a bit more of an effort.
As I was resolving to socialise more, I went out to a university event and really hit it off with a girl seated across from me at dinner. I messaged her the next day and said, “Hey, it was great meeting you yesterday, want to get coffee some time soon?” When we did meet up, she said she was really glad I’d got in touch, because she’d really liked me and had been worrying it would be weird if she “asked me out”! So that worked out well.
Similarly, I met someone I liked on a training course for work, and we discovered we had some friends in common – so I was like, “Hey, how about you and me and our two mutual friends go to the pub after work on Friday?”
What’s been lovely about this is that, now that I got the ball rolling, these new “friend-dates” have snowballed – both new people have invited me to parties, housewarmings, more coffee dates… it was so worth it.
I’m also moving to a new job soon, where there will be lots of new people, and I’m vowing to be more proactive than I’ve been in the past… and maybe try to work from home less… Watch this space.
Ooh, I just remembered another tip. When you see someone ARRANGE THE NEXT TIME YOU WILL SEE THEM BEFORE YOU LEAVE.
I ran into an old friend at a party recently, and he started doing this, literally got his diary out. I thought that was a bit weird, but he explained that it’s what his parents always do, and it works so much better than just saying ‘so let’s do this again soon’. He was so right.
This is all great advice. One other thing – don’t shy away from having small “parties” when you do meet people. I feel like its less stressful on the new friendship, because you can talk for 5 minutes or 30 minutes without it being weird. They can hang out with their significant other I’d they’re shy , or meet lots of new people if they’re not. People can come for 45 minutes or 3 hours. Especially if you have kids, even 8 adults feels like a “party” and it’s a nice way of mixing old and new friends and squeezing everyone in on a packed schedule.
The timing of this post could not have been more relevant! I moved to Denver about 3 years ago and spent SO much energy trying to meet new people and make friends (friend-making takes a LOT of energy when you are an introvert). I eventually ended up with a couple pretty awesome friends!
Then over the past year the new friends have all moved out of the State 🙁 Now I feel like I am starting from square one and this post just made me realize that I have been spending a lot of energy feeling sorry for myself when I could be using my energy trying to do something to change my situation. Thanks for the advice for my friend-making adventure v2.0!!
I have a hard time making friends where I live. We have the Mister’s friends, but they’re more his friends than my friends. My friends live all over the world, so it’s not like we can get together for coffee or have a dinner party. I love when they visit! We have a great time and get to do things we don’t normally get to do. Playing tourist is always a great reason to explore.
I keep thinking, “When I do THIS, I’ll make friends with my interests.” I have volunteering friends and work friends, but none of them feel like my actual friends. My friends from college that live here…it’s like the LA thing. You don’t make an effort to get together because of traffic. I need a hobby that doesn’t start before 10:00 am on the weekends 🙁
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