Making friends when you’re younger is straightforward: sit next to the same person in Psych101 every week and you’ve found yourself a new buddy. But things are different as an adult. Other than your place of work, where are you supposed to meet people? And what if your co-workers are not your cup of tea? Or if you’re someone who’d like to keep co-workers and friendships separate? Or if you don’t work, where the hell are you supposed to meet people then? Today’s post talks about this very conundrum of where on earth you meet people as an adult.
Listen to sociologists.
According to sociologists, forming new friendships depends on three main factors: proximity, repeated interactions, and a friendly environment. In other words, if you’re in a safe environment where you’re going to see the same people regularly over time, you’re bound to make friends. This is precisely why making friends in class was so easy—because it followed this exact formula!
2. Start with an interest.
So you need a friendly environment where you’ll have regular interactions with people. Well, where do you find that? My advice here is to let your hobbies and interests lead the way. If you’re interested in drawing, try a group class. If you like running, join Running Room if possible so you’re running with the same group of people on a regular basis. Keep in mind that you don’t need to choose a skill you’re already good at; maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to do pottery and can finally sign yourself up for a class.
3. Do things on a schedule.
Your day is likely filled with a lot of routine activities like taking the dog for a walk, going to the gym, etc. Try doing these things on a more consistent schedule so that you’re more likely to see the same people there. So, maybe you end up taking your dog to the same dog park every Sunday at 10am. Chances are, you’ll start seeing some familiar faces and can strike up a conversation from there.
4. Go online.
There are a ton of online resources for making friends now. MeetUp is one that allows you to find local groups of people with similar interests as you, and there’s often no charge for being involved in these groups. For example, a group of people nearby might post on MeetUp that they’re going for a hike this weekend and you can choose to tag along with them. These are typically people who don’t know each other, so you’re all in the same boat!
GirlFriendCircles is another one, which is for women who are looking to connect with other women to form deep friendships.
BumbleBFF is another one. Bumble was actually initially created—and is still used as—a dating app, but the creators realized that it could be incredibly useful for people looking to make friends. All you have to do is upload some photos, fill out your profile, and then you “swipe through” potential friends until you’ve found a match. I relied on BumbleBFF a lot when I moved to Guelph and didn’t know anyone, and I’m happy to say I made two great girlfriends out of it!
Volunteering is an excellent way to meet people. In fact, I met two of my very close friends from my time volunteering at a suicide hotline a few year’s back! First of all, the majority of people who volunteer are kind-hearted, friendly individuals who are open-minded as well, which are all great qualities in a potential friend. Secondly, the organization you decide to volunteer with will bring you together with like-minded individuals to have a similar passion. If you’re volunteering at an animal shelter, for example, you’re going to be meeting people who similarly have a passion for helping animals.
So I’ve done all these things… now what?
So let’s say you’re volunteering, you’re taking a new pottery class, or you’re seeing the same people at the dog park each week. Now what? How do you strike up a conversation with someone new? Here are some tips:
1. Start by asking them a simple question.
Use your environment or the activity at hand as a springboard for this. For example, if you’re at the dog park you could ask, “How long have you had your dog for?” If you’re taking a pottery class you could ask, “How are you liking the class so far?” Any question will do!
2. Comment on something pleasant in the environment.
Your environment can offer a plethora of opportunities to start a conversation. I feel it’s usually best to avoid starting the conversion with a negative observation as people may interpret this as you being a Debbie Downer or you may offend them in some capacity. But why don’t you comment on the music that’s playing? Or the finger food that’s being served. “This place is really cool! Have you ever been here before?” It’s hard to not engage in conversation when someone asks you that.
3. A simple “how are you” goes a long way.
There’s no need to over-complicate things here! Going up to someone and asking how their day is going is a great way to open the floor for a conversation.
4. Get over your fear of rejection.
If you’re someone who’s rather anxious, it’s likely that you’ve thought of every possible scenario of how striking up a conversation with someone will go poorly. From my experience, however, if you’re a friendly, well-meaning person, it’s very rare that people will just not talk to you. Plus, there are a ton of people out there who are in the same position as you in terms of being unsure of how to make friends. When you take the initiative to ask them a conversation, it’s likely that they’ll be extremely grateful that you took the first step to engage.
The Next Step
Once you’ve talked to someone consistently and feel as though there’s the potential for friendship, suggest an activity you can do outside of the usual environment in which you meet up. A good starting point here is to suggest something after the activity one week: “Hey, there’s this new cafe I’ve been wanting to try nearby. Would you want to try it out with me after one of our classes one week?”
The Bottom Line
If you're someone who's wanting to make new friends but don't know how, you're absolutely not alone. There are so many people in your situation who would be incredibly relieved to have someone come up to them and strike up a conversation. And while your brain might be convincing you that something awful will happen if you were to put yourself out there, my guess is that you'd actually be pleasantly surprised.
You Tell Me!
What's your tip for making new friends? Let me know in the comments below!