People are social beings and often we are happier when surrounded by others who share similar interests, hobbies, or life experiences. Some people maintain old friendships throughout their school years and into adulthood, but more often childhood friends drift apart, either physically by moving away or simply getting older and having less in common.
While some people seem to have the ability to make friends effortlessly in an instant, others find that making connections with new people can be intimidating and difficult. Since social interactions are such a big part of our lives it is best to try to push through the uncomfortable feelings and getting out there to meet new people. Making new friends can be very rewarding and definitely worth the effort. Having companions to laugh with and confide in makes the hard times bearable and the good times even better.
Types of Friends
Friends typically fall into three categories:
Acquaintances. These are people you know, you say hello when you see each other, you may know a little bit about each other but conversations are often short and limited to broad, less personal topics. Coworkers, schoolmates and friends of friends are often acquaintances, you know each other, but rarely socialize outside of your common arena.
Social friends. These are people who you spend more time with. There is more of a personal connection and conversations are more personal and involved. These would be the main people in your social circle. You would attend events, activities, parties, etc. with social friends.
Best Friends. This type of relationship becomes much scarcer as we get older. A best friend is someone who has a deeper connection with you. They are a trusted confidant and advisor and someone with whom you can always be yourself.
Depending on the type of person you are, you may actively seek out any or all of these types of friendships. Solitary individuals may prefer to have a few social friends and acquaintances, but wish to keep relationships too impersonal to really maintain a best friend. More gregarious personalities may be more open and require many more personal connections.
Start With People You Know
When trying to figure out how to make new friends, it is much less intimidating to start off your friend search within your existing circle of friends and acquaintances.
Today’s internet and social media websites now offer better opportunities than ever before to enhance existing relationships and even make new friends from the comfort of your own home. Send an email or text message to an old acquaintance or begin commenting on their blogs and status updates. Taking an interest in their lives online gives you the opportunity to open up face to face conversations when you next meet. It also gives you an opportunity to make connections with their online friends as well.
Accept invitations. It is fine to be a homebody, but it certainly makes it more difficult to make new friends. Say yes to that birthday party, attend that sporting event, go to a grand opening. If someone invites you, step out of your comfort zone and go out.
How to Make New Friends Outside of Your Social Circle
Sometimes there isn’t a current circle of acquaintances to draw from. In the case of a move or divorce, you may be struggling to figure out how to make new friends from scratch.
Again social networking sites can help you identify groups of people who share interests and lifestyles. Meetup.com is a great place to search for established groups in your area that get together regularly. Other online communities offer forums to express opinions and thoughts. This is also a good way to meet new people.
Take a class or workshop. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn? Are you looking to better yourself in some way? Classes and workshops are often offered at local community centers and are a great way for personal development as well as meeting like-minded people.
Volunteer activities. Becoming involved with a cause or helping out with a school or church event puts you in the position to work with new people who already have something in common with you. Giving time to a charity or church connects you with people who share the same passions. Volunteering at your child’s school helps you get to know the parents of other students. Talking about kids is a great ice breaker for parents to get to know one another and possibly make friends.
Now that you’ve met some new people it is important to cultivate some friendships. If you meet someone you like and then never make an effort, that person is not likely to become your new best bud. It takes some work.
Make the first move. Someone has to be first to break the ice. Extend your hand and say hello. Make small talk, smile and listen when they talk about themselves. Starting the conversation is the hard part, once you begin talking the conversation can flow naturally.
Keep an open mind. You may have an idea of the types of people you want to be friends with. Don’t limit yourself. Open your mind and your heart to people of all walks of life. You may find that someone you might not have thought you’d have something in common with could become a lifelong friend. Do not pre-judge and approach people with kindness.
Stay in touch. If you met someone you get along with, call them or send them a message, invite them to lunch or an activity with you. It doesn’t have to be a big overture, just make an effort to catch up, say hello and stay connected.
Be genuine. Do not attempt to change your personality or pretend to like or dislike certain things simply to make friends. In the long run it will cause you to lose friends when you turn out to be different than they expected. Real, true friendships are built around people who care and accept each other for who they are. Good Luck!