A couple of weeks ago I was watching my niece for a few hours while her mother went shopping. We went to the park and within seconds of arriving she had sized up the other children playing there. Upon finding one who was relatively the same size as her she marched right up and asked, “How old are you?” The girl replied, “I’m seven!” to which my niece said, “I’m eight and my name is Sophia.” Just like that, a friendship was born and the two played happily for almost an hour until it was time to go home.
Children make friends easily but something happens after you leave college–making friends become a little harder.
Past your 30s and older, it gets harder still but although it can be hard, the alternative (having no one) is too bleak to even consider an option. So you have to try.
I can’t guarantee you won’t fall flat on your face or feel like an idiot at times, but I can guarantee that if you try, you will snag some new friends with these suggestions.
1. Hit the app store
Welcome to the digital age where there’s an app to help you do just about everything, and apps to help you make friends.
Grouper connects two groups of friends; you bring 3 of your friends to meet with another group of 3 friends for drinks or a social event.
Meetup is where individuals meet around interests and there’s a wide wide range of interests to choose from. From hiking, to book clubs, TV-show fan clubs, sports, hobbies, entrepreneurship and a whole lot more. Here in Wellington, there is a group known as #InstagramWgtn. They meet once a month at a designated landmark. They then spend a few hours exploring the area snapping photos on their phones to share on Instagram. The meet often ends with some type of socializing.
2. Take a class
This is one of the best ways to get to know new people because there is no shortage of classes in big cities–cooking, salsa, even stand-up comedy classes. Coursehorse is a site that boasts that it lists over 40,000 classes for the Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York areas. For other cities, do a Google search.
3. Throw a dinner party
Invite a mix of existing and potential friends over for dinner. Consider co-workers, people from a group or class you belong to, neighbors you’ve been saying hello to and think you might like, and so on. To keep things fun and avoid awkward lulls in conversation, give your party a theme like a Spanish night (with tacos, frozen margaritas, and mariachi music) or choose an international holiday such as St Patrick’s Day or Bastille Day.
4. Join a large community
Churches, professional associations, and volunteer organizations have large communities you can tap into to make friends.
5. Put yourself out there
If you live in a big city where it seems like everyone wants to be left alone, this may be a bit intimidating but it’s worth the risk. People in big cities can be just as (some say, more) lonely than the average person and want to make friends and connections.
- Look up from your phone and pay more attention to where you are and who is around you. There might be someone nearby you want to ask a question, smile at, compliment or speak to. While you may not meet someone on the street, this habit sharpens your social skills and help you become more outgoing.
- Use a co-worker’s vacation and family photos are an “in” to strike up a friendly conversation. If the vibe is right, take if from there. In the days and weeks ahead, invite them to after-work drinks, to lunch, or ask to pick their brain on something work-related.
- At work or in your neighborhood, start a sports or hobbyist group. As the presumptive “leader,” no one will guess that you’re a little shy.
- Cruises and singles events are not just for matchmaking, you may connect with other like minds.
Asking a stranger for help is the easiest way to strike up a conversation. Even if you don’t really need it, ask the cutie in the supermarket aisle for help reaching something on the shelf. Ask…
- a potential lady friend for advice picking out a bottle of wine.
- for restaurant recommendations.
- for the time, even.
Putting ourselves out there is necessary to our social survival. It’s not about being fake. It’s about having the courage to be vulnerable, and vulnerability, as we know, is the key to friendship.
As with any other goal, making friends takes time and therefore consistency.
Keep putting yourself out there until you have the friendships and community you want and need. It can take months so don’t give up just because you have no success after a few events.
Pippa Vague lives in Wellington, New Zealand where she is a newly-wed and new mom. The family shares their home with a part time crazy cat named Chico. Pippa loves whipping up healthy (and not so healthy) recipes, soaking up the gorgeous New Zealand weather and watching trashy reality TV.