If you’ve been around even for a couple of decades, you know that life is full of changes. Whether it’s moving away or adopting some other lifestyle change, sometimes our social circles shift and we’re left asking ourselves: “Wait, how do I meet new people?”
Let’s face it — it’s a valid question in the adult world. Making friends comes second nature to us as children, and all throughout our schooling we’re literally forced into rooms with people who share a similar experience and age. It’s pretty simple to be social when you’re thrown into an education system complete with group projects, extracurricular activities and special-interest clubs. But when you’re out there in grown-up land, it can be daunting and downright challenging to meet new people.
Even if you consider yourself a lone wolf, you have to realize that humans are social beings by nature, and we need that friendship. In fact, one study suggests that those with strong social relationships have a 50% lower mortality risk. In other words, friendship literally keeps us going. Another study showed that among older adults, friendship quality is often times a more important indicator of health quality than any other relationship.
So we know it can be hard and we know it’s important, but how do we actually do it? How do adults make new friends? Let’s take a look at your new game plan to get out there.
Step 1: Laying the foundation for future friendships.
Building healthy relationships begins within, so start by focusing on yourself. If you’re comfortable with who you are, others will pick up on your confidence and immediately understand you’re someone worth knowing. Next, adopt a positive and proactive state of mind. Don’t just open yourself up to possibilities — actively seek them. Take the time to really think about how you can be more social.
Step 2: Developing your social strategy.
Start with what you know.
It will help to zero in on your interests and start from there. That means looking into local classes, activities, Facebook groups and Meetups. One great thing about the internet and social media is the ability to find and connect with people who like the same things you like — right in your area.
Turn obligation into opportunity.
Also don’t be afraid to leverage existing opportunities you may not have noticed before. If you’re already attending a friend’s wedding next month, why not use that as an excuse to flex your friendship muscles? You can chat up whoever you’re sat next to during the reception or win new friends on the dance floor — the options are endless.
A friend of a friend could be an actual friend.
There’s also no shame in meeting new friends through old friends. We’re not in grade school anymore and there’s no such thing as “stealing” someone’s friend. If you enjoy someone’s company, ask them to hang out again with your mutual friend until your bond grows strong enough to fly solo.
Kids and puppies make great conversation starters.
Use ’em if you got ’em! Seriously, the responsibility that comes with raising children and animals also comes with an advantage. Take your pup out for a walk and see how many people want to stop and pet them. Dog ownership also allows you to start conversations with fellow pet owners about their silly behavior, training techniques and pretty much anything dog-related. It’s the same with children, except you have even more opportunities to meet other parents through classes and playdates. And if technology is your thing, there’s even a great app for moms to chat and meet each other called Peanut!
Step 3: Finessing your friendship game.
Meet in a public place for the first time.
So you’ve found a friend and now it’s time to hang out! Great. Now you just have to choose a public place to meet up. Aside from the obvious safety concern of entering a stranger’s home, meeting in a neutral spot also takes the pressure off you or your new bud to host. You want to start with an even playing field and avoid the unnecessary stress of cooking and cleaning.
Set realistic goals.
Setting your expectations too high can leave you disappointed and, frankly, bummed. The whole point of having friends is to have more fun, so try not to take things too seriously. Maybe you thought you’d hit it off with your classmate at the rec center but it all turned out awkward — oh well! Maybe you just had an off night and can try again. Friendship is something that takes time (90 hours according to this study) so don’t rush it and don’t force it. Sometimes things just don’t work out and that’s OK too — don’t let a failed potential friendship discourage you from trying again with someone new.
Friendship is one of those things that may take some work, but it’s well worth the effort. So do yourself a favor by getting out there and having fun with it. Who knows — you might end up meeting a new best friend for life in the process!