At some point in our lives most of us will need to make new friends. This can be due to a move to a new city or even a new country. Sometimes you’ve just outgrown your old friends and need to need new friends that better fit who you’re becoming.
No matter what the reason, there are some tips and steps to help you build your new social circle.
Science tells us that we need a strong social network to be healthy and you’re likely to live longer if you have a healthy group of friends. This importance of quality friendships is really undisputed and it should be a priority to create a maintain good relationships.
So before we get started with the individual steps to get there, let’s talk about the right mindset to have for this process.
Making new friends is hard.
Let’s imagine you just moved to a new city.
Moving to a new city is hard. Hopefully you made this decision for the right reasons, but that often doesn’t make the transition easier. Moving to a new city often involves loneliness, anxiety, and even boredom once the initial excitement has worn off. You will often experience these negative feelings for a long time. In my experience it really takes 6-8 months to kickstart a new social life if you’re starting from scratch and doing everything correctly.
Yes, you can make good friends in a shorter time, but around the 8-month mark is usually when I feel secure in my social network. This is usually when I have a few people I can reach out to in a time of need.
You will need a patient mindset and will need to keep a long-term perspective. Maybe you are watching Netflix at home alone for the 3rd straight Friday night, and you begin to doubt how likable you really are. But, try to keep in mind that you moved to a new city just last month and during the winter when people don’t go out as much.
If you let your insecurities eat at you, then it’s easy to lose this perspective and to create negative feelings that can hurt your emotional health and cause you to not enjoy your life.
You will feel these negative feelings. You will feel insecure, because any big change will leave you extremely vulnerable. You will wonder if it was worth it.
Be prepared to think these thoughts and question yourself. You’re only human and it will happen.
Making friends requires vulnerability. You will have to go to social events alone and will have to invite people to meet up with you. You will have to let them know that you don’t have plans this weekend, and that you want to spend time with them.
You will have to face rejection. Ultimately, even if you are pretty or handsome and charming, more people than not will not want to be friends with you or be unable to be friends with you. Don’t take it personal. People are often too busy for someone new in their lives. People often have their own problems, insecurities, and hold-ups that get in the way of making new friends. It will happen. Sometimes it will feel frustrating.
Don’t worry. It’s part of the process.
So let’s get to work.
1. Reach out to someone you already know
Let’s keep with the moving to a new city metaphor.
You’ve moved into your new place. You know how to get to work, where to buy groceries, and have your internet and cable set up. Now we can start making a great social network.
What’s the first thing you should do?
Reach out to someone or anyone you might already know in the city. It’s likely that someone from your high school or college ended up here and these early connections are invaluable.
If no one springs to mind, simply open up your Facebook and type your new city in the search bar. You can filter by people to see who lives there. If it’s someone you vaguely know, but was never close with, still try to reach out with a message like:
I just moved to [Insert city name] and I searched Facebook to see if I know anyone here. I know we haven’t kept in touch, but I’d love to meet up in the city for a coffee or a beer sometime! 😊
Of course, change that message based on how well you know the person.
But, the whole point here is to use these connections to help you feel more at home in the city. You don’t want to feel completely disconnected and one friend early on can help you feel a lot less lonely. These early friends also have the potential to introduce you to a network of people and can get rid of the difficulty of putting together a network yourself.
The same idea applies if you are not moving anywhere. There is absolutely someone you know that you can reach out to. Just be candid and direct. Express why you’d like to connect and don’t come across as too pushy. Accept the outcome whether they say yes or no.
Another great place to look for an initial new friend is through work. Typically, there will be one or two friendly coworkers who would love to make a friend. Just be slightly cautious as coworker friendships sometimes need more boundaries than normal friendships.
2. Join classes, groups, social sports, and clubs
Ok, so now you’ve gotten settled, reached out to someone through Facebook, and have gone on a hike with a coworker. What’s next?
Well, it’s time to properly get out there.
Some people believe that simply making friends at the bar is a good idea. However, I have found that doing a focused group activity helps me meet people and grow friendships.
So I strongly suggest joining a hobby group or class. Or even a social sport. You don’t need to be great at the hobby. In fact, you can be a complete beginner. The point is to have fun and meet other people.
I have tried swing dancing, language classes, hiking classes, rock-climbing groups, Dungeons and Dragons groups, boardgames meetups, soccer pick-up, ultimate frisbee leagues, baseball leagues, and trivia nights to name a few. The possibilities are endless, and you can meet many interesting people while you get in shape or learn a skill.
I started as a complete beginner in all of these groups. I never played a group sport until college and the idea made me intensely nervous. I had never considered myself a sports person.
Yet, after starting with Ultimate Frisbee, I have found that I love social sports and the team aspect is a great way to meet happy, healthy people. I consider myself athletic now and feel like I discovered a new dimension of myself. So don’t worry about the anxiety, and just go for it.
A good idea is to start with something that you are familiar with and already enjoy! That way you will be less anxious and can talk to strangers about your hobby 😊
So how do we find these groups?
Well, the big two I use are Meetup and Facebook. In a decent sized city, you’ll find too many groups and clubs to count. Keep in mind though that Meetup often tends to attract a slightly older demographic.
If you’re still a University student, you should join student groups on campus.
3. Be friendly and talk to lots of people
So you signed up to that dodgeball event that look fun. You dressed to get sweaty and showed up ready to play. Other than play dodgeball, what should you do?
Well have fun of course!
And talk to people while you do it 😊
Everyone is there to unwind and have a good time, and likely would love to talk to you! Just be brave enough to introduce yourself and let them know it’s your first time.
More often than not someone will be happy chat with you and even introduce you to their friends or other members. If the event is hosted by someone, the host might take you under their wing and help you get to know the group.
If you don’t talk to people, then you can’t become friends! Remember that people are friendly and want to meet you. So be brave and introduce yourself.
If you do get anxiety from going to events alone then try to mitigate those feeling by following a helpful guide. Usually there’s nothing to gain by pushing yourself too far out of your comfort zone. If you are getting intense feelings of anxiety, then that’s a sign to give yourself a rest.
4. Get contact info and invite people to meet outside of the club/group
Once you’re at the event or club, you’re going to meet lots of different people. Often you’ll naturally get their contact info by merit of being part of the same group chat or by becoming Facebook friends. However, you might just need to ask them for their contact info the old fashion way!
In my experience, this will happen naturally. You might be talking about a cool bar you like and the other person will also express interest. Once this happens, you can usually mention that you ought to go together and you can get someone’s number or Instagram.
Again, don’t go too fast and take your time here. I often mention that we should meet up to someone at least once or twice before we actually make plans. And I often don’t get someone’s contact information until we make definite plans. This is more of an art than a science and sometimes it can be hard to gauge when to ask someone for their contact details. Usually, once we have both expressed verbal interest in the relationship to go beyond a group or club, then I ask.
This is step is important because you need to have direct contact with someone to take a friendship to that next level. There is a big difference between someone you talk to once a week at the basketball court and someone that you get dinner one-on-one with once a week. Getting someone’s number is the first step to bridging the gap between friendly acquaintance and close friend.
So just go for it!
It’s really not so anxiety inducing for me anymore as I’ve gotten quite used to doing this. You will get used to it too. Everyone expects it and it’s ok to make the occasional social gaff.
Just have fun and relax.
5. Follow up and continue to invite the person to meet up
You want friends that you can spend time with one on one, and then use these friends to grow your friend group.
If you have exchanged contact numbers with someone and met up for a hike or something else one-on-one, then congrats! You have taken the relationship to the next level.
To continue to grow the relationship it will need some attention. It’s kind of like growing a plant. If you don’t give it a little attention every now and again, then it will wither and die.
Continue to invite the person to events and try to text at least once a week. If the person stops reciprocating texts and invites, then stop spending time on the friendship. It takes two people to make something grow.
They may be too busy or you may not be a good fit as friends. Either way don’t take it personally and just move on.
6. Introduce Your Friends to Each Other
This last step takes some time.
If you have made some friends, then you will want to start connecting them. This is important to grow a friend group and a good friend group can be incredibly enriching if done right. There is something special about feeling connected to this little tribe of people as you all navigate through life. Often these people will become like a second family and will open up doors that you never new could have existed.
For instance, my friend introduced me to the idea of teaching abroad. I ended up moving to a completely new country. Another friend got me into the indie music scene back in Memphis, Tennessee. I ended up spending quite a few nights seeing local bands that I would have otherwise completely missed. I also became interested in making my own music.
The benefits are numerous.
But how exactly do you introduce them?
It’s easy and a lot of fun! Simply invite them to the same event. You may need to play host, but they will quickly become familiar with each other. Go to a bar trivia night together or grab dinner together. It should be fun and natural to do 😊
There’s a lot to digest here, but I tried to make it as concise as possible.
You need to make friends for health reasons as well as how much more your life will be enriched for it.
Most people will be faced with needing to make new friends at some point in their lives. Especially if you move to a new city.
It may take time, but the process is formulaic and repeatable. Sometimes making new friends can happen quickly in maybe 2-3 months. Sometimes it takes longer and can take up to 10-12 months.
Remember if it takes longer, that there are lots of potential reasons for this and try to not be hard on yourself. It can happen to anyone. Just remember that if you put the effort in, you will make some great friendships. That’s for sure 😊
Making new friends can lead to or even become one of the best adventures of your life.