Making new friends and keeping old ones is not an easy task. Some people are adept in the former, while others are good at the latter. Seldom will you find people who are good at both. It is simply not easy to walk up to someone, talk a little (good) with or about them, and ask them to be your friend. Friendships keep on getting harder and harder as we age. Making adult friends is a tricky thing.
We get to meet limited people. Depending on your job, a large majority of us do not get to meet new people often. We have limited circles; be it work, leisure, play etc. and we come across not many new people that can be our friends out of those circles. It is unlike college or school where you may take classes with newer people every semester, or engage with different people through sports or extra-curricular clubs.
We despise rejection. As adults we are afraid of getting rejected by our “new” friends, so we limit our friendship advances.
Different priorities. If you see (your) kids, they can go to the playground and start playing with new friends. The goal there is fun. As adults we have different priorities. We have to juggle a number of roles over a number of tasks. Paying bills takes precedence over “fun”.
The Numbers have to add up. In relation to the previous point, we are too engrossed in “our own benefit”, that we see everything from a profit/loss point of view. How is this new relationship going to benefit me? Is this friendship worth my time? What am I going to get out of this friendship? We try to make new friends only if the numbers add up.
Toxicity. We have seen different people. We know how toxic some can be. So we tend to hold back for fear of toxicity. Pessimism in this regard often trumps the optimism.
We are too cool. If you ask or try for someone to be your friend, and that person is not interested, who looks lame? The one who was ‘trying’, i.e. you ! Why should we look lame? We should not. We are too cool for that. For this reason, we do not even try. We are too busy for friends. We act as if we do not need any one.
In spite of the above, having friends is very important for our health and happiness. Research shows that close friends can reduce stress and promote good health and longevity. This does not mean that we have to be with friends all the time. All of us need some “alone time”, or time to do our own things like watching a TV show, or reading a book etc. So we need to make friends who understand all this, and more importantly understand us.
1. Overcome your fears.
Do not be fearful of meeting new people. It is not scary. Yes, we are all concerned about making good impressions, seem interesting, stay interested in what the other is saying, and so on, but all in all this does not have to scary. Your apprehensions may cause a mental block, where you become fearful of reaching out to new people. This fear translates into shyness. And all of this is in our heads. Remember, the person on the other end is probably (in fact likely) going through the same range of emotions. 99% are probably scared of meeting new people as well. So just overcome your fears, and remove this mental block of "what will happen if I don’t succeed in making this person my friend".
2. Put yourself first.
You do not have to compromise the things that you like, to make new friends. Put yourself first. Activities and hobbies that you like, pursue them, and you will meet likeminded people along the way. Then all you have to do is reach out a little to them (or vice versa). However, note that limiting yourself to a certain clique or crowd is also not recommended for some. It is better at times to seek new friends who can show you other things, and expose you to different items.
3. Start small.
If you are accustomed to not spending time “out of your bubble”, then the idea of meeting new people is surely intimidating. Thus, you should start small, i.e., start with people that you already know or are familiar with; directly or indirectly. These include any of your acquaintances (past and present), or friends of your friends.
4. Foster intimacy.
Some researchers state that the “Fast Friends” technique where an individual discloses something personal or meaningful about them in the first few encounters, results in a better and faster relationship building. So instead of just talking about last night game scores, or the upcoming weather, or the stock prices, talk about something the other person can relate to, something the other person can know about you (that is not apparent).
5. Meet with a smile.
Don’t be a grouch. Leave your troubles behind when you meet new people, or anybody in general. Meet and greet everyone with a smile. People who smile are perceived as more kinder, and happier; hence more approachable, than those who meet with a neutral or sad/angry face.
6. Be ready to be turned down.
If you ask someone to go to a movie, lunch, dinner, etc. and are turned down, it’s ok! The other person may simply be busy. Do not take it personally! Try again, or try with someone else. Remember the first point, do not fear anything, not even rejection. You are likely to find new friends only if you are open to being turned down.
7. Stay in touch.
We often meet great people at an event or party and that is the end of it. We do not follow up with them, and hence lose a good friendship opportunity. Continual effort is essential for any relationship, and friendships are no different. You have to try to stay in touch.
This last item is also essential in keeping old friends!
I will try to write another post on this item at a later time.