17 Tips for Making New Friends at Any Age, Wherever You Go

February 24, 2014
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Loneliness seems to be one of life’s great taboos. We don’t like to talk about it, we refuse to admit we feel it, and we can be completely at a loss when it comes to doing something about it.

The best antidote to loneliness is to reconnect with old friends, or make some new ones.

Making new friends is something that many people struggle with, for an assortment of reasons.

We often become so caught up in our hectic lifestyles that the art of ‘friend-making’ gets lost in the shuffle.

No matter where you live, what you do for a living or how old you are, you can make new friends if you just put in a little effort and make use of these 17 simple tips:

1. Remember that it’s more important to be interested than interesting

When you meet new people, they can quickly gauge your level of interest in them. Showing genuine interest demonstrates that you’re a caring person who is engaging with them not because you want to show them how fascinating you are, but because you feel they are someone worth getting to know.

One of the most appealing human traits is enthusiasm; if you’re enthusiastic about talking to someone you’ve just met, they’ll usually be enthusiastic right back.

2. Give potential friends your email address

If you meet a new person and it’s obvious you share some common interests, don’t be afraid to offer them your email address, in case they might like to continue the interaction (either online or in person) at a later stage.

Sharing your contact information displays a basic level of trust, and is an indication that you’re happy to connect with this person in the future. Etiquette suggests that it’s better to offer your email address than to ask for theirs. You want to seem open and friendly, but you don’t want to put them on the spot.

3. Join a club

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Whether you’re interested in hiking, chess, fringe theatre, horse riding, charcoal drawing or breeding tarantulas, you’ll probably be able to track down a club where others share your interest.

People are attracted to those who embrace the same activities and pursuits they do, so joining a club will put you right in the mix with like-minded aficionados.

Joining a club doesn’t always have to be about enjoying a current interest, either; it can also be a great opportunity to check out an entirely new pastime that you’ve always wanted to try.

4. Ditch the video games, Internet surfing and television for awhile

In the 21st century, we spend more and more of our time staring at screens: mobile phones, televisions, iPads and all the rest.

These digital distractions can suck entire hours out of your day, so do yourself a favour and give them a bit of a rest; you’ll be amazed at what it can do for your social life. Go out and meet some new people.

Creating a new circle of acquaintances won’t happen if you’re at home playing video games, checking out bizarre cat photos on Facebook or numbing your mind with ‘funny home video’ shows on television.

5. Respect and embrace human differences

In your ongoing search for friendship, don’t just seek out people of your own religion, race, age group, social status or cultural background.

Expand your horizons: atheists can be friends with churchgoers, teenagers can be friends with those in their fifties, and mountain bike enthusiasts can be friends with octogenarian quilt makers.

True friendship is defined by the ability to connect with people and share common human experiences with them, regardless of any obvious (or not so obvious) differences. Try to embrace humanity in all its variations.

6. Show encouragement and support

As the saying goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem solved’. Friends help each other out in good times and bad. To be ‘friend-worthy’, you should be willing and able to relate to someone who might be struggling with a problem, and consider them important enough to warrant your concern and reassurance.

Just offering a sympathetic ear and a few encouraging words can make a world of difference. You would like to hope that if circumstances were reversed, you could lean on them for support as well.

7. Don’t wait for others: start the conversation yourself

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The idea of initiating a conversation with a stranger (or several of them together) in a social setting can seem pretty scary, especially if you’re naturally shy.

However, it’s really just a matter of practice: the more you do it, the easier it gets.

You don’t need to say anything too witty or earth-shattering; just be yourself and go with the flow. If you’re relaxed, you’ll put others at ease as well. If you’re not relaxed, then ‘fake it until you make it’.

One game that can be fun to play with new acquaintances is called Ten Questions. They get to ask any ten questions they wish about you, and then you get to do the same with them. This works best when all the answers are 100% honest, of course.

Give the acquaintance the choice of (a) asking you 10 questions first, (b) having you ask all yours first, or (c) having the two of you alternate, one question at a time until you’re done.

8. Introduce friend 1 to friend 2

Take the trouble to introduce one friend to another: it’s a great way to show that you value both relationships. Getting people you like to connect with each other also shows you’re not so insecure that you can’t share your friends with others. It is also a handy way to ensure that one of your shyer friends isn’t left out of the action.

9. Make eye contact and use your smile

Being a cool person isn’t nearly as attractive as being a warm one. Be aware of your body language when you’re interacting with people; smile and use a friendly, direct gaze.

Eye contact is a tricky one, because too little shows you lack confidence and too much can make you seem pushy or even creepy. You should also try to refrain from folding your arms when you speak to people; it makes you look defensive and resistant to a friendly approach.

10. Make a new friend out of an old one

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Do you have an old friend you really like but haven’t spoken to in months, or even years?

Most of us have at least one such friend, and we often use the well-worn excuse of ‘being too busy’ to keep in touch.

Hitting the ‘refresh’ button on existing friendships is just as important as making new ones.

It only takes a minute to send a catch-up email, and it lets your friends know you’re still thinking about them.

Friendships are like old car s – they require periodic maintenance to keep them ticking along and running smoothly.

11. Join a sports team

Would you describe yourself as less than athletic? It doesn’t matter – you can still meet lots of great people and have fun at the same time by joining some kind of sports team.

For best results, pick a team that is roughly at the same ability level as you. Try whatever you think you’ll enjoy the most: basketball, soccer, softball, bowling and volleyball are all good choices. Socialising and fitness can be a terrific combination.

12. Find people who share your sense of humour

The finest friends are the ones that can make us laugh. Not everyone’s sense of humour will necessarily be compatible with yours, however.

Interacting with people who ‘get’ your particular style of humour and enjoy being around it are easier to relate to than those who experience humour on a different wavelength.

Laughter is great therapy and breaks down a lot of social barriers, so gravitating toward people who make you laugh and feel good (and vice versa) is a social step in the right direction.

13. Do some helpful volunteering

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One of the best ways to meet like-minded individuals is by doing some volunteer work.

Even if it’s just an hour or two on weekends, it still puts you in touch with other folks who share your desire to help out and take small steps to improve the local community or society in general.

Because everyone is working toward a common goal, there is an inbuilt sense of comradeship that makes it easy to form friendships.

There is plenty of variety in the world of volunteering, so you should be able to find a cause or project that interests you. A lot of people don’t realise just how satisfying volunteering can be until they’ve tried it.

14. Listen like you mean it

Listening isn’t the same as hearing – it involves active interest in what a person is saying. If it appears you’re only paying attention because you’re desperately waiting for an opportunity to hijack the conversation yourself, you won’t be looked upon as ‘good friend material’.

Pretending to listen isn’t the same at all, and it can backfire when it becomes clear you’ve already forgotten (or never really heard) something that was said to you just a minute before.

15. Look for friendship with the right mindset

If you’re feeling socially isolated, your goal should be to ‘meet new people’ rather than to ‘make new friends’. Making friends is an organic process that develops in its own time; meeting new people is as easy as walking out your front door and going to where the people are.

Socialising doesn’t always need to involve alcohol or bars, either.Strike up a conversation at the gym, bookstore or coffee shop; meet new people at a music festival or other big event.

16. Don’t hide your most unique qualities

Are you an amazing artist, a terrific dancer, a formidable Scrabble player or a skilled nature photographer? If you are, go ahead and let people know.

Your passions and skills are part of what makes you unique, and when you talk about these things to others your confidence level kicks in automatically.

This works in both directions: the best way to get to know another person is by finding out what they’re passionate about and what makes them happy.

17. Do your best to be worthy of people’s trust

Being trustworthy is a valued personal trait when it comes to friendship.If someone tells you something in confidence and you turn around and blab the secret all over town, you’re disrespecting that friendship.

Our very best friends are the ones we trust the most. We trust good friends to keep secrets, to be reliable, to be unselfish and to do the right thing.

We want our friends to respect us and to respect themselves. Every solid human relationship is based on a foundation of trust. Once that goes, the friendship tends to disintegrate along with it.

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