Making new friends can be intimidating, but it’s definitely rewarding. After all, friends form a big part of our life for most of us. They are the ones who walk through life together, share our ups and downs, and pains and joys. Without friends, life wouldn’t be the same at all. We wouldn’t be who we are if not for them.
If you are looking to make new friends, you have to get clear on what kind of friends you want to make. Broadly speaking, there are 3 types of friends:
- “Hi-Bye” friends (or acquaintances). These are the ones you see at school/work because the context calls for it. You say hi when you see each other and you say bye at the end of the day, but that’s about it. The relationship never lasts when the context is removed, i.e. when you graduate from school or leave the workplace.
- Regular friends. Social, activity buddies you meet up every now and then to catch up or hang out with. You can generally talk about regular topics under the sun.
- True, soul friends (or best friends). People you can talk anything and everything with. You may or may not meet up every day, but it doesn’t matter as the strength of your friendship is not determined by how frequently you meet up — it’s more than that. These are the friends you can trust to be there for you whenever you need them, and they will go the extra mile for you.
Most of us are looking to make regular friends and if possible, true, soul friends. We probably have a lot of hi-bye friends — more than we can count. The ratio of my hi-bye friends, normal friends, and true, soul friends is about 60-30-10%. Over the years as I meet more and more people, it has become more like 75-20-5%. I suspect it’s about the same for other people too, with a variance of about 5-10%.
No matter whether you just want to make normal or best friends, you can do that. You may not believe it, but I was a very quiet and secluded girl back during my primary and secondary school years. When I was in junior college, I maintained this seclusive lifestyle, though I began to speak up more. Entering university and later on P&G (my ex-company) made me more sociable. Today I run my blog and coach others through 1-1 coaching and workshops where I share a lot of my life to others. If the younger me had wondered what I would be like in the future, I wouldn’t never have thought that I would be as outward and expressive as I am today.
If you take a look at the people out there who seem to make friends easily, they were probably seclusive themselves at some point. Their social skills were likely all picked up over time. For this same reason, you can learn to become more sociable through time and practice.
Here are my 10 personal tips to get new friends:
1. Realize your fear is in your head
The first step is to develop a healthy mental image of meeting new people. Some of us see meeting new people as a scary event. We are concerned about making a good impression, whether the other person will like us, how to keep the conversation going, and so on. The more we think about it, the scarier it seems. This initial apprehension develops into a mental fear, which takes a life of its own and unknowingly blocks us from making new friends. Shyness toward others is actually a result of fear.
Actually, all these fears are just in our head. If you think about it, 99% of people are too busy being concerned about these very things themselves to pay attention to you. While you’re worried about the impression you make, they are worried about the impression they will make. Truth be told, they are just as scared as you are. The remaining 1% are people who recognize that a relationship is built on way stronger values than specific words or things said/done during just one encounter. Even if there are people who do judge you based on what you do/say, are these people you want to be friends with? I think not.
2. Start small with people you know
If you haven’t been socializing much, meeting a whole bunch of new people may seem intimidating. If so, start small first. Lower the difficulty of the task by starting with your circle of friends, i.e. people you are familiar with. Some ways to do that:
- Reach out to acquaintances. Have any hi-bye type friends from earlier years? Or friends you lost touch with over time? Drop a friendly SMS and say hi. Ask for a meetup when they are free. See if there are opportunities to reconnect.
- See if there are cliques you can join. Cliques are established groups of friends. The idea isn’t to break into the clique, but to practice being around new friends. With cliques, the existing members will probably take the lead in conversations, so you can just take the observatory role and watch the dynamics between other people.
- Get to know your friends’ friends. You can join them in their outings or just ask your friend to introduce you to them. If you are comfortable with your friends, there’s a good chance you will be comfortable with their friends too.
- Accept invitations to go out. I have friends who rarely go out. When asked out, they reject majority of the invites because they rather stay at home. As a result, their social circles are limited. If you want to have more friends, you have to step out of your comfort zone and go out more often. You can’t make more friends in real life if you stay at home!
3. Get yourself out there
Once you reconnect with your circle of friends, the next step is to meet people you don’t know.
- Join meetup groups. Meetup.com is a great social networking site. There are many interest groups, such as groups for entrepreneurs, aspiring authors, vegetarians, board-game lovers, cycling enthusiasts, etc. Pick out your interests and join those groups. Meetups are usually monthly depending on the group itself. Great way to meet a lot of new people quickly.
- Attend workshops/courses. These serve as central avenues that gather like-minded people. I went to a personal development workshop last year and met many great individuals, some of whom I became good friends with.
- Volunteer. Great way to kill 2 birds with one stone — not only do you get to spread kindness and warmth, but you also meet compassionate people with a cause.
- Go to parties. Parties such as birthday parties, Christmas/new year/celebration parties, housewarmings, functions/events, etc. Probably a place where you’ll make a high quantity of new friends but not necessarily quality relationships. Good way to meet more people, nonetheless.
- Visit bars and clubs. Many people visit them to meet more friends, but I don’t recommend them as the friends you make here are probably more hi-bye friends rather than type #2 or type #3 friends. It’s good to just visit a couple of times and see how they are for yourself before you make your judgment.
- Online communities. The internet is a great way to meet new people. Some of my best friendships started online. I met one of my best friends, K, from an IRC channel 10 years ago. I have at least 2 other good friends whom I knew from online too. We’ve since met up numerous times and became great friends. Even today, I have numerous great friendships with people I’ve never met (other personal development bloggers and my readers). Just because we have not met (yet) does not mean we can’t be great friends. Nowadays, online forums are one of the central places where communities gather. Check out online forums on your interest topics. Participate constructively and add value to the discussion. Soon, you’ll get to know the people there better. 🙂
4. Take the first step
Once you are out there with people around you, someone has to make the first move. If the other party doesn’t initiate a talk, take the first step to say hello. Get to know each other a little better! Share something about yourself, and then give the other party a chance to share about him/her. Something easy, like asking how the day is, or what they did today / in the past week is a great conversation starter. Once the ice is broken, it’ll be easier to connect.
Click the link below to view 6 more tips on making friends.
More conversation starters can be found at my Pinterest account: