This is a question that keeps coming up time and again. Whether it’s in a social anxiety group, a class on overcoming shyness, or just a conversation I am having with an individual client, adults want to know the answer to this question. How do I make friends?
In high school and college it was easy, almost automatic. You’re thrown together with a bunch of peers and forced to spend several hours per day or week together. You live together, share activities and meals, and the friendships develop with seemingly little effort.
Then you graduate, perhaps move to a new city to pursue a job, and all of a sudden you find yourself feeling kind of lonely. Where did everybody go? If you’re lucky you have some friends in your city from high school or college. Or better yet, you end up enjoying the presence of some of your coworkers and are able to make friends that way. But what if you’re thrown into a situation where this is not the case? Maybe you work with people who are significantly older or younger than you, or your job is more solitary and isolating.
It would be easy for someone in this situation to feel anxious, awkward or shy. Furthermore, this problem can be even more difficult the older you get and the further removed you are from college. How are you supposed to meet people? The thoughts start creeping in that there must be something wrong with you, or that people aren’t interested in meeting you or becoming your friend.
The solution? It’s time to get creative and put in the effort that you have been avoiding. Join a meetup group on meetup.com. Heck, join five, because you may not like the first one. Get involved with a regular class, gym, sports team, book club, art class, singing group, improv comedy troop – you name it. The idea is to find something that you both find enjoyable and that has a recurring meeting with the same people. If you can spend time with the same individuals week after week, you will be creating the environment to make friends more easily. And if you’re doing something you enjoy, then you will tend to be happier and more comfortable in the environment where you are connecting with others over a shared interest or passion.
Other places to make friends include work, friends of friends, church, volunteer activities/organizations, and family. The process includes being willing to be yourself, put yourself out there, and start conversations with strangers. Then once you have found someone you like, don’t hesitate to ask for their phone number and ask them out on a “friend date.” It may seem awkward at first, but you will be surprised how relieved the other person is actually feeling that you were proactive and asked them for their number because they were too shy to ask for yours. And remember, you don’t have to come up with some amazing activity to do. Go grab a coffee or a beer, check out a local festival or event, try a new restaurant, or go for a walk or a bike ride in the park.
Remember, there are lots of other individuals out there in your demographic who are in the same situation as you, looking to make friends but not sure where or how. Follow these guidelines, put in the effort, and reap the rewards. And if you’re still looking for more guidance, or you feel like your anxiety is getting in the way of your relationships, feel free to contact a therapist to talk this through in more depth.