Making new friends can be intimidating, but it’s definitely rewarding. After all, friends form a big part of our life. They are the ones who walk through life together, share our ups and downs and joys and pains. 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 in school/work because the context called 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). The friends you can talk about anything and everything with. You may or may not meet up every day, but it doesn’t matter, because the strength of your friendship is not determined by how frequently you meet up – it’s more than that. These are the friends who can be trusted 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%. 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 friends or best friends, you can do that. You might not believe it, but I was a very quiet and secluded girl back during 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 even more sociable. Today I run my blog and coach others in 1-1 and workshops where I open up a lot of my life to others. If the younger me had wondered how I would be in the future, I wouldn’t have thought that I would be as outward and expressive as I am today.
Similarly, if you take a look at those people out there who seem to make friends easily, they were probably seclusive people themselves at some point. The social skills were all picked up over time. For that 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, about 99% of people are too busy being concerned over the exact same things about themselves to pay attention to you. They’re just as scared as you are. The remaining 1% are people who recognize a relationship is built on way stronger values than specific words or things said/done during just 1 encounter. Even if there are people who do judge you 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 intimidate you. If that’s the case, start small first. Lower down the difficulty of the task by starting off with your inner circle of friends – i.e. people you are more familiar with. Some ways to do that are:
- 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 meet-up when they are free. See if there are opportunities to reconnect.
- See if there are cliques where you can join in. 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 they are 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 acquaint yourself more with your inner circle of friends, the next step will be to extend it outward to people you don’t know.
- Join meet-up groups. Meetup.com is a great social networking site. There are many interest groups, such as groups for entrepreneurs, aspiring authors, vegetarian, boardgame lovers, cycling enthusiasts, etc. Pick out your interests and join those groups. Meet-ups 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 there I met with 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, you meet compassionate people with a cause.
- Go to parties. Parties such as birthday parties, christmas/new year/celebration parties, housewarmings, function/events, etc. Probably a place where you’ll meet a high quantity of new friends but not necessarily quality. 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 type, rather than the type #2 and type #3 friends. It’s good to just visit them a couple of times and see how they’re like before you make your judgment.
- Online communities. 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. There are at least 2 other good friends whom I first met online too during that same time period. 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, my readers). Just because we have not met (yet) does not mean we can’t be great friends.Nowadays, online forums are the central locations where communities gather. Check out online forums of your interest topics. Participate constructively and add value to the discussions. Soon, you’ll get to know them better as friends.
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 start-off, just take the first step to say a friendly hello. Get to know each other a little better! Share something about yourself, 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.
5. Be open
Be open-minded. Don’t judge.
Sometimes, you might have a preset notion of what kind of friend you want. Maybe someone who is understanding, listens, has the same hobbies, watches the same movies, has similar educational background etc. And then when you meet the person and realize the person veers off your expectations, you might be ready to close yourself off.
Don’t do that. Give the friendship a chance to blossom. More importantly, give yourself a chance at this budding friendship. I have several very good friends who come from totally different backgrounds, and I would never have thought we would be so close when I first knew them, simply because we are so different. A good number of my ex-clients are people whom I’d never meet normally given our diverse backgrounds, yet we get along extremely well, just like good friends.
Open your heart.
On that same note, open your heart to the person. This connection between you and the other party can only begin when your heart is open. This means to be trusting, have faith, and believe in the goodness of other people. You can’t form any new connections if you mistrust others or you are fearful that things won’t work out. It’ll send off the wrong vibes and cause them to close off their hearts to you too.
When I make new friends, I open myself fully, with full faith that they are good people, with good heart and good intentions. I noticed that because I do that, it has helped me to foster a lot of genuine relationships which are built on trust, love and faith. These meaningful relationships wouldn’t be possible if I had closed myself off at the onstart. One direct example is on my blog – Iopen myself to all of you fully and in return, I attract readers who are genuine, supportive and kind. I’m not sure about other communities online, but I know the Personal Excellence community of readers is one of authenticity, openness and support. I know it because I can feel the warmth from all of you whether in your emails, comments or messages.
6. Get to know the person
A friendship is equally about you and about the other person. Get to know the person as an individual. For example, below are some questions to consider:
- What does he/she do?
- What are his/her hobbies?
- What has he/she been up to recently?
- What are his/her upcoming priorities/goals?
- What does he/she value the most?
- What are his/her values?
- What motivates/drives him/her?
- What are his/her passions in life? Goals? Dreams?
7. Connect with genuinity
Often times we are too caught up with ourselves – such as what others will think of us, what we should say next, what our next action is – that we miss the whole point of a friendship. You can work on the presentation aspects such as how you look, what you say, and how you say things, but don’t obsess over them. These actions don’t (truly) define the friendship. What defines the friendship is the connection between you and the friend.
Show warmth, love and respect toward everyone you meet. Do things because you want to, and not because you need to. Care for them like you would to yourself. If you approach others with genuinity, you will attract people who want to connect genuinely. Among them will be your future true friends.
8. Be yourself
Don’t change yourself to make new friends. That’s the worse thing you can do. Why do I say that?
Say you make many new friends by being vocal and brassy. However, your normal persona is quiet and introverted. What happens then? It may be great initially to get those new friends, but the friendship was established as you being an extrovert. That means either:
- You continue being the vocal, brassy person your new friends knew you as. However, it’ll just be a facade. In the long-run, it’ll be a tiring facade to uphold. Not only that, the friendship will just be built on a hollow front. Or
- You change back to the introverted you. However, your friends will feel cheated because that isn’t the person they befriended. They’ll also gradually shift away if the personalities don’t match.
So, just be yourself. That way, potential new friends will know you as you, and they’ll use that to decide if they want to take the friendship a step further. I don’t think there’s a need to be outward and articulate like Tony Robbins to get friends. It’s all about being you. The truest friendships are built with both parties accepting each other for who they are.
9. Be there for them
A friendship is a supportive union between two people. Be there for your friends where you can. Does any of your friends need any help currently? Is there anything you can help them with? How can you better support them?
When you help your friends, don’t do so with the expectations to be helped next time. Rather, help unconditionally. Treat them with emotional generosity. Give because you want to, and not because you feel obliged to. I find that the satisfaction I get from helping others and knowing they are better off is reward greater than anything I can get in return.
10. Make the effort to stay in touch
At the end of the day, continual effort is required to maintain the friendship. Willingness to make the effort is what differentiates hi-bye friends from other friends. Ask your friends out every once in a while. Depending on the intensity of the friendship, there’s no need to meet up every few days or once a week – catching up once a month or once every few months might be sufficient. The strength of your relationship is not measured by how frequently you meet up. For some of my best friends, we meet only about once every few months. Yet, there’s never any doubt that we’re closely connected and we will be there for each other when needed.
If both of you have your own set of engagements, it might be hard to find time together. Arrange for a simple meet up, say over lunch, tea or dinner time. Or, you can always catch up over text messages, online chat or phone calls. Technology has made communication so easy that it’s difficult not to stay in touch.