As humans, we naturally seek companionship, but knowing how to make friends isn’t easy. As connected as we are, it can be difficult to form genuine, long lasting relationships. Add on the day-to-day stresses of work, family, and everything in between, and suddenly it seems impossible to find the time to find friends.
So, how do we meet new people? It’s an important question, and one that often gets overlooked. When we’re young, meeting new people is natural—we connect at school, through activities, in our neighborhoods. But the older we get, the harder it becomes, especially if there’s a change in circumstances, like a move or a new job. Or sometimes it’s us who changes, and we want to find new friends who share our renewed interests and passions.
When you do meet someone and have that immediate connection—that spark of “Where have you been all my life?”—it feels amazing. A bond like this doesn’t have to be romantic. But how does it happen? How do you make a true friend? We’ve got some suggestions to help get you started.
How to meet new people: Put yourself out there
It may be difficult at first, but putting yourself out there and trying new things can be a great way to meet new people. This could be anything from finding a new hobby or joining an exercise class, to getting involved in your local community and volunteering. Essentially, it means you should be saying “yes” more often.
Look around you
Opportunities to meet new people are all around you, once you start looking. For example, if your office is organizing a happy hour, why not go along and bond with colleagues from different departments? If you see a flier for a community event, like planting flowers in the local park, bring your gardening gloves (or buy some) and get to work. Most importantly, once you’re there, talk to people! Giving a compliment is an easy way to start a conversation. Asking for help is another. The more you do it, the more you’ll likely realize that people want to connect. You just have to make that initial effort.
If you have a dog, try something as simple as regularly going to a local dog run or attending a breed meetup in the park. You can easily find out about breed meetups on social media, or you can be proactive and organize one yourself. (Think of how cute the photos will be!)
Join a class
If you’re a creative person looking to find fellow art lovers, why not try a life-drawing class or a pottery class? Or a language class is another great opportunity to learn a new skill and meet people. If you and your classmates are at the same proficiency level, you can grow and learn together—and probably laugh a lot at all of your mistakes along the way. Speaking of laughing, an improv class is a fantastic way to break out of your shell. Being forced to have interactions onstage may naturally lead to having them offstage as well. (Beers after class, anyone?)
If you’re hoping to get into shape, why not try an exercise class where you can bond as you break a sweat? Running or walking groups are a low-cost option and often very social. If yoga is more your thing, find a regular class where you’re more likely to see the same people each week. Something as simple as complimenting a person’s leggings can be an easy way to start a conversation and, maybe, a friendship.
Volunteering, meanwhile, gives you the chance to do some good and meet people with like-minded values. If you love animals, help out at your local animal shelter. If you’re an environmentalist, join in for a litter pickup at your neighborhood park or see how you can assist at a community garden. If you have strong political views, support a local politician’s reelection campaign. Really, the options are endless.
OK, so we’ve covered some practical basics on how to make new friends, but now it’s time for the harder, more emotional stuff…
How to make friends: Be yourself and manage expectations
Let’s be real—you can’t make friends if you’re pretending to be someone else. Relationships are built on trust and the only way to really connect with someone is to be authentic. You shouldn’t pretend to like something you don’t just to make another person like you. Also it’s important to remember that friends don’t have to agree on everything or share all the same interests. “Opposites attract” is a saying for a reason, after all. Having friends with different interests or points of view can help you expand your horizons. (If there are certain values that are a priority for you, though, it’s important to make those clear.) Of course, sharing some similar passions makes forming a friendship easier. Sometimes people find that they just have a similar energy or ease and openness—that can be enough to bring two people together.
What are you looking for?
It’s also worth considering what kind of friendship you’re after. This might sound a little prosaic, like you’re shopping for a new microwave, but it’s good to know what you’re seeking. Ask yourself—is it lengthy chats about a particular subject? Or are you looking for someone to go on fun nights out with? A cinema companion? A person to walk the dog with? Someone to gossip with? Do you want to be able to share your deepest, darkest secrets or just to let off some steam? Equally, think about what you are prepared to give as a friend. Are you willing to be messaged 24 hours a day about the smallest details, or do you require more boundaries? Do you want to make a friend for life, or someone who will be more of a temporary addition? Friendships mean different things to different people and, pertinently, at different times of their lives. They are a two-way-street and it’s useful to get some understanding of how that might work out when you meet someone. Often, this becomes apparent as things progress. It’s always worth listening to your gut.
How to be a good friend
It’s important to remember that friendship works both ways. You have to give what you hope to receive. First and foremost, listen and be respectful. Just like in a romantic relationship, communication is key. Things can break down if you don’t talk and share how you’re feeling or if something is wrong.
It’s important to remember that every friendship is different. Sometimes friendships progress quickly and you can find yourself sharing intimate feelings or secrets. Other times it can take a while before you build that trust. Friendships don’t all have to be super deep. Some can be more surface level, and that’s fine. There will be some friendships that last a lifetime and others that are fleeting. Be aware that sometimes friendships merely suit a time or phase in your life. If a friendship doesn’t last, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t important or that you did something wrong. Enjoy the good times. Ultimately, if you enjoy being with someone, it’s very likely they feel the same. And it’s worth holding onto that.