Friendships and close personal connections are a crucial aspect to happiness. Without them, people tend to feel alone, misunderstood and like they don’t belong. In fact, the value of social connection has been widely studied. From feelings of joy and satisfaction to lower rates of depression and longer life, having strong connections to others is a key to overall vitality and happiness.
As kids and through our mid-twenties, making friendships is easier. Our social circles tend to be larger while we are in school, participating in after-school activities or working as young professionals just out of college. However, as we get older, making new friends can get increasingly more difficult. Our social circles tend to shrink after we leave school. Old friendships may begin to change with time, people couple up and others move to new cities.
With the current quarantining and social distancing period we are in, meeting new people has become even more of a challenge. Casual run-ins at coffee shops or gyms are no longer happening. There are few groups meeting in-person and many people are working remotely.
Even though making friends is arguably more challenging than ever before, it is not impossible. There are things you can do to meet new people and deepen even your oldest friendships right now.
4 Tips for Making Friends
Nurture casual friendships.
There are probably people in your life that you consider acquaintances. Maybe you know them through friends of friends, or perhaps you met them at a work function a while back. You may have taken an art class with them or were part of the same book club. You know them, and may even have common interests, but you haven’t taken the friendship beyond a surface level.
Think about which of these casual friendships you can nurture into full-blown friendships. Be bold! Ask them a question about a project, hobby or interest you share. Invite them to a virtual or socially distant in-person event. Initiating a new friendship can be daunting, which is why many people don’t do it. Take the chance and put yourself out there. You will most likely be surprised by how open people are to making new connections, especially right now.
Be open to all types of friendships.
Your friends don’t all have to be your same age, from the same background or even in the same geographical area. In fact, the best friendships are often between people who may not seem to have much in common on the surface. Explore friendships with people outside of your normal social circles.
Is there an older person living in your building or in your neighborhood? Ask them if they need any help with errands or just stop by for a chat. These kinds of friendships can bring valuable and unique perspectives that you would miss out on otherwise.
Join online groups.
Even if people are not meeting in person as much as they used to, there are still plenty of opportunities to socialize online. Book clubs, movie groups and online classes are all great options to explore because they aren’t just one-and-done events. Look for virtual groups that are recurring or meet on a regular basis. Continued exposure to others allows you to get to know people over time and it increases the likelihood that you will develop a deeper friendship.
If you can’t find a group that interests you, start your own. Chances are pretty good that there are other people out there with common interests who are looking for an opportunity to connect, too. Social media has made creating and advertising groups easier than ever before. From alternative book clubs and wine tasting to mom groups and language learning, the options are endless.
Make the effort.
You want to expand your circle of friends, but have you done anything to accomplish your goals? A lot of people struggle to meet new friends because they don’t take the first step, or any steps, to make it happen. If you want to make new friends, you have to make the effort. Even making an effort in a small way can have a big impact.
Simply smiling while having a conversation has been proven to convey friendliness and openness. This can work for both in-person and online conversations as well as on the phone. Another tactic to try for those who are especially goal-oriented is to set a target. Maybe you commit to making three contacts with new people every week, or sending an email to an acquaintance once a week. Whatever it is that makes sense for you, setting a goal can keep you focused and on-target.
Making friends is no easy feat, especially in the world today. By considering the tips above, being bold and making an effort, you are bound to make progress. Don’t forget – not every attempt will land you with a new BFF. But you’ll never know if you don’t give it a shot!
Have you made new friends during quarantine? What tips can you share?