[Bella’s intro: Ellen Worthing seems to know a thing or two about making friends, both online and face-to-face. For example, the online Facebook group she started has 44,000 members. She recognizes that making the kinds of friends you spend time with in person is a process, and happily, she has agreed to share some of her insights with us. Although Ellen’s suggestions are addressed to single people, most will be useful to people of all marital and relationship statuses. Thanks, Ellen!]

Singles’ Guide to Making Friends

By Ellen Worthing

Single people may be able to grow their friend network to as large as they want it to be. Friendships can lead to both personal fulfillment and community engagement. No matter your personality type, widening a friend network takes some effort and attention, whether you are new to town or already have a friendship circle.

There have been plenty of articles written about how to make friends. Most of them offer tips on how to meet new people, very few explain how to engage with people and initiate a friendship with a stranger. A few useful tips will be provided here. First we’ll cover the basics. Where do you find people to befriend?

  1. Your Own Neighborhood – The residents on your street, block or vicinity all have something in common, they live and often love their neighborhood. Conversations may be easy to start as resident have similar concerns. Trash pick-up on time? Water bills accurate? Street needs cleaning? One example of people who may easily be willing to start a conversation may be dog walkers. Go ahead, engage. Say hello. Meet the neighbors.
  2. Online Groups – The Internet can be your friend-making assistant. Sites like Meetup allow individuals anywhere to create meetings that attract like-minded people within a specific geographic area. These sites will allow you to see which groups are available in an area and you may join groups that interest you. The sites may provide email reminders and information like how many people will be attending. The denser the population in a given area the more groups will be available. Topics can range from outdoor activities, crafts, exercise, politics and lifestyles.
  3. Organized Social Groups – Savvy entrepreneurs like Volocity have found that people from all walks of life want to participate in low-key after-work sports and activities, and have set up programs where participants can pay a fee and then play games like softball, bocce, kick ball, cornhole, and so forth. Anyone can join without having to be a member of a preset team. Friendships are made fast in the camaraderie of group play and socializing during and after the game.
  4. The Bar – Nothing loosens tongues like a social lubricant. If you are new to the area, but also enjoy an adult beverage visit the local watering hole. Sidle up to the bar and enjoy the convivial atmosphere. Choose saloons that have a low noise level but enough people to allow for a dynamic conversation. It shouldn’t take much for a discussion to freely start with other people who arrive alone or in small groups.
  5. Volunteer – Getting involved in a local volunteer program or project will let you meet people that are involved in their community. You will have the opportunity to work on one-time projects like a site clean-up or a civic activism day. Or you may join a volunteer group that either meets regularly or has a continuous program, such as monthly invasive species removal or festival/event assistance. People from all walks of life may engage in a volunteer activity and communicating is often encouraged while you work.
  6. Social Media – There are often groups found on social media sites like Facebook and Nextdoor that are focused on a specific geographic area. They may have a theme like a neighborhood, crime and politics. These groups may be very active and have large memberships. You may lurk, join or even participate through commenting. As you read the posts and comments you may identify people with whom you share common interests. After some light discussion it is perfectly acceptable to submit a friend request to a member.
  7. Take a Class — If you want to learn a new skill take a class at the local college or activity center. You are sure to meet people with the same interests.

Now that we have places to meet people the next step is to start identifying potential new friends, learning more about them and then initiate the friendship process. If you are naturally outgoing you need to read no further. However, for most of us, some helpful tips may be useful.

Preparation prevents poor performance, and friend-making is no exception. If you are planning to attend a new group or activity you might consider preparing a short statement as to why you are interested in the group, your background in the activity and what you plan to garner from the meeting. If you are attending a park beautification group you may talk about how you enjoyed gardening as a child. If you are attending a web-development meeting you might talk about your computer experience and previous website development experience. If you are extremely shy or introverted you may write a few sentences down before the meeting so you can best present yourself.

If you don’t know anyone at a meeting, even the wallflowers are your friend. Every pre-established group will have attendees that already know each other. Entering a room where you feel like you are the only one who doesn’t know everyone can be daunting. But look around. More than likely there will be other people in the same shoes, standing alone feeling uncomfortable. Go ahead and introduce yourself, the wallflowers will appreciate the gesture. Add other people to the circle who arrive alone. Before long your newly formed group of people will be in the center of the room chatting away.

Soft peddle a follow up get together with new potential friends or acquaintances. Your may not feel comfortable right away insisting a person you just met attend an outside social function with you. However, it is okay to ask somebody if they will be attending the next group meeting, or a similar event. People will be appreciative if you inform them of an event they were not aware of but might interest them.

Friend people you meet at an event on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and Linkedin. You may learn a lot from peoples’ social media activities and postings. Not only will you keep up with your new friends but you can also expand your social network by engaging with other people’s on-line friends. Don’t hesitate to introduce like-minded people that you know to each other.

Write a note. After meeting a new person go ahead and write a thank you or acknowledgment. If you have received a business card from someone then you can use email. Some on-line group sites have a mechanism to message other attendees. Write a sentence or two expressing thanks or ask a question. You may tell people you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to seeing them again. This gesture is courteous, polite and allows people to continue the conversation.

Use social media messaging with people you meet on-line. When you have identified somebody on social media that has friend potential feel free to send a message. The message should be descriptive and far more than an easily ignored, “Hi, how are you?”. You may write a sentence about who you are, why you are messaging and a quick comment or response. A well-written message may generate a reply and an on-line communication can grow from there. You may eventually meet someone you have messaged with at a social function and the foundation for friendship is already established. If not, after several communications you may ask an on-line friend to meet for coffee.

You can further cement new friendships by asking people to attend events and other activities. Not every prospective friend will become a close friend but you will gain new friends if you make the effort to cast a wide net and put some work into the process.

About the Author: Ellen Worthing writes from Baltimore. She has spent her life as a single person, has a wide social network and enjoys meeting new people. She is the initiator of the 44,000-member (and growing) Facebook Group, Baltimore Crime and Homicide.

[From Bella: Thanks again, Ellen!]