In Is There A Remedy For Loneliness we didn’t agree with the idea that mindfulness is the main solution.
Connection, getting out there and having real relationships, is even more important.
During the summer, when everyone seems to be out, what do you do if you are shy? An introvert? Depressed? Have social anxiety? Or have another mental health or emotional issue that seems like an insurmountable block to making new friends?
Here are ten tips to help you make new friends:
- Take a Class or Workshop or Join a Group. Being shy or an introvert can make connecting with others difficult, even exhausting. Some people become “alive” in social situations, shy and introverted people often recharge during alone time. Still, healthy relationships in the right measure are important even for introverts. One way to connect is through common interests, so the initial conversations (at least) less about relationships and more about shared passions. Find a group that focuses on an interest you already have, or something you might consider. Hiking, foraging for wild foods, science classes or groups, art history or art making classes, choirs, etc. Remember that at least some of the people in the group will be joining for the very same reason you are: To meet people they have things in common with.
- Volunteer. Our personal favorite is volunteering. Find some organization or group that needs help. Maybe it’s helping the elderly. Maybe children. Maybe animals or nature. Whatever it is: Volunteer. You will meet other volunteers who care about the same issues. But here’s a secret: Even if you aren’t sure you care about the issue you are volunteering for, that’s okay. Volunteering is good on so many levels. It helps those who need help. It takes you out of your self-focus. It’s a good deed that can bring other good deeds in its wake. It helps you meet like-minded people. Find a legitimate organization for this one (yes, it’s certainly good to help individuals, too, but for meeting people, a group program might offer more friendship opportunities.)
- Help a neighbor, family member, employer, etc. You might feel like you can’t help yourself, but helping others brings new feelings of confidence and may make you a new best friend. Last summer C.R. led an overseas tour. On the trip was an older widow who held onto everyone’s arm during the trip. She was hesitant, even afraid to do anything on her own. Over the course of the year, she was invited to many events by the same group and she was asked to volunteer. She was told her help was needed. This year she came again on the overseas tour. On one particularly steep hill, after a long day of walking, C.R. turned around to find…a much younger woman holding onto this woman’s arm for support! She had gained the confidence she needed to feel that she could help others.
- Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. are a good way to help you transition from speaking on the phone to meeting people in person. Video calls, when used in a focused manner, can make the next step–hanging out in person–more doable and less overwhelming.
- Religious organizations. Going to religious services is in most cases a friendly experience. People spot newcomers and often try to make them feel welcome. One of the good things is that others will take the lead, making introductions, and so on.
- Prepare before social situations with questions. Make a list of questions: What’s your name? Who’d you come with? Where are you from? Nice outfit, where did you get it? What do you do for work? Where do you go to school? Do you have any pets? Etc. Make a list of some conversation starting questions. They do not have to be very witty or funny (unless you want them to be.) Just regular questions. Ask one or two, don’t bombard people. If they are interested in connecting, they’ll answer and then ask you a question.
- Prepare before social situations with answers. Before you go into a social situation write a sentence for each item. Your job (or school), your interests, an unusual talent you have, a funny story, etc. Make a list and commit the more complex items on it to memory. If you are shy or anxious, even writing down obvious answers can be helpful.
- Be open-minded. If you are in your twenties or thirties, there’s no reason your friends have to be in their twenties or thirties. Older (and younger) people can become good friends. An older friend may be a mentor to you, you may be a mentor to a younger friend, but not always–the reverse also can be true.
- Use social media wisely. If all your new friends are on instagram or facebook, post occasionally and be sure to look at their posts and respond to the ones you like.
- Remember that meeting new friends isn’t the same as keeping them. Building and sustaining friendships appears to happen naturally for some, but the truth is, there are skills involved. More soon on building and sustaining lasting relationships.