A few weeks ago I had a client confess to me that she was feeling a bit lonely. I asked her if she wanted some suggestions for making new friends. Her response was an enthusiastic, “Yes, please!”
Out of curiosity, I inquired if she had ever moved as a kid or changed schools. She hadn’t. I have a theory: if you had to move more than once as a kid, you probably figured out how to make new friends in any situation.
I changed schools when I was in grade 2 and in grade 4. I will always be grateful for the advice my Mom (who also moved around a lot when she was a kid) gave me:
She told me to always look for someone who is standing by herself because she probably needed a friend too. I should go over to her, introduce myself, and ask her if she wanted to play. I could then ask questions to find out more about her while we played.
This advice still works in the adult world. There are just a couple of extra steps because you usually aren’t returning to the same “classroom” the next day, and it’s usually coffee or lunch instead of the monkey bars.
Step 1: Go to a place where there are people you haven’t met.
If you aren’t switching schools, you have to artificially create that situation by trying something new.
Here are some suggestions:
- Attend a workshop. You can check out EventBrite, MeetUp, or local networking groups for upcoming events.
- Sign up for a class at your local community centre (adult fencing for beginners, Zumba, etc.) or a local small business (knitting class at a nearby yarn store, cooking class, etc.)
- Search online for a local walking club, or one that does short hikes if you are feeling adventurous
- Attend a book signing at your local bookstore (if you like the book, that’s instantly something in common with everyone else there) or a free lecture at a local university
- Volunteer somewhere
Step 2: Before the event starts, walk over to someone who is standing by himself or herself.
Say hello. Introduce yourself. Ask what brought them to the event and use their answer as a springboard to ask more questions. People love to talk about themselves. If you get stuck, circle back around to something they told you and say, “Tell me more about…”
If you like talking to this person, stick with them during the event. If you’re not connecting, move onto another person who isn’t talking with anyone. Alternately, if everyone else seems to be talking with someone, walk over to a pair of people and say, “I don’t know anybody here. Can I sit with you? Hi, my name is…”
Step 3: Before the event ends, make sure you have some way of contacting them afterwards.
I know that this can feel a bit awkward.
What if I ask for their phone number and they say no?
This is the moment where you need to be brave and say, “I’d love to have a coffee (or lunch, or meet up to do the same type of activity that you are currently doing) with you sometime. What is the best way to get in touch with you?”
Woo-hoo! You did it!
You put yourself out there. The worst thing that can happen is they can say that they aren’t comfortable giving out their information—which is really odd because they could always just provide their social media information, and this may be a good indication that the friendship wouldn’t have worked out anyways. So if it gets weird, be thankful for a closed door before you put any more effort into a potential friendship.
But 99% of the time you will get a positive response.
Step 4: Follow up with them to make concrete plans.
The next day, reach out to them. Tell them how much you enjoyed getting to know them and that you’d love to do X with them—and suggest a few specific times. Here’s an example:
Hello! It was so nice getting to chat with you yesterday at [name of the place you met]. I’m so glad to meet someone who loves [name something you both have in common] as much as I do! I’d love to meet up for coffee next week. Do Saturdays work best for you? I’m free next Saturday morning. If that day doesn’t work for you, give me a few other options and I’ll try to make it work. Looking forward to seeing you soon!
Step 5: Don’t take it personally if things fizzle.
Your plans may never work out, you may never hear back (make sure you follow-up a few days later, just in case they got busy and forgot to reply), or you may meet up and the connection isn’t great.
When we put ourselves out there, it’s scary. We tend to blame ourselves if our new buddy doesn’t become a permanent fixture in our lives.
It’s not you—you just haven’t found your tribe yet.
I’ll give you an example from my own life. When I was in banking, I used to go to events, follow these steps, but I was never excited to make specific plans afterwards. I didn’t feel like I was connecting with the women that I met at professional networking events.
But now that I am an entrepreneur, I make new friends all the time. The women who are out there, figuring out how to run their own business, are my people. I have too many friends now. Except for I keep meeting fun people every event I go to.
Don’t fall into a downward spiral of unworthiness. Congratulate yourself on doing something brave and try again. Isn’t that what we’d do for a young child? We owe ourselves the same compassion.
Not everyone you meet will be a forever friend. Maybe your connection was just for that one day.
Your Challenge: Schedule something new in your calendar.
The hardest part of making new friends is putting yourself out there. The easiest way to do this is to do something new. Find something that makes you excited to learn, try, or experience and then use this as an excuse to meet new people.
Last weekend I went to a Crave Co-Storm event alone. I didn’t go expecting to make a new friend, but I accidently did.
I started talking to her because she didn’t seem to be there with anybody. We got to know each other during the workshop and exchanged contact information at the end of the day. The next day I connected with her on social media, she emailed me shortly afterwards, and now we’re having lunch together this week.
It’s really as simple as that. It’s just not easy to be brave sometimes.
But you’ve got this!
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