A study at Duke University and the University of Arizona found that people have fewer friends (on average) than they did in 1985; 25% of Americans say they have no one with whom they can trust the big stuff of life. Loneliness is a big problem in a country where people have become transient. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 6 Americans move every year. We live in front of a screen; whether it be the TV, or here like you are right now, parked in front of the computer.
What do you do when your job relocates you to a different part of the country? It’s a real problem for people who are not naturally outgoing. What if you were in an exhausting marriage and now that the divorce is final, you realize you’d let all your friendships die, or they moved away, or they took your spouse’s side? How do you start new friendships?
1. DON’T go to Adult Friend Finder.
Yes, you are an adult that wants to make new friends. They will not help you find the kind of “friends” you are looking for. Unless, of course, you seek a friend that will meet you at a cheap hotel wearing nothing but a trench coat, a fedora, and good slathering of syphilis ointment.
2. What do you like to do? What kind of people do you want to hang out with?
There’s a great internet site called “Meet Up” (meetup.com). You can find groups that like to hike, or snowboard, or read books or talk about wine. There are groups for psychics and ghost hunters and people who knit sweaters for their cats and anything else you can imagine. Pick a few and join. This doesn’t obligate you to go to any meetings or pay any dues. It simply gives you access to the events.
What about joining a volunteer group? You arrive with a task to accomplish and you don’t have to make small talk unless you feel like it. Join a bowling league or a softball team. Take cooking classes at the local recreation center.
3. (Now this is the hard part) GO TO AN ACTUAL EVENT
You were afraid I was going to say that, weren’t you?! Oh my, it’s awful, isn’t it? I’ve been leading a singles group in my area for a year now and people contact me all the time with the same story. They’re lonely and want to make friends, maybe even find love, but gosh… they are just so busy! One of these days they’ll get up the nerve to attending something… one of these days…
4. (This is even HARDER) GO MORE THAN ONCE TO THE SAME GROUP
Ask anyone that leads a social group. I would be stunned if any of them (except in a really small town) had the same exact people show up at every event. Sure, there will be a few regulars, but I know in our group, there are lots of folks that only come once every few months.
It frustrates me when newcomers attend one event, but if they aren’t immediately approached by several beautiful and fascinating people who engage them throughout the night, they never come back. This leads me to my next point…
5. Don’t judge a group based on the attractiveness of the participants
This one drives me batty. It’s like we’re all back in high school and want to hang out with the popular kids. I started one off-shoot of our singles group that just happened to be loaded with a number of our most attractive participants. Now I don’t want to detract from the excellent leadership of the man at the helm– he does a great job. But I started another group at the same time without the hotties. Guess which group grew the fastest and has the largest and most consistent participation? Yup.
Please don’t be so shallow. How often are the most interesting, loving, caring and intelligent people you know also the most physically attractive people you know? I mean, except for you. Of course.
Unless you feel like you just walked into the “bar” scene from Star Wars, stick around for a while and get to know a few people.
6. Make the first move
OMG. Walk over to someone (the same sex as you, if you’re concerned they might think you’re hitting on them) and start a conversation. It will not kill you. Ask them how long they’ve been involved in the group, how they came to find it, what they like most about it. I have never once seen someone get slapped, spit on, stabbed or shot for doing this. In fact, my experience is that they will be enormously relieved that someone came to talk to them!
7. Start a Facebook account
Don’t give me the “I don’t do Facebook” routine. Get over it. Look up the names of those you meet, as well as old friends with whom you’ve lost touch. Friend request them. You don’t have to spend hours cultivating an imaginary farm or pretending to “whack” people, just use it as a networking tool. You can do this in 10 minutes every day or two. Read your “feed” a few times a week and respond to the “status updates” your friends post. It will make them feel valued, and the next time you see them, they’ll remember you!
8. Pick up the phone
Ask someone to join you for coffee, or a movie, or a hike. Lots of folks think it is the responsibility of everyone else to make them feel welcome. Does it occur to you that those other people in the group might be new, too? So here’s a group of people standing around, waiting for someone to approach them. When it doesn’t happen, they stop coming and tell others, “Those people aren’t very friendly!”
9. Set Some Goals
If you’re really shy or anxious about trying some of these tips, make a plan for yourself. The first one could be to set up a Facebook account by such and such a date. That’s not too scary, right? Invest ten minutes a day to upload photos, music videos, Youtube clips or things you’ve written to have your page reflect who you are. Hey, posting my blog on your page would really make it interesting, too! **wink**wink** Look up old friends with whom you’ve lost touch. They might be thrilled to reconnect.
Then you could make a goal to select 4 groups/classes/teams that you will consider. You could promise yourself to check out one group per week, and commit to going to each one a minimum of 4 times before making a decision. If it’s a class, just commit to the whole thing. Do something each week. Don’t make excuses about your busy schedule. There are enough groups out there to find something that will work at least some of the time.
Make a promise to yourself to talk to at least one new person each time. You can even plan what you are going to ask them before you walk in, if that helps.
10. Make a promise to yourself
No matter how impossible this seems, it is worth the effort. Nobody wants to be alone in this world and there are lots and lots of other people out there that feel the same way you do. Connect with them! You’ll feel better and you know it.
My book, Dating, Sex, & Jesus is now available at Amazon.com. Please “like” the Dating, Sex, & Jesus Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/DatingandJesus for fun and interesting content and book excerpts in your feed. Thanks!