In nearly every media interview I am asked, "What are your tips for making new friends?" and the reporters often are looking for specific ideas like joining clubs, hanging out at the dog park, or volunteering.
But those aren't tips for making friends; they are just places to meet people. And there is a vast difference between meeting people and making friends. Truth be told, most of us probably know enough people, we just don't feel close to enough of them. Even if we don't yet know people in a certain location, it's not because we don't know where people work, live, or hang out that we aren't meeting them, but rather because we don't know what to do once we meet them.
So as a friendship expert who has been thinking all things friendship for nearly seven years, here are the real tips. You do these, assuming you're a decently nice and healthy person, you will have friends. Promise.
1) Be Open.
Be mindful that research shows that we aren't all that good at predicting who we will bond with so be open to the possibility that your new friends don't need to be your same age, same relationship status, or a certain horoscope sign.
Let yourself be surprised by staying open and hopeful about women you're used to dismissing as not your type. My rule of thumb is to delay deciding whether someone is BFF material and just move the friendship as far as one can, as long as there are no big red flags (i.e. stealing from you).
I've matched up complete strangers and turned them into friends in my workshops and research bears out that bonding has less to do with being matched up with a certain person and more to do with how those two people interact -- so you can assume that most of the people you meet could be a good friend even if they have kids and you don't, even if they are single and you aren't, and even if their personality is opposite yours.
If this one tip were taken seriously, we would have a far less lonely world. (See also: The Myth that Keeps You Lonely for more on this.)
Most of us are meeting people. Everywhere. Work especially. But also everywhere else you go in life. And most of the people you are meeting could potentially add great meaning and joy to you life if you two really knew each other and spent time together.
To do that, you have two choices: get to know them in a setting where you both automatically are present (like work, church, a club--all the places that reporters want us to list as tips) OR you have to initiate with them in order to get that time logged.
Initiating means to be the catalyst to making the time together happen: striking up conversation, suggesting time together, and following up with specific ideas and dates.
Yes, it can feel awkward. Yes, it's hard if you're shy. But honestly, there is no way to build friendships without spending time together so someone has to make that happen. You're the one who sees the need so it's your job to do what you need to do to start the friendships you ultimately want to enjoy.
Falling for the myth that "if she likes me then she'll initiate next time" will kill the potential of many relationships. Instead, believe, "If she likes me then she'll say yes and try to get together when I invite her."
We all have stories of meeting someone we liked who didn't become a friend for no other reason than neither woman really followed up to make the time together happen repeatedly.
When it comes to romantic dating we intuitively understand that meeting for lunch once a month isn't going to be enough time together to really get to know one another, and yet that's all the time we often give to new friends! It will take a loooong time to feel close and supported in a friendship with someone we only connect with occasionally. Our goal is to eventually more toward familiarity--becoming more of a regularity in each other's lives than a rare exception.
It takes most of us about six to eight interactions with someone before we will usually start feeling like friends, so the sooner we get those six to eight times scheduled, the sooner we will be able to reap the rewards of our time!
Of course there are countless tips I could give in explaining each of these tips, but suffice it to say: every friendship you have ever formed has followed these three steps.
Don't be someone who just keeps meeting people; be someone who knows what actions to take to develop those people into friends.
p.s. And remember, GirlFriendCircles.com is a great way to meet new friends in your city since everyone who is a member is a friendly woman who values making new friends!