It’s interesting that in a world where we are more “connected” than ever, it seems incredibly hard to create new friendships. After all, everyone is so busy rushing from here to there, checking their email, talking on the phone, etc. that it seems to leave little time for actual interaction. Some people lament this fact, while others see it as a jumping-off point for developing deeper relationships.
What follows are five steps to leverage your own experiences in order to find and create new friendships in today’s modern world.
Step One: Who Do You Know?
Chances are, you are surrounded by interesting people. With some obvious examples aside, you wouldn’t spend time around these people if you didn’t have some sort of common interest. For example, you may have made the acquaintance of other parents at your child’s school, people who work for the same company as you, or those who hang out in the same places you do. Of those people, are there any who seem like good candidates for friendship? Who strikes you as particularly interesting or friendly?
Make a list of people you think you might want to get to know better.
Step Two: Finding New People to Meet
There’s certainly something to be said for creating friendships with those you don’t actually know yet, too. Again, it’s a good idea to focus on meeting people in places where you know you have a common interest: business networking groups, social clubs, and sporting events are just some opportunities to meet others who share your passion for a particular subject. The Internet also provides opportunities to meet people. For example, most cities have a Craigslist, and within that is a “strictly platonic” section. If you’re not comfortable creating your own ad, consider responding to someone else’s.
Add these people to your list.
Step Three: Making the First Move
For some reason making new friendships seems to get harder as we grow up. We don’t have the same energy and self-confidence that we did as children to simply walk up to someone and say “wanna be friends?” Instead, adults are a bit more hesitant and protective of themselves. For those who really want to make new friends, however, it’s time to put some of that aside and be brave.
There are quite a few ways to engage someone, depending on the situation. If you want to get to know a coworker better, it might make sense to ask him or her to share your coffee or lunch break. This gives you a chance to chat, but there is a set time limit to keep things from getting uncomfortable.
Another option is to host a small event, whether it’s a Tupperware party or having a few people over to watch a game. The fact that there are multiple people invited and that there are activities (the demonstration, watching the game, eating, etc.) can keep the pressure low while providing some time to mix, mingle, and get to know each other better.
Look at the lists you’ve made and see who you might be able to invite to join you for something like this.
Step Four: Following Up
As you’ve put together a few low-stress “get to know you” activities, you will have the beginnings of a relationship with others. In addition to having spent some time together, you will also have some shared experiences on which to draw for conversation and building a history of your friendship. (“Remember when the Tupperware lady made brownies in the microwave?” “Remember when so-and-so caught that amazing pass and I spilled my chips cheering?”)
Identify the person or people who you felt a connection with and follow up on it by asking them to do something similar.
Step Five: Contain Your Expectations
The way that friendships evolve is highly dependent upon a person’s culture. For example, US Americans tend to make “friends” very quickly, but truly deep friendships take considerable time and cultivation. In other cultures, it may be difficult to create that initial connection or people may quickly become bosom buddies. Each individual is different, as well, so having a certain set of expectation for how a friendship will develop can be an exercise in frustration.
Instead of trying to control every aspect as you create new friendships, allow yourself to be open to the idea that each will develop in its own way. This allows you to enjoy the process much more after you’ve gone to the effort of setting it in motion.