It would be very easy for me to say that the best way to find new friends is to go out more, but it’s a lot more complicated than that.
You can be in a room filled with 100 people and still find yourself unable to strike up a conversation with any of them. If you remember my Zumba class, I had plenty of opportunities to get to know others better, but I didn’t.
Hanging out at bars or joining gyms is not always the solution, although I’m not suggesting that you stay locked up at home either. What I really mean is that, just because you go to parties, bars, or take up a hobby, it doesn’t guarantee you will make friends any easier if you don’t know how to.
Some people have a knack for getting on with others wherever they go and find it easy to talk to total strangers, although that isn’t a sign they have a lot of good friends. In reality, you don’t have to be super-chatty to make friends and, often, the harder you try, the less success you will have.
My advice is not to hunt for friends whenever you go out because you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Friends will come to you, at the right time, in the right place. It’s quite an organic process that you definitely can’t force, although you can do certain things to up your chances of connecting with people with who you may create friendships. But first, let’s address where you are going wrong.
Why don’t you have any friends?
This is a good time to think about why you haven’t made any new friends recently. Apart from practical reasons, such as moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone, or starting a new job/university, there may be more deep-rooted explanations.
It could be that you are pushing people away, even though you aren’t fully aware of it. I realized that I wasn’t giving off the right vibes when going to the gym, as if I had put a wall up between myself and the outside world. In effect, I didn’t give the appearance of being friendly, so no one felt like approaching me. I couldn’t see it at the time because I was too involved in the daily grind and routine.
People take non-verbal cues from the way you behave and aren’t going to make the effort to get to know you better if you have a big ‘Keep Out’ sign stuck on your forehead.
It starts with the way you present yourself. Are you smiling or sullen? Welcoming or intimidating? Arms crossed or open? Engaged or distant? We learn how to read body language and facial expressions in other ways before we learn how to read and write, and we respond appropriately.
A baby can distinguish between a smiley face and a sad one from as early as five months old. Think of it this way: would you approach someone who looks tight-faced, stiff, and stern? You are more likely to keep away from them if you know what’s good for you.
We don’t necessarily act this way intentionally. It can often be a defence mechanism because we want to protect ourselves. It’s a kind of passive-aggressive behaviour that may stem from deeper feelings of unhappiness that we haven’t addressed.
Those emotions could go back to your school days or be a result of present circumstances. It may be that painful memories of not being picked for the school swimming team are still with you, and you haven’t been able to resolve that feeling of rejection.
You certainly don’t want to stick your neck out and risk getting rejected again. It might be that you have just lost your job, which has stripped you of your self-esteem, making you come across as miserable or even hostile. In essence, you project everything that you feel inside to the world outside.
Depending on what you are going through in life, you may make a lot of presumptions about other people too: that they won’t be interested in your problems, won’t be able to understand you, or don’t share much in common with you. Those assumptions have more to do with how you feel about yourself than any reality.
Low self-esteem can manifest itself in many ways. It is particularly obvious in a social setting, where you don’t feel worthy of love and respect. You prefer to keep your head down because you tell yourself that you aren’t that interesting. This can also make you appear aloof and distant – not the way to attract friends by any means.
These are just some of the more personal reasons why you may find it difficult to make friends, so it is worth spending some time to ask yourself these simple questions:
- How do I feel about my own self-worth?
- What is my body language telling others?
- How often do I smile at other people?
- Is my behaviour still affected by a bad experience from my past?
- How friendly do I look?
Once you have thought about the above points, you will have a better idea of how your emotions and mindset are influencing the way you come across to others. It’s a great start to understanding what you need to change so that you give off nothing but positive, friendly vibes from now on.
You can then boost your self-esteem using positive self-talk. In the inner monologue of a positive self-talker, one feels good about oneself and what he or she is doing. This is a voice in your head that encourages you to look at the bright side, get up when you fall, and recognize when you fail.
Where can I find new friends?
My answer to this question is, EVERYWHERE! Friendships can be formed under the most unusual circumstances, at the most unexpected moment, with people we may never have thought were ‘our type’.
I think that a lot of us are under the wrong impression that in order to make new friends, we have to go to parties, join clubs, take up a sport, or become a member of an interest group. This really isn’t the case because it’s one thing to meet new people and quite another to know how to form friendships.
In actual fact, you don’t have to go very far or take up some extreme sport in order to find friends. They may be right in front of you and you just can’t see them.
Think about your daily routine and as you do so, consider the opportunities for making new friends. It all depends on your age and circumstances so I have created a sample profile for you to get the idea.
Let me introduce you to Steve.
He’s 24 years old, has just moved to Edinburgh from a small town, works for a big car-rental company, and loves football. Each morning, Steve takes the same bus to work, alongside the same commuters.
He has 3 work colleagues, all of whom are married with children.
He speaks to several clients throughout the day either by phone or in person, some of whom are regular customers.
He visits the same coffee shop each lunchtime as it is near to the office.
On weekends, he likes to explore the city on foot and watch TV at home.
Steve is young, active, working, and a nice guy. But he feels very lonely. What would you recommend that he does to find new friends, based on the information above?
As you can see, there are ample chances for him to create a rapport with someone, from the moment he steps out of his house.
He could strike up a casual conversation with a fellow commuter on his daily bus route.
He could make an effort to get to know his colleagues more. Even though they all have children, they may have nephews, nieces, or siblings nearer to Steve’s age that he could be introduced to.
Some of his regular clients may now know him by name and if he engages in friendly conversation with them, he is creating a window of possibility to develop friendships outside of work.
His local coffee shop probably serves the same clients, at the same time as Steve goes there, every weekday. That is another opportunity to strike up a conversation with one of the regulars.
Steve is out exploring the city at the weekend, which offers him many options for meeting people. Whether he is asking for directions, discovering something about local history, or checking out cool stores, being pleasant and chatty may lead to new acquaintances.
Although he likes to stay at home on Sundays and watch TV, enrolling in a 5 a side football club will definitely give him an opportunity to meet new people with the same interest as him.
Your routine will probably be completely different from Steve’s, but I am sure that you will have an equal opportunity to make new friends. If you consider how many people you come into contact with on a daily basis, there is always the possibility of getting to know them better.
You see, you don’t need to start signing up for expensive annual gym subscriptions or joining a pottery class to find new friends. Start by looking around you and be more open to the idea that you already have a number of chances to meet people.
Even if you are currently working from home, or looking after young children, you still have a routine, right? Whether that is going to your local store, enjoying a walk, taking the kids to daycare, or having Zoom chats with clients and colleagues, there is an opportunity to meet people.
All you need to do is find a way to begin a conversation and get to know someone better. In the book How To Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie writes, “You make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” In other words, you should listen 75% and only speak 25% of the time.
As I mentioned above, there are countless ways for us to make new friends without having to go to any great length or expense. Just by stepping out of the house, you are going to meet people, even if they don’t seem particularly interested in you at first.
Believe me when I say that we are ALL looking for real, human connection even if we seem disengaged or distant.
Of course, there is a fine line between being friendly and being obtrusive or even creepy, but you can’t let that stop you from reaching out to new possibilities. If your intention is genuine, people will recognize that and if they don’t respond as you would wish them to, don’t take it to heart.
Just like you, many people find it difficult to open up and prefer to bury their heads in their iPhones instead.
How To Make New Friends
Going back to Steve, there are many other things he can do to find new friends that go beyond his daily routine.
As a friend quote says, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
I am going to list some of them below, plus others that you may be able to apply to your own circumstances. I’m sure you can think of many more once you put your mind to it, but here are a few to be going on with:
Your daily commute
I used to take the same metro every morning to go to the office and would see the same faces, sitting in the same seats. Would it have been weird for me to start chatting to one of them? Maybe, but one day I just decided to say ‘Good morning’ to the woman who had been sitting opposite me for the past ten months and that completely broke the ice.
We ended up chatting all the way into the city center and I discovered that she lived very close to me and we both went to the same hair salon.
From that day on, we became good friends and often meet up for coffee on weekends. If I had never said that simple ‘good morning’, we would still be strangers.
You aren’t going to hit it off with everyone so don’t expect to. If the other person shows no interest in keeping the conversation going or is unresponsive, don’t take it as a personal failure. Simply let it go and change seats the day after – there are plenty of other people to strike up a conversation with.
Who knows – you may find someone with the same interests as you, but you won’t know until you try.
Take a walk
Apart from exploring by yourself, there are other ways to meet up with new people. In Steve’s case, he could join one of the guided tours of the city, which you will find organized in most places these days. He will definitely meet a new group of people who share his interest and will have plenty of opportunities to chat during the tour.
Some of them may also be newcomers in town who are out to meet people, making it a very easy way to form new friendships. If you enjoy walking in nature, you’ll find many activities organized by local hiking groups.
All you need to do is put your name down, turn up on the day, and be open to new possibilities. You may even find that people will approach you out of curiosity, wanting to learn more about you, which is great!
Find out what’s going on
As you walk around your town or city, check out flyers for events near you. There is always something happening and if a particular event piques your interest, go for it. You might find out about a music concert, a talk, or an exhibition and, depending on what you are into, it could be a fantastic chance to mingle with others who share your passion.
Many museums and local attractions offer free entrance on certain days of the week or month, so you don’t have to pull out large sums of money to attend. You will be amazed at how many people frequent museums, galleries, and similar venues alone because they don’t have any company.
Strike up a conversation about the exhibits on display and you may just find a kindred soul who is more than happy to engage in conversation with you.
Pursue your interests
What do you love doing? Are you into playing a sport, keen on collecting rare books, interested in wine-making? Whatever it is that fuels your passion, find out where and when it takes place and go.
You may feel a bit awkward at first but it’s quite possible that you will find others who are also alone and have joined the activity for the very same reason as you – to make friends.
Whenever you join a group environment, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do anything other than be yourself. There is no need to try to fit in or pretend to be someone you aren’t: acting naturally is the only way to form genuine friendships and find someone who appreciates what you have to offer.
As with any activity, having the right mindset from the beginning will determine how successful you are. Turning up with the expectation that no one will be interested in you is not the way to go about things. Take the stress out of making that first step by simply telling yourself, “I’m going to have a good time and just see what happens.”
Create your own network
Why wait to be invited by others when you can organize social events yourself? This is where social media really comes into its own because you can form your own groups and invite people to join. For example, if you are keen on eating out, you can organize a ‘Dine & Meet’ event.
Make a page on Facebook and invite people to join. Set a time and date at a local restaurant and encourage your contacts to attend. Make sure you emphasize it is a friendly get-together for anyone interested in trying out a particular eating spot and see how it turns out.
There are plenty of other groups out there that cater to individual interests but maybe nothing that appeals to you, so create your own.
Check out online social platforms
There are some very well-organized online social platforms that focus on bringing people together and you have nothing to lose by trying them out. Most major towns and cities organize events for members, so all you need to do is sign up to receive details of upcoming events.
Platforms like MeetUp.com use your location to tell you what’s going on near you.
I just checked my feed and found out that there are so many interesting events coming up in my town. I saw Acting Courses for Beginners,
Content Creators Coffee Time, a 2-Day Meditation Workshop, and a Kayaking Weekend, to name but a few. All of these seem like activities I would enjoy and I am absolutely certain that the majority of attendees won’t know each other, or may have only met once or twice in the past.
This is an awesome way to create new social circles and to meet folk who enjoy the same things as you. There are similar groups wherever you are and I know some are global, such as InterNations.org. Let’s say you have moved to a new country and want to connect with other expats. The platform organizes a wide range of social events, no matter where you are, and basic membership is free.
Many of the people you meet at these organized gatherings will be in the same boat as you and are keen to establish a network of friends from back home. This kind of opportunity is the ideal scenario in which to form new bonds and all you have to do is show up with a smile and a willingness to mingle.
Meet your community
There may be a lot going on in your community and getting involved is a great way to meet the locals and form authentic relationships with those living close by. You may decide to do some voluntary work – volunteers are always needed in all walks of life – so think about your skills and offer them up.
Hospitals, community centres, and local charities are great places to check out and you may find something worthwhile to do in your free time as well as meet like-minded people.
You can also check our organizations such as VolunteerMatch.org and Idealist.org, both of which show you where voluntary (and sometimes paid) work is needed in your location.
Network with your peers
Depending on your profession, you may find events like trade fairs and conferences taking place that you can attend. The advantage to this is that you already have at least one thing in common with other attendees: your job.
You definitely have something to talk about, and linking up with fellow professionals is not only good for you careerwise, but may also bring new friendships.
As a remote worker, you may often feel isolated, so look out for coworking spaces, where you will find people in a very similar situation to you who are also keen to interact.
If you aren’t currently employed, there are still ways to connect with people in a similar situation to you. You can take advantage of any free events, festivals, or happenings going on in your area and socialize with people of the same age or background.
If you have young children, you may discover parent groups that meet up regularly, which offer both support and a chance to talk about your problems in a welcoming space.
Get a dog
This may sound weird, but if you are able to, having a dog is a fantastic way to meet others. You will have to commit to getting out of the house at least once a day for your four-legged friend’s daily exercise, which can also mean meeting other dog owners along the way.
Dog parks are the perfect place for both dogs and humans to get to know each other but even by walking down the street, dogs do attract attention.
I wouldn’t suggest this if you really don’t have the time or resources to be a responsible owner but if it is possible, consider the advantages and check out your local dog shelter. If your living conditions don’t allow you to have a pet, you could always volunteer at one of the shelters themselves, where you are bound to meet a lot of new people and potential friends of both the four and two-legged kind
Step out into the real world
A lot of the time, people who have no friends find themselves in that position because they don’t know how to socialize and this is increasingly true for the younger generation. Instead of getting out there, millennials have grown up behind a screen and learned how to connect very well with others in the virtual world.
It’s not that they are anti-social but more that online connections can be much less complicated and require little effort. Technology can even bring solace to someone who feels lonely, which shouldn’t be knocked, but it’s not the only way to make friends.
The idea of going out to a bar by yourself can be pretty intimidating, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you have little self-confidence or are naturally shy. It’s not easy at all to turn up alone at a social venue and the whole experience may make you feel extremely awkward and uncomfortable.
As a society, we are still getting used to the idea that people, especially women, who are enjoying a solitary drink aren’t there looking for a pick-up so it’s a call that you will have to make yourself.
There are plenty of other places to socialize anyway, many of which I have mentioned above.
A lot depends on how capable you are of walking into a situation where you know no one and if you lack that skill, it can actually be learned.
Not everyone you meet is going to instantly warm to you but if you have the tools to allow them to get to know you better, you have a greater chance of success.
After all, you are a likeable person, so now you need to let others see that too!
- By understanding why you have no friends, you can begin to change that.
- Your facial expressions and body language play a vital role.
- You can find friends everywhere if you know where to look.
- Your daily routine, interests, and passions can lead you to new friendships.
- Make use of community meet-ups and social groups to get to know more people.
- Network with peers, use apps, or organize your own social events.
- Get out into the real world whenever you can.