Have you ever heard the childhood song lyric “make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold”? It’s a lesson we’re taught in our youth, but it’s perhaps even more pertinent in adulthood.
In my last post, we explored the challenges of maintaining friendships as life progress down different paths at different speeds. Do you simply cut off friends you no longer have common bonds or interests with, or do you stick with relationships out of familiarity or loyalty? The answer can lie somewhere in between, and it differs for every person. Be sure to read the last blog post for recommendations on how you can navigate your longtime friendships, or schedule a therapy session to discuss a more tailored approach.
Regardless, whether you have a couple of close buddies or a wide circle of acquaintances, there are many benefits to making new friends at any stage in life. As your interests change over time, you may want to find people who enjoy the same activities and experiences as you. Or maybe you’re going through a new life chapter, like raising your first child, and having a new friend in a similar circumstance can be a support system (or at the very least, someone to laugh at all of the trials and tribulations of raising a child). And, studies show having a best bud in the office can increase your happiness at work.
However, for many reasons, men may find it challenging to meet new friends in adulthood. There aren’t as many structured opportunities, like joining a fraternity in college, and most people don’t feel comfortable introducing themselves to strangers of the same sex in bars.
The ironic part is, when asked, many men say they want more friends, and they’d be happy to have other men start conversations or invite them out. So why do all struggle with this?
Making new friends doesn’t have to be the world’s most awkward experience. Here are some recommendations on how to meet new people in a more natural way:
Follow your passions. Spend time participating in activities and experiences you enjoy, and you may be surprised by who you meet. Whether you decide to volunteer for a political campaign, play in an intramural soccer team, join a local garage band, enlist in a cycling class, or sign up for a dog-walking group, the options are limitless. Meeting people in situations you enjoy is one step towards friendship; you already know you have at least one thing in common!
Strike up the conversation. While you can bring current friends to these outings, I recommend going alone. When you’re by yourself, you will be more likely to strike up conversations with new people. Yes, small talk can take a lot of energy, but don’t be afraid to chat and ask questions. Studies show a major factor in likeability is simply listening and asking questions. If he mentions something you have in common, point it out! What’s the worst that can happen? Like I mentioned, clients tell me they would be happy to meet new friends. Chances are, he will be glad you started the conversation.
Ask your existing friends to introduce you to their other friends. Making one friend opens the door to meeting all of their connections as well. Having a mutual friend also increases the likelihood that you’ll get along.
Follow up! This is what turns acquaintances into friendships. After you meet someone new, ask them to hang out in a setting you think you both would like. Did you meet someone at pickup basketball? See if he wants to go to a Warriors game. Have you met some of the other dads from your kid’s school? Why not start a dad softball team, garage band, or just a hang-out without the kids?
Be genuine and open. Have you ever noticed some people look approachable and others look standoffish? When you’re open to making new friends, remember to be your confident, genuine self, and you’re likely to appear approachable, too.
If you would like to talk in more detail about meeting new friends or social anxiety, contact me for a 15 minute consultation or schedule a session, and I would be happy to discuss.