I’ve recently been asked how I successfully make new friends. Someone referred to me last week as the “Queen of meeting new people.” Well, it’s one thing to meet new people when you’re seven and on a soccer team or eleven and all the kids in the neighborhood ride bikes together. That’s easy. Making friends as an adult is a whole different ballgame. That got me thinking- maybe I should share some of my tips for grown up friend-making. So, here you go- the backstory (aka what’s wrong with me) and six ways to make friends as an adult!Quick background
I never went to daycare. I didn’t attend preschool because I have an early October birthday (aka a “late birthday” in school system terms), which meant at age four kindergarten was my first experience socializing with groups of my peers. (I did begin dance lessons at three, but my teacher was very strict, so we stayed on our numbers and minded our manners. That lady was a toddler-controlling genius!)
Looking back, I see that kindergarten is where I decided that I absolutely must have friends- one or two best friends, many close acquaintances, and I had to be included in everything. I needed people to sit with me, nap with me, read with me, and in general, play with me.
I don’t think it’s a need to be accepted as much as it’s a craving to be social. Everything I’ve learned about my personality style is that I am an extreme extrovert. I feed off the energy of other people. I love to be around people. I love a plan. Events give me life.
This would all be fine if I’d stayed in the town where I was born and raised and lived by my childhood friends. It would also work out well if I’d stayed in the city where I lived for over a decade after college. Many amazing friends of mine are in Charlotte, and I’d have plenty of familiar faces to play with there.
But, alas, adventure was calling. A few years ago, I plucked myself out of my social circle, and moved with only my husband and our two dogs to the Virgin Islands. The first thing that struck me (after letting it sink in that I lived surrounded by the most crystal-clear turquoise waters) is that I was so very lonely. I remember thinking ‘I wish I was a loner. How cool would if be if I wanted to sit by myself and read or meditate or really do anything at all alone? Being an extrovert sucks on an island.’
Eventually I made friends of course- some of the best friends I’ve ever had- and I was thankful for the courage to have left what was familiar and try something new. Then the Hurricane blew us off the island, and we ended up in a new town in North Carolina for only a year, and now, here we are fulfilling our dream of living in sunny San Diego.
Obviously, moving around that much is exhausting. The packing, the unpacking, the organizing, the scheduling, and that’s just the logistical side. What’s way more draining is the social aspect of relocating, especially when you are the opposite of a loner… when you must have friends and plans and activities to fill your calendar and your heart but yet you know no one to invite or to accompany to an event.
In case you’re like me- and I suspect even introverts need people to play with them sometimes, too- you may find my six suggestions for meeting friends to help as you transition into new phases of life or as you wanderlust around the world looking for where you want to settle or at least spend a little time!
- Be brave and fearless in your pursuit of connection. After all what do you have to lose? You already have no friends and no plans, so how much worse can it be? (LOL, only joking) You mustn’t let that little voice inside saying things like “you’re too old to go to a cardio hip hop class” and “that girl is so cool/ pretty/ clearly more popular than I’ll ever be” get to you! Maybe that gorgeous girl just moved here too, or maybe all her friends have babies and she needs a friend who can still meet up at a moment’s notice. And what about that urge to stay in and veg because the new season of Mrs. Maisel just dropped on Amazon? Well, unless you’re watching it with your new bestie Rachel Brosnahan (who I have a major crush on), you aren’t going to meet new people laying on your couch! Put on an outfit you feel confident in, and get outside of your house and your head. Just go! You won’t regret it.
- While you’re at it, be vulnerable too. You may be saying well, once I have my super-cute-but-not-trying-too-hard-outfit on and I fearlessly head to the workout class or the wine shop or Trader Joe’s, what will I say to complete strangers. Well, I’ll tell you. You will say whatever is on your mind that is heartfelt and genuine. For example, I love all things vintage, mid-century modern and boho, so I often go to stores that sell these types of items. If you meet someone there, it’s no secret that they probably love it too. Talk about it! Ask them for an opinion. Also keep this in mind when you meet new people- you can act super cool like you are buttoned up, pulled together, and carry no baggage. Or you can present yourself as a flawed human being just trying to figure it all out who people can actually related to. Guess which one most people prefer? Brene Brown taught me that our vulnerability is our superpower. I’ve found it to be true so many times. When you open up and share, it gives the another person permission to do the same. And guess what? You probably just found a friend!
- Use the Meetup app. Heck, start a Meetup group of your own. I’m not known for my technical prowess. I only feel comfortable with Instagram and Gmail. Honestly, that’s only partly true. I can never find old emails when I need them. But when push comes to shove, I am willing to try to figure it out. That’s what I did with the Meetup app. I put in the name of my new city and voila, hundreds of events popped up. Did many appeal to me? Not a ton, but some did and all you need are a couple of options to get your started. Shaun and I went to one just before the holidays and even though ugly sweaters were suggested, we were literally the ONLY ONES in ugly sweaters. It was mortifying and liberating all at the same time. We had a blast, and so many people commented that our outfits were amazing. Also, I have senior pets and I didn’t see a Meet up for people like me, so I boldly created “Parents of Senior Pets.” I’m proud to say almost 40 people as crazy as me have joined. We are meeting next week! Lesson here- just put it out in the universe and see what happens.
- Find the other newbies. As someone who’s been BRAND NEW to three places in the past four years, I think I have gathered enough scientific evidence to say that often times it’s easier to befriend others who are new to the area. Like you, they are looking for new places to explore, fun spots to brunch and happy hour, and they don’t already have an established clique with whom to do these festive activities. Yes of course, if long time locals are willing to invite you into their established friend group, be grateful and take them up on it! But so often, I’ve found it’s easier to make friends with people who actually need friends (aka the unseasoned newbies)!
- Follow up and don’t flake out on plans with your new friends. Why go to these new places and connect with people if you aren’t going to make a plan? You have to get contact information and then use it! Text to set up a coffee or wine date. You make feel slightly stalkerish, but somebody’s got to make the first move! If you are able to make a plans, try hard not to cancel on your new friends. We’ve grown accustomed to it being next to impossible to nail down a plan because everyone is so busy, and we’ve been disappointed by people canceling on us when we were really excited about hanging out. So don’t be that person. Unless you’re sick or something major has come up with no work around, do your best to show up.
- Don’t beat yourself up if every new person doesn’t end up being your friend. Ok, this is the hardest one for me. But I heard something a couple years ago that has been a guiding principle for me as I’ve navigated the waters of meeting new people and looking for friends. Let me drop this on you.
You will be too much for some people.
Those aren’t your people.
Wow. Let that sink in. It’s not you, it’s them. And it’s not them, it’s you. And who cares! With seven billion people on the planet, you’ve got to believe there are at least half dozen or so in your little area of the world who may be a better fit for you. Don’t sweat it. Take your energy and focus it elsewhere. When you radiate with authenticity and kindness, the right people will respond. I promise.
We aren’t in kindergarten, or seven at soccer practice, or eleven biking around our hood, so yes, it feel different. And it’s hard. No doubt. But it isn’t impossible if you’re willing to put yourself out there without the fear of rejection.
Lastly, if you’ve never read All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, you should check it out. It’s lovely, true, and inspiring (even though I disagree about the milk).
Thanks for reading. Maybe you picked up on the fact that I love to connect. Reach out on Instagram or via email! Happy friend hunting!
Ashley, so excited to officially be a San Diego Blogger with a few amazing new friends!!!