Making friends is a lot trickier than when we were children, leaving many adults to feel alone in our rapidly changing world.
A t times everyone can feel alone. Even the people who are seemingly surrounded by friends, may not have people who they feel close to in their lives. Back in our grandparents and even parents time (A.K.A. The Stone Age) people tended to spend their entire lives in one place, making it easy to retain friends from childhood right into adulthood. Many of these friends you’d keep with you right into old age. However, in today’s world our lives are very different, they’re continuously changing and we tend to move all over the place. Whether you’ve changed city, country or just feel like your current friends aren’t well suited to you, it’s normal to find yourself in this situation from time to time. Trust me, I have a few times and it certainly feels like there’s a certain stigma attached to those who don’t have a big group of friends they hang out with each week.
When we were children we’d make new friends all the time, in fact it was hard not to because we were always surrounded by people our own age and we would just want to hang out and have fun! Then all of a sudden we became adults, people go off to university, others do their own thing and we think to ourselves “how do I meet new people now?”. We watch ‘Friends’ on TV and think that this is the way it should be and “There must be something wrong with me because I don’t have that”. But real life is very different to what we see on TV and in reality it’s a continual learning process for everyone. Just because you don’t have this perfect group of friends who you hang out with all the time, doesn’t mean that you’re not a cool person to be around. It simply means you aren’t putting yourself out there to meet the right people to suit your new life.
For me the problem was that I had a great group of friends at college, we all then went off to different universities around the UK and eventually lost touch. I then made new friends at university and although we stayed in touch, because we lived all over the place we rarely got the chance to meet up. To make things worse I was self employed at the time and so work presented very few opportunities to meet new people and of course potential new friends. If like me you work from home then try using a coworking space like CoPass where you can do your own thing but also work amongst other like minded people. You never know you may find new customers as well as friends.
“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo (Aged 87)
As an adult trying to find new friends you need to become more open to people, forget about finding the perfect friend and start getting out and about more in general. You are unlikely to find new friends sat on your sofa watching TV at home. You need to put yourself out there and be the keen one who says “Hey, let’s go out again soon if you’re free one evening?”. Somebody has to do it and instead of thinking that you’re too cool, they should come to you, or worrying that they will turn you down, put yourself out there to initiate contact. Again it’s all about being open and balanced, don’t expect everybody to ask you first or to be friends straight away. It’s a lot like dating. you go on lots of dates, some go well, some don’t but you just keep trying until eventually the odds are in your favour and you meet somebody awesome. There’s 7 billion people in the world, new friends are out there, but it’s exactly that… you need to be out there to find them!
If you’re new to a city or travelling as a digital nomad a really great way to meet people in your new stomping ground is to use MeetUp or join a club of some sort. You need to make it clear to people that you are open, friendly and looking to find people to hang out with. If somebody mentions an event or they seem interested in chatting with you, then there’s no harm in saying “Hey, we should go to that together, how much are tickets?”. At worst they will be complimented that you asked but politely turn you down, at best they will agree and it’s a chance for you to hang out and get to know them better.
Here’s an example – I took a shared car journey recently with some strangers using an app called BlaBlaCar in Barcelona. The driver and his friend were a similar age to me and spoke great English, so I was lucky. We got on really well and at the end of the journey they asked me for my contact details so that we could meet up for a beer some time. A few weeks later they invited me to a BBQ with their friends and I met a great group of international people living in the same city as me, I tried ‘Calçots’ a traditional Catalan cuisine and had an awesome day. I had put myself out there and for the first time shared a lift with some randoms using an App and thankfully made some new mates.
After some time ‘friend dating’ you will find you have different types of friends and they all fill a certain niche in your life. One friend you might go to the gym with and of course one will likely be your drinking buddy. Once you get to this stage friends are like buses, you haven’t seen any for ages and then all of a sudden they all turn up at once. New friends often have friends who they introduce to you and no shit Sherlock, you will meet more new friends. Another tip, If you find yourself thinking or saying “I can’t be bothered to go” too often, then you’ll find people will stop asking you to meet up. You have to put yourself in their shoes, if they keep saying no to your invite, you’ll simply stop asking and take it as a hint. It’s all about having empathy! On the other hand don’t take it personally if somebody cancels on you or can’t make it every time. It’s important that everyone finds time in our busy lives to build friendships, they don’t happen overnight.
“The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway” – Henry Boye
Finally, drop the shame about meeting new friends in adulthood. Everybody could do with some pointers in different areas of their lives from time to time. Just put yourself out there, don’t be vulnerable to disappointment and don’t be afraid to be the keen one – if it’s meant to be then they’ll be keen too. Forget about the picture in your head of the perfect friend, that person may not exist but it doesn’t mean you can’t meet an awesome group of people who want to spend time with you. You just need to try!
…and the people I met at that BBQ?