“Blessed are those who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.” ~Thomas Hughes
Our old friends are like comfortable blue jeans. They are worn in, reliable, non-binding, cozy, patched in places, but still a perfect fit. We’ve had them so long, they are like a second skin.
But, our world has become more mobile. The average American will live in approximately 11 different homes in their lifetime, and they won’t all be in the same town. People move across the country for job opportunities, they move back home to be near family, and they move across the state to take advantage of a better school district. With each move, we make new friends. Some will become “old friends” over time, while others will remain acquaintances.
These deep, “old” friendships are worth tending, nurturing and growing in this mobile society; these are the people who love us and see the best in us despite our flaws. It doesn’t matter if we live near or far, the friendship remains intact. Over the course of a lifetime, you may have a handful of deep, intimate friendships.
Sometimes these few friendships are enough. They are so comfortable that the idea of making new friends seems unnecessary — and even a little intimidating. After all, we have social media for keeping up with old friends. But, as nice as long-distance friendships are, they can’t replace our basic human need for real-life interaction. That’s where new friends come in.
Expanding Your Circle of Friends
Sometimes we balk at the idea of making new friends. It takes work to develop friendships! So, why is it worth your time to expand your circle of friends and reach out to new people? There are several reasons:
- Although no one can replace old and dear friends, new people in your life open new possibilities for you intellectually, professionally, physically and spiritually. New people in your life expose you to new ideas, hobbies, interests, perspectives, and opportunities.
- New friends allow you to tap into areas of yourself that are dormant or yet to be discovered. I recently became a member of a blogging club, and I have learned so much about myself, my untapped abilities, and new career possibilities. Plus, I now have new friends all over the world who have invited me to visit them!
- New friends broaden your sphere of influence. Do you have something valuable to offer the world? It doesn’t have to be a great idea or service or product. Even the smallest act of kindness, love, and generosity shared with others has a ripple effect on the world. There is no better place to start this ripple than with a friend.
- One new friend can provide you with a network of potential additional new friends. You will be introduced to the friends of your new friend, and to their friends, and to their friends — your circle of friends will continue to grow exponentially if you let it.
- Reaching out to others forces you to step out of your comfort zone and to stretch yourself. It might be uncomfortable at first, but the payoff is tremendous. Put yourself out there! Don’t let shyness or inertia prevent you from enjoying the shared value and benefits of interesting new friends.
I think we can agree that making new friends is a valuable part of personal growth. So, let’s take the next step: Let’s take action toward making friends. This is not a passive activity. There are things to be done!
How to Make Friends in 10 Simple Steps
1. Who are you seeking?
Spend some time thinking about where to start. Although many friendships happen organically, if you are actively seeking new friends, you have to plan for it. Are you looking to expand your professional network? Do you want a companion with whom you can enjoy activities or hobbies? Do you want someone who will fit in with your existing circle of friends? Determine what you are looking for in a friendship, as this will help guide you to places where you can meet these friends.
2. Where can you find them?
Think about places where you might meet some of these people. Join networking groups, clubs or organizations for your hobbies, social groups at your place of worship, book clubs or volunteer activities. If you are more introverted, this will be a stretch for you, but do it anyway. Reach out to other people at these events and initiate conversations.
3. Learn the art of conversation.
This comes naturally for some, but not for everyone. The key is being truly curious and interested in people — because everyone has something unique to offer. The art of conversing with someone new can begin by finding areas of commonality. Ask questions of this potential new friend so you can find shared interests and experiences.
Read Related: 15 Good Conversation Starters
Look the person in the eye and show real interest in what they are saying; don’t look around at others in the room. Use their name several times during the conversation to help you remember the person. Don’t forget to exchange business cards, email addresses or phone numbers.
4. Take advantage of unexpected connections.
If you are attending a party or other event, make it a point to reach out to new people rather than always socializing with the same group of friends. Introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. Be approachable and authentic, so people feel comfortable talking with you.
5. Be the connector.
After you have met someone new, who has “friend potential,” take the initiative to follow up. Contact them and suggest getting together for lunch or an activity you both enjoy. Be sure the activity allows you time to talk with your new friend to get to know them better.
If you don’t want the pressure of a one-on-one meeting, include the new person in a group event or with another established friend or two. You may need to be the connector for a while until the friendship is established.
6. Be neighborly.
Sometimes potential great friendships are right in our backyards — literally. It’s surprising how many people don’t really know their neighbors. Invite some neighbors over for coffee or cocktails. Arrange a block party or a progressive dinner. Get to know the people right around you. These can be some of your best and most convenient friendships!
7. Work the web.
There are so many social media opportunities for meeting people — from networking meet-ups to Facebook and Twitter. Make the connections, but then get out there. Real friendships happen face-to-face, not through the computer. (Any new meeting with a stranger should occur in a public place and with another friend tagging along for safety.)
8. Nurture the friendship.
Once a new friendship is off the ground, you must continue to do your part to keep it growing. Initiate phone calls and activities. Remember birthdays. Be a good listener and an authentic sharer. Be there for your friend in the good times, but especially during the bad times when they need you most.
9. Remember common courtesy.
As friendships become stronger, it’s easy to get so comfortable that you take your friend for granted. Don’t lose a friendship you’ve worked so hard to cultivate by forgetting basic courtesies. Be reliable and on time. Be honest and trustworthy — don’t lie or gossip about your friend or share their private information. Show gratitude and frequently let your friends know how much you value them.
10. Be the first to make amends.
Your friendship may hit a bump in the road — a disagreement, hurt feelings, or misunderstandings. Don’t wait for the other person to step forward, even if you believe you are blameless in the situation. Work immediately to repair a tear in the friendship before it becomes a big hole.
The Fabric of Friendship
Once you have developed new friendships, be sure to share your new friends with your old ones. Use the above ten steps to bring new threads of people into your life, and then build a beautiful fabric of friendship by interweaving people from all the areas of your life. Enjoy the wide variety of interesting, fun and wonderful people you have gathered into your life and share them with each other. The fabric will continue to expand as you and your network develop even more new friendships.