1. Get outside.
Go to the park, local library, local small businesses, gym, or another place other people gather, and where you feel comfortable. Grab a table at the corner coffee shop to read a book, sip on a cup of coffee, scroll through Instagram, or people watch.
It doesn't matter where you go so much. It just matters that you get out of your house and regular routine, or at the very least, the autopilot setting you go through your daily routine in.
There are people all around us, but we spend so much of our time in our own little bubbles that we're not engaging with them in meaningful ways (and yet we wonder why we're so lonely).
So get out where the people are. Engage in your normal activities, but do them in places where you could bump into someone who's interested in the same things. Smile at the person running on the treadmill next to yours. Say hi to the person walking their dog through the park, too. Ask the person you found in the memoir aisle of the library if they have any book recommendations.
2. Get social.
Of course, this is the digital age, so you don't even have to venture outside of your normal locales to engage with people (although it's still recommended). With things like social media, you can meet people without leaving the comfort of your couch.
You can find Facebook groups for any interest and any location, getting to chat with people who share your perspectives and hobbies and live in your area!
Then take it a step further and message them to grab coffee (after all, virtual relationships are great, but they're no true replacement for in-person interaction).
3. Gather people.
Once you've met people, it's time to get to know them! After all, you're probably not just looking for people with whom you can discuss the weather or current events. You want more than that.
It doesn't have to be intense or scary, but it does require some intentionality on your part. It requires an invitation-- not fancy or formal necessarily, but stepping out and extending the offer to have people over to your home or to meet somewhere at a specific time and date. It's admittedly a small risk, because the other person (or people) could say no, but they'll never say yes if you don't give them the chance.
You could invite people over for a book club, start a neighborhood walking club, or start up a biking group through downtown. You could simply invite your neighbors over for coffee or dinner or a game night.
It doesn't matter so much what you do, just that you get some time together to build that connection and friendship. You could start with an activity that you already have a mutual interest in, or one that's a crowd-pleaser, like dinner.
4. Go first.
Now it gets a little harder. If you want to get past the small talk, you're going to have to be the one to do it. Say hi, ask some questions, start the conversation.
Somebody has to go first, and that's you in this situation. You don't have to tell your whole life story or kick it off with your most embarrassing moment, but you might share something you've been learning lately or a funny story from last summer's vacation. The goal is to let them get to know you, relax a little, and feel comfortable reciprocating the gesture and talking more freely about themselves in return.
5. Get-together frequently.
Consistency breeds intimacy. It takes time. Be patient. But also be consistent. If you're showing up just once a month, it might take a year to feel comfortable sharing deeper, more private things with new friends. However, if you gather weekly, it might only take three months. And it's different for everyone. Some people take longer than others. It's not an exact science. But one thing is true: time spent together over the long haul breeds deep friendship.
So extend a follow-up invite for coffee the next week. Suggest meeting every month. Decide your group will read a book together for the season, and then pick another one after that. Commit to getting to know your people, and show up consistently.
People feel valued when others show up for them, especially when it's not particularly convenient or when life gets messy. If you're looking to make genuine, long-term friends (and I think you are, since you're here reading this), it's going to take some effort to be present, to engage, to live life with people.
6. Go deep.
You can't make real, tried-and-true friends by just sticking to talking about the weather and current events. At some point, you're going to have to venture into other, more personal topics.
It can be challenging to know where to begin. I know. I've been there, sitting in a room with a handful of other people (or more than a handful), where everyone's looking around with blank expressions, wondering who's going to be the first one to crack and say something to fill the silence.
I'm not saying it's easy; I'm just saying it's worth it. People are always worth our discomfort and awkwardness.
Sometimes it can help to have an icebreaker and then expand from there. Or it might be helpful to have a list of questions or topics to consider, such as the following:
- best vacation ever
- best gift you've received
- best birthday ever
- what you've been learning lately
- best book you've ever read
- favorite childhood activity
- what you wanted to be when you grew up
- favorite musician/song
- favorite food/restaurant
- favorite activity/hobby
- where you'd travel if you could go anywhere
Once you get people talking, you can identify similarities and topics to branch off from to keep the conversation going!
7. Go do something.
Engage in your favorite hobbies, and do them with others. Whether you're grocery shopping together or taking a vacation with a friend, you'll grow closer and get to know each other better through the experience.
Friends do everyday things together, so invite people into your everyday life. Go for a walk at the end of a long day. Call someone on your way home from work. See if someone wants to run to the farmer's market with you this weekend. Invite someone to grab a cup of coffee. You just might find a new great friend!
It's that simple! Get out there, start the conversation, be consistent, and engage with people in your daily life!
It might take some trial and error. Not everyone you meet will click with you, and that's okay! You'll learn along the way what kind of people are your people. You'll gain confidence in your ability to strike up conversations and steer them through the small talk to more important things. And you'll make more and more friends as you go!
I challenge you to go out somewhere this week and strike up a conversation with a new potential friend, whether that's another dog walker at the park or lifter at the gym or the barista at your favorite coffee shop. Say "hi," ask a question, and see where the conversation takes you!
And to make more virtual friends, I invite you to join The Joy + Full Living Community! We're all about living and working with joy, simplicity, and intention, and we have a blast while doing it!