Figuring Out Friendship, Part 1: Finding Your People
Even introverts can make new friends. I'm a self-proclaimed introvert, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but it does pose certain challenges-- like making new friends. After transitioning to a new stage of life and even possibly moving to a new place (say, like after graduation), trying to make new friends can feel like an impossible task.
But there are ways for even the most introverted of us to do it!
This is the first of a new series here on the blog called Figuring Out Friendship. We're going to explore finding your people, embracing awkward beginnings, accepting change, and things you can do to strengthen old friendships as well as build new ones. Stay tuned for the rest of the series, and don't forget to get your copy of 60 Ways to Create Strong Friendships!
So, friendships. We all need them. And it can be difficult to make them in new seasons or new places. Where do we begin?
Know What You're Looking For
I don't mean that you should have a checklist like you might if you were, say, looking for a new car. This is a different kind of preparation. But it will prove helpful to know whether you're looking for a new best friend, someone to water your plants when you're on vacation, or someone to go running with you.
Your expectations will determine how you treat the people that you find, based on whether or not they can fill the shoes you're trying to fill. Not everyone can be your new best friend, but plenty of people would be willing to lend you a cup of sugar or water your plants when you're out of town.
You just need to know what you're looking for and what matters to you in that relationship. Does age matter? Does gender matter? Does faith matter? For the sugar-lending neighbor, no, none of those things really matter. But for a best friend, probably.
When I was fresh out of college, I was desperate for new community. I wanted so badly to just have a solid group of friends like I had been surrounded by in college. I knew I wanted to find women my age to bond with, and having a shared faith was crucial.
Know What You're Not Looking For
Just like there are things you'd look for in a car, significant other, or house, there are things you're keeping an eye out for as red flags. Looking for new friends really isn't any different. Of course, people are different than cars and houses, but the principle is the same.
You know your personality, likes, dislikes, and you probably have a general idea of the kinds of people you've been friends with in the past. I encourage you to widen that scope a bit, but you can keep some of the core points as boundaries.
For instance, while your new friends don't necessarily need to be the same age as you, you probably want their personality to complement yours. You likely don't want to try to befriend someone who's always prickly or going off on some angry rant. You also might want to rethink trying to build a close friendship with someone who doesn't have time for you. Even if you enjoy their company, that friendship on its own won't fill your need for community.
And while you and your new friend or friends don't have to have everything in common, it helps tremendously to have some things that you both enjoy, so it's recommended that you aren't polar opposites on every topic. Even if it's just liking the same music or movies, that's enough to go on! But if you don't agree on anything, how can you possibly find things to do together?
When I was searching for people who could become part of my everyday community (and since then, my close-knit circle of friends), I considered how kind they were, what kinds of things they talked about, and their general outlook on life. I like to think of myself as a mostly positive person, and it was important for me to not surround myself with people who only say negative things. I don't jive with those kinds of people, so I knew I wasn't looking for that (or, rather, I was looking to avoid it).
Where to Look
How do you even make friends these days? There are all sorts of apps and websites for romantic relationships, but what about friendships? (Okay, there are some of those, too, but what about those of us who feel a little unsettled about doing it that way?) What ever happened to meeting people the face-to-face old-fashioned way?
Take a look around your neighborhood. Who's around? Who could you be friends with? It just starts with one person, so look for just one.
Who seems friendly? Who might want to be your friend? Pay attention (but not in a creepy, stalker-y way) to what they do, what they're interested in. It can give you insight into common grounds and topics of conversation (I know, it sounds cheesy and too formulaic, but it helps! Trust me!).
Are they a big gardener? Maybe you could talk to them about that! I've gotten to know one of my neighbors by talking almost exclusively (at least at first) about my garden. It was a great topic to bond over. But maybe gardening isn't your thing or your neighbor's thing. Maybe you notice they have a pet-- you could ask the name of their pet, how old they are, and what kind of things they like to eat or do. Again, it sounds boring, but you could begin a conversation that could lead to a great friendship!
If you're a part of a church community, that can be a good place to make new friends. While it shouldn't be assumed that everyone going to your church believes the exact same thing as you (there's a really good chance nobody believes the exact same things as you), it's probably pretty safe to say that you tend to think similarly about major things, which means you already have a lot in common.
Hobbies/community groups can be another great way to find potential friends. Do you go to the same gym a few days a week and see the same people there? Are you part of a recreational or competitive sports team? Do you bring your kids to MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) or a library event for kids or something similar every week? There are people right there in those places who you could potentially become good friends with! The bonus is that you're already there, and you have something in common right off the bat!
Wherever you find them, I hope you find some great friends! Stay tuned for next week's post in our series, where we'll talk about embracing awkward beginnings (you know we all have them!).
Where and how have you found your people? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!