Meeting new people is awkward. There's really no way to sugar-coat it. The truth is that it's uncomfortable to start building new relationships, no matter what the nature of the relationship is. It's strange to try to create a new connection from nothing. It's challenging to know where or how to begin.
But don't worry, I've got some things to help you (and me) out!
This is the second installment 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, catch up on the first post, and don't forget to get your copy of 60 Ways to Create Strong Friendships!
Let Go of the Fear
Are you afraid of making a bad impression? Or being rejected? Realistically, most people are pretty kind and considerate. They're probably not going to tell you to go away, so you can relax a little.
The typical worst case scenario is that they'll just be distant or not very communicative. And that's really not that bad. It's normal to be afraid to put yourself out there to try and make new friends, but take comfort in the fact that you're not the only one! Other people are looking for friends, too!
You Go First
Somebody has to make the first move, and you don't want to waste precious time waiting for the other person to do it.
It's far more awkward to do the weird dance of "you go first," "no, you go first." Just go first. Then you're not waiting and wondering.
Step out. Everyone’s afraid! Someone has to go first. There’s not going to be a “perfect moment.” At some point, you just have to jump! I've always appreciated it when someone else starts a conversation or initiates a connection because I'm an introvert, but I'm learning more and more to be that person because I know firsthand how valuable it is to have someone get the ball rolling.
Just Say "Hi"
Think about how kids interact naturally
Share your name, and ask for theirs (and try your best to remember it!). Knowing someone's name is an incredibly personal thing. There's a remarkable difference between saying, "hi" and saying, "hi, Jessie!"
People feel special when you remember their name and use it to build your connection with them. But they also appreciate it when you are honest enough to ask them to repeat it if you've forgotten it. Doing so shows that you care about them enough to ask again, because the friendship is more important than the momentary discomfort of asking them to remind you what their name is. And there's a pretty good chance they've forgotten your name, too, so you could be helping them out, too!
Continue the Conversation
Go beyond small talk—ask about things related to what you’re doing/what brought you together
Share something about yourself to establish a connection. You can only engage in small talk for so long. Be willing to offer something up, whether it's something about your day at work, your plans for the weekend, or something you're loving lately, give the other person something to ask you about and build a conversation around.
Share your contact information. Make sure you give them a way to stay in touch with you. Exchanging numbers feels personal, but it also reinforces the friendship. If you don't have a way to contact them to get together again or just say "hi," you're far less likely to continue pursuing the friendship.
Follow up with a concrete invite (not “let's hang out sometime”). If you keep it too vague, it's not going to happen. By picking a day and time and maybe even suggesting an activity, you're demonstrating that you really want to invest in that particular friendship.
So go out there and embrace the awkward, uncomfortable, beautiful beginnings of friendship!
Do you find yourself facing awkward beginnings? Do you have any tips or tricks for embracing awkward beginnings? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!