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How to make new friends as an adult

“The I Love You, Man Dilemma!”
 
What do the years that comprise Grade School, High School, University, or our roaring early 20’s all have in common? They are the last years (in most cases) where the world still revolves around us and only us! Its all about our interests, figuring out what and whom who like and don’t like, and we live with and are frequently forced into situations with a vast number of people our age with our same interests etc (university dorms, high school classrooms, etc). BUT, fast forward a few relationships, a marriage, some kids, a thriving career, a few geographical moves and soon our lives become prioritized, with many things to juggle and most other’s interests to take care of.

So, it is a common experience to wake up and find at 35  or 40 or 50, that you’ve failed to keep in touch with your friends, or haven’t noticed that you’ve outgrown your old friends, or that you experience a break up or a new move and you are left to fend for yourself to make new friends, yet your skills to do so are so rusty, you often find yourself opting to sit at home on your own than to venture the awkward task of making a new, adult friend!!?? 
 
Since we know that friends are literally vital to our well being and our longevity, we all know that we SHOULD be making new friends, but most of us as adults feel like a fish out of water or feel embarrassed by the idea of asking a person out on a “friend date,” and all that used to happen naturally as kids (walk up to child in school yard, share a toy and now friends!), have been long gone!
 
So, here are some tips for when you find yourself in need of some friends or new friend for whatever reason (you just lost all your friends as your ex boyfriend took them with him, you’ve moved to a new city, or you’ve just realized you’ve isolated yourself for the last ten years, and could use some new, adult companionship).
 
7 Tips for making NEW, ADULT, friends!
 
Be Curious! 
This is perhaps the best way to show someone that you like them, and those who get a chance to talk about themselves will automatically feel closer to YOU! So, if your work colleague is telling you about the latest project, be sure to ask them about what they did last night, or find a way to ask them a question about their weekend or their interests etc, after they finish talking work. Be sure to bridge your curiosity from work to the personal if you think they could be a friend. Also, if you are in a new city, be sure to ask folks you come across where their favourite places to eat, shop, etc are…folks like to be the experts on things and are more inspired to show off the highlights of their city to you if you show interest in THEIR city in the first place. 
 
TIP- So, remember, the best way to start a conversation is to ask a question, not to make a statement! Good conversationalists use approximately 30 percent of the time talking and 70 percent of the time listening! 
 
Become Familiar!
One of the key ingredients to whether or not you will become friends with someone is proximity! That’s why we make so many friends in college or in school as we see them everyday, live with folks our age, and they are familiar. However, as we get older we are more prone to being isolated from potential friends as we have work demands, family demands, etc. We no longer eat and sleep in proximity to our friends like we did when we were in university.

So we need to get IN PROXIMITY with those potential friends! Nobody ever gets to know you or comes knocking on your door without you getting out there and being surrounding by people. So, any task that you can do while surrounded by people (you don’t know) instead of by yourself, do it! Don’t read alone at home, read in a coffee shop each day, don’t work out on your at home equipment, join a gym! Don’t watch your dog run in your backyard, go to a dog park where other owners are sitting! 
 
Tip- Studies show that the more someone sees you or is familiar with your face, the more likeable they find you and the more they want to get to know you! Just from seeing you more than once! Familiarity is a reason to get to know someone (it is often commonality enough!) and people are more likely to rate you as likeable just from seeing you many times! So, the best thing you can do, is get yourself around people as much as possible. Say hi and talk to everyone. Don’t assume any of these conversations will lead anywhere, and most of the time they won't, but once in a while your familiar face and small chat will lead to a friendship! 
 
Bond over the tough stuff!
When people who are unknown to each other experience something difficult together they are more likely to bond faster and develop a lasting friendship! So when folks volunteer together to help those less fortunate, or join a running group for the purpose of achieving a marathon, or go on a yoga retreat without knowing anyone, it fosters a quick sense of community and you are more likely to share and connect to others, than if you say, sat beside someone at a ball game (a pleasurable and passive experience that keeps people fairly disconnected even if rooting for same team). So get out and join an experience of bonding things with strangers…mom groups for new moms who need support, volunteer, yoga retreat, running group…anything with a common goal where you have either overcome something difficult or have to endure something that is difficult together. 
 
Put out the Friend Bat Signal
Those who smile a lot, are generally positive in their demeanor, laugh easily, and give good eye contact are more likely to attract friends. PERIOD! So, evaluate yourself honestly on how well you are doing with these things! Are you walking around your new city with a negative, lost frown on your face? Is your expression at work very serious and you often forget to smile at those whom you come across or look your colleagues in the eyes instead of down at your blackberry etc??

Be sure you are acting friendly first, if you intend to make friends. Smile while another is talking to you, or even making a presentation in front of you. Be sure to give great eye contact to anyone you come across whom you find interesting. Be sure not to complain too much or share with others how lonely it is for you, or try not join others in negative talk about another colleague just to “get in on the conversation.” The key thing is people who project positivity and a lack of negativity and neediness are much more likely to attract friends than those who do not! So keep yourself in check and evaluate what sorts of impressions you are giving to others. 
 
Combine your Intro with your Info!
Get accustomed to sharing your contact information in the same gesture as when you introduce yourself. So, try to make it a habit of saying at the end of a small chat conversation, by the way, my name is X, here’s my card, or here’s my email, or this is my last name if you want to find me on facebook to stay in touch (depending on context of course). So, be sure to make your introduction an offer of information on how that person can stay in contact with you if they want to or how they can see you again if they want to. When you offer this, it becomes more natural for someone else to offer the same back.

It is important though, not to make this offer of more information (your email or card or facebook) a big deal or imply that it is connected to any pressure or strings, instead be sure to send the message that it is just the way you introduce yourself. So, “great meeting you, here’s my card, or here’s my email, hope we meet again! Or if you talked about something specific, like you noticed they were reading a great book, you can say, here is my email if you don’t mind sending me the name of that author etc…Regardless, make it possible for a second contact to happen if either wants to!  A simple, here’s my contact, we should grab a coffee sometime is often enough of a message that you are open to being friends if they are!

Be sure not to take it personally if you don’t hear from that person or if they never reply or show interest in seeing you again however, remember that they could be in a different situation than you. For instance, they might not be in a new city and might be very busy with their own circle of friends etc. So, just know that the more you share your info and your intro with others, without adding any pressure to it, the more likely one of your contacts will pan out!
 
Create a culture of friend dating!
If you know two people who don’t know each other, but whom you think will get along, be sure to be the person who offers to set those two people up! Or if you know a friend who is moving to a new city, ask anyone you know in that new city to show your friend around etc. The more you try to connect people (as a common friend is often enough to at least form a contact or connection), the more likely you will create a culture of “friend dating” so that if you find yourself in a time or place that you need some friends, you are more likely to have others reach out and find you some friend dates on your behalf!
 
Be Responsive!
Part of making friends is knowing when others are trying to be friends with you! So, if someone new asks you to do something with them and you are not able, be sure to tell them how much you’d like to, but can’t this time, and then make a date for another time right away! Remember, that it does require a certain amount of “going out on a limb” to ask someone “out” on a friend date, so be sure to show respect for this and if you must decline, but don’t want to send the wrong message and want to spare their feelings, be sure to book another date with them in place of the one you can’t make! When someone shows you “friend” interest and you want to be their friend, find ways to show interest that matches theirs right back!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

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