Last January I set an intention for myself of building connections and fostering relationships. I believed, and still do, that our communities and our country are too divisive. What I have in my control is that I can get out of my comfort zone and build new relationships and also spend time fostering the many relationships and friendships that are some important to me. Now six months later, I am doing a check-in and sharing some helpful tips.
What I never saw coming last January was the Shelter-in-Place order that went into affect for my county on March 16th. How do you foster new relationships when you suddenly need to stay in your home? How do you enjoy your girlfriend gatherings when you can’t gather? Zoom was a life saver for me. Not only did I teach on Zoom, I went to church on Zoom, had Vestry and school board meetings on Zoom, my book club gathered on Zoom, and many Happy Hours were enjoyed on Zoom. As our stay-at-home orders are easing, friends are beginning to gather once again.
Tomorrow, June 8th, is Best Friends Day (also my anniversary!) So today I am reflecting on the friendships that make my life rich and full. Friendship is a wonderful thing. A few good friends can make life a lot more fun and meaningful. It’s also nice to have the support that strong friendships provide. My friends have been there through all of my life’s ups and downs offering support, comfort, and advise. They also make me laugh out load and share my adventurous spirit.
Unfortunately, I hear from readers that many struggle to develop new friendships. Even when you’re willing to do the work to find new friends, it’s not easy to know where to start.
How to Develop and Grow New Friendships
Try these strategies to bring new friends into your life:
Be bold. Most of the people you see would love to have additional friends.
There’s no reason to fear rejection while attempting to make friends. You’re not asking for a loan or a date. People can appear disinterested for a variety of reasons. They might be busy, having a personal challenge, or just having a bad day. You’ll survive!
Start with the people you see each day. Chatting with a stranger is more anxiety-provoking than talking to the person in the next cubicle. Try to make your casual friendships more meaningful. You might already have all the people you need to create a strong social circle.
Get to know the friends of your friends. You could quickly have more friendships than you know what to do with.
Stay in touch with all of your friends. You’ve probably made plenty of friends over the years. You just haven’t maintained the friendships. A good friend is a rare commodity. Stay in touch and keep up with each other.
You’ll always have enough friends if you take the time to keep your friends close.
Take advantage of opportunities to get out more. If you keep declining offers to go out, people will eventually stop asking. When you prefer to stay home, your social circle shrinks. Make a habit of saying yes. Right now this could simply mean a small gathering of neighbors sitting in the front yard six feet apart to get caught up with each other. It might mean getting in your car and participating in a party parade waving and sharing a hello.
Use the internet to your advantage. Even if you have zero friends, work alone at home, and don’t have neighbors, you can still find people for socializing. There are several meet-up groups online. Volunteer. Take a class. Plenty of others are in the same boat as you.
Be open to new people and ideas. The people with the most friends also tend to be the most accepting. The more judgmental you are, the fewer people you’ll find that meet your strict criteria. Drop your preconceived notions of what a friend should be. It’s possible that the best friend you could ever have will be nothing like you.
Be supportive. The best friends are available 24/7. Be generous with your time, attention, and help. Helping others is satisfying and builds strong friendships. You can expect the same in return when you need help.
Be genuine in your interest of others. The most important part of connecting with others is demonstrating true interest in them. Avoid the mistake of trying to make others interested in you. Focus on them, instead.
Be curious. Ask about their lives, hobbies, hopes, and dreams. Focus on the good to be found in others. You’ll find more people you like and admire if look for the positive.
You can add to your social life at any age. Remember that adding new friends to your social circle is an active process. It’s necessary to put in the time and work to make it happen. Life is too short to wait for others to come to you. Go out today and make a new friend!