How to make new friends
15 July 2015, 14:23
Moved to a new town, or even a new country? Or just a bit short on friends right at the moment? Here’s how to add new faces to your circle of friends.
We all need friends. Not heaps. For some people one or two or three are enough. Other people want their social lives to be like rush-hour traffic.
This is not the place to carry on about why friends are so special – thousands of internet postings have done that already. (You know the somewhat nauseating ones arriving in your inbox with subject lines such as “What makes a good friend?” My only answer to that would be that a good friend who knew me really well would not send that stuff to me. But then it’s Monday morning and I am feeling grumpy.)
Friends come in all shapes and sizes, as well as all ages and genders. You will know who your friends really are when your life goes pear-shaped and you need some support. A sobering thought is that you might get as much support from them as you routinely give to others, so if you’re not doing that, it might be time to make an effort.
Friends are just great to spend time with, for going with you old haunts or new spots, or just sitting around at home with you spending quality time in front of the TV together eating chips and chocolates and whatever else you can lay your hands on.
But in order to make new friends, you need to get out there, though – no one is going to come and knock on your door looking for friendship. So no more mooching in front of the TV over weekends in your pyjamas, unless you enjoy being a one-man band.
But there are a few tricks to making new friends, and it isn’t always quite as easy as it looks on TV or in the movies. Here are a few ideas:
Where to meet new friends
For the brave, there are internet dating/friendship sites, or other social platforms. You might be lucky – and then again you might not. At least in this way you can establish certain joint interests before you meet, but the problem is all you have to go on is what the other person chooses to say about themselves. It may be true, and then again she might not be telling you about the two restraining orders previous friends have taken out against her.
Even when just meeting a potential new friend, never invite them to your home the first time. Meet in a public place that is familiar to you, and possibly consider taking someone with you. Always let someone else know where you are going. I might sound paranoid, but rather be safe than sorry. Someone you’ve met on the internet is actually still a complete stranger to you.
If you have a favourite coffee shop or other regular haunt, and there is someone who hangs out there when you do, sooner or later you will get it together to make a few comments or strike up a conversation. Many people have met new friends in supermarkets, at the gym, at work, on their regular taxi/train/bus commute.
One of the best ways to meet new friends is via your existing friends. Friends of friends are at least not a completely unknown entity, as you would know something about them before making them part of your world. Accept all social invitations from your friends, and make an effort with new people you think might become future friends.
If you’re new to town and know nobody, join the poetry club, or the tennis club, or the hiking club, or the winetasting club – or whatever. You are likely to meet like-minded people on these activities and maybe they can become friends. At least you know you already have something in common.
How to make contact
If you’re in the same place as someone else regularly, give it some time and then start by acknowledging the other person with a nod or a smile, and then take it from there. Too much too soon can just look creepy or desperate. Keep things casual and start off making short conversations and possibly having a quick cup of coffee together.
Never invite someone you don’t really know on a one-to-one activity initially. If you’re stuck for a day outing with someone who turns out not to be your type, it could be a problem. Say you’re going wine-tasting with a group of friends if she’d like to join you. That’s a low pressure invite, as you’re going anyway. Movies in a group are always good, as are braais or get-togethers at someone’s house. Trying out a new pub or club with a group of friends can also work.
Then you will also have an opportunity to check out your potential new friend in a social setting, and see whether her way of doing things speaks to you.
If someone latches onto you, and starts phoning constantly, you could have a problem on your hands. You could just ignore the calls, or you could make an appointment for next month, and say you’ll speak to her then.
Unless someone is new to town, it is danger signal if they have no friends they have known for a while. Another danger signal is if someone who has known you for all of a few days tells you absolutely everything about their personal life. This means the person has no boundaries and this could spell trouble in the future.
What also isn’t a good sign is if someone starts badmouthing some of her other friends or some of your mutual acquaintances. Chances are next time she will be talking about you.
Also, see if you are comfortable about the way the person dresses, their drinking and smoking habits, and how they behave around your other friends or your partner. Also find out if their personal views and way of doing things are compatible with yours. You don’t feel like discovering six months down the line that you have a rabid racist on your hands, or someone who is rude to waiters in restaurants.
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