No one told me it would be so hard to make friends once I was out of school. Even as an introvert, I never had problem making connections prior to the age of 22. My classes were filled with seemingly endless amounts of students my age, and parties always included people outside of my usual friend circle who were passionate about literature, philosophy, art, and other things that I liked to talk about.
But when I moved up to Berkeley in 2011 with virtually no friends, I was not only barely fighting off a serious case of depression, I had no idea how to form a new community that was anything as wonderful as the one I left behind in college. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to move into an apartment that had a whole crew of wonderful people to help soften the blow, but I still needed more than my roommates to spend time with. Even though it was against my nature, I began to put myself out there and made a real effort to meet new people to fill in those empty Tuesday nights. Even now, four years later, friends seem to move away so often that I’m always looking for new people that I have a genuine connection with.
So whether you’re moving to a new place or just looking to expand your circle, here’s my advice for meeting new people:
1. Strike up conversations with strangers, and don’t be afraid to ask to hang out if you hit it off
This feels awkward at first, but some of my closest friends I’ve met just from putting myself out there. I’m a total introvert, but every once in a while I’ll find myself in a great conversation with my local barista or another random stranger. I’ve learned from experience to clarify that I’m not asking them out on a date (hey, it is San Francisco), and to just say something like, “I really love chatting with you and was wondering if you’d be interested in going on a friend-date to grab coffee or a drink!” If you’re picky about who you hang out with like me, you have to make a point to get to know the people that you naturally click with.
2. Utilize the internet to find out about classes and meetups
The days of it being creepy or uncool to use the internet to people are LONG over. Classes and meetups are not only a great way to connect with others, they also just help keep you busy and get you out of the home if you’re living in a new place or don’t have many friends. Especially if you live in a more urban place, the amount of classes and events out there is incredible. Ru and I have taken over five dog training classes together, which is always a fun social event. I’ve also found some great classes through Meetup.com, including a tarot card reading class in a woman’s beautiful house in the Oakland hills. It was really fun connecting with people who had similar spiritual interests to me, and tarot card reading is an innately social activity so there was plenty of conversation with the other students.
3. Go to medium-sized social gatherings hosted by friends who have friends you want to know better
One of my favorite tricks to meet new people is to utilize the larger social group of someone who is already my friend. Let’s say you’re getting to know someone and you think they’re pretty cool… maybe you’ve already met one of her friends or even her boyfriend and think they’re awesome as well. Make a point to go to events that will include more of that friend’s community, because chances are there’s loads of friend potential. Medium or even small-sized social gathering are my favorite to attend, not just because I find large parties to be overwhelming, but because smaller hangouts tend to foster deeper conversation and are more likely to lead to remarks of, “We should hang out again!”
4. Get out of the house and go to places that will attract like-minded people
It’s hard to make friends when you’re a homebody, because on a Friday night I’d much rather just stay home, eat Thai delivery, and watch Netflix. But even if going to a nightclub isn’t your cup of tea, just getting out of the house regularly will increase the likelihood that you’ll make a connection. Instead of the loud bar scene, head to a place that you’re confident will have like-minded people. My go-to spot is the dog park, where I kid you not, I’ve met more of my good friends in the last few years than anywhere else. If you don’t have a dog, bars with social activities are a great place to start like pool table or dart bards. Or, use that internet-thingy I mentioned above in tip two to find out about local sports leagues like ultimate frisbee or kickball.
5. Just like dating, accept that most potential friends won’t work out, but the good ones make it worth it
You can’t let a few bad “friend-dates” discourage you. I’ve hit it off with people a number of times only to get together with them later and find that we just can’t keep up conversation or don’t really have that much in common. You have to learn to just shrug your shoulders, cut your losses, and move on to finding someone else that you do connect with.
How have you met some of your friends as an adult?