Go on an Internet search for how to meet new people and you’ll find dozens of sites. You know the drill: Join a club, a gym, a class, a book club. Take up acting, a sport, or a craft. Volunteer. Work on a political campaign. Attend religious services. Ask friends to introduce you to friends. Get a cute dog or borrow someone’s cute baby and go for a walk. Basically it’s about getting out of the house, away from the virtual world, and into the outside world where there are people. They’re out there, the articles reassure you. You just have to get out there with them.
Right. So. Now that you’ve met a few folks; now that you’ve sat next to them in class, held a board while someone nailed it, licked envelopes for your state representative and committed yourself to 10 years of care and feeding a Lhasa Apso dog, you may be disappointed to find you are still lonely and you still don’t seem to have anyone to hang out with when the weekend rolls around.
That’s because the articles lie!
It’s not enough to find people. That’s relatively easy once you pry yourself away from the computer and make yourself actually go where the people are. Making those new acquaintances into friends is on a whole other level. It takes time. It takes effort. If you really want to be less alone and lonely, there is work to be done.
10 Tips for Turning Acquaintances into Friends
- Give yourself a personality makeover. Face it. If you were the kind of person other people warmed up to, you wouldn’t be reading this article. Do a brutally honest assessment of what makes you seem unapproachable to people. Then make a wish list of three to five ways you would improve if magically you could. Got it? Now fake it. Act “as if” you already are that person. With practice, it will become second nature. With more practice, you will become the person you want to be.
- Once you’ve met some new people using the tips in the “finding friends” websites, follow up. Be an initiator. Find out about an interesting new movie, a new band that’s coming to town, a new exhibit or event, etc. Call people up and ask them to attend with you. Plan on drinks or coffee after. Most people are followers. They’re happy to be around someone who is willing to be the leader.
- Be generous. Do people favors. If you’re going out to get yourself a coffee, ask if anyone else wants one. If someone at work looks overwhelmed, ask if there is any small way you could lighten the load. If your friend looks stressed, offer to take care of her kids for a couple of hours so she can get a little me time. Randomly give people a flower or a treat now and then. If you see an article about something that interests someone you know, clip it and send it to them. If you’re asked to pitch in, don’t sigh and ask “why me?” Smile and think, “well, why not?” You get the picture. By being generous through favors and little presents now and then, you make yourself more likeable.
- Don’t keep score about who is contacting who. If you enjoy someone’s company, what difference does it make who calls first or whose turn it is to plan a get-together? Sometimes people’s life circumstances make it hard for them to initiate. Some people just will never be initiators. Some people are so afraid of rejection, they never ask. It’s a mistake to take such things personally. If it’s fun to be with someone who is a great responder but a terrible initiator, figure that you’re going to be doing a lot of #2 and #3 and let it be.
- Be reliable. If you say you’ll do something, do it. If you can’t do it, be honest with yourself and with your friend and give them a call to tell them so and why. Nobody likes to be disappointed – especially at the last minute. People are far more forgiving when they are given lots of notice that you can’t follow through on something you agreed to do.
- Smile. As the old saying goes: Smile and the world smiles with you. Frown and you frown alone. Resist the temptation to relate to people through complaining or by dissing a mutual acquaintance. All it does is bring everyone – including you – down. And no one wants to be around a downer very long.
- When you are in a conversation, act interested – even if you’re not. People remember people who are interested in what they have to say. Ask questions to help the person say more. Ask the person for more details. Ask them what they learned from the experience. Don’t segue into your own story until you are sure that the other person has wound down.
- When talking to someone, make and keep eye contact, use the person’s name every now and then, and lean in a little when the other person is talking. Find something about them to admire and then compliment them about how funny, wise, smart, interesting they are. One of the best kept secrets in this world is that everyone is at least a little bit insecure. When people are genuinely complimented, it helps them relax in your company.
- When there’s a problem in the relationship, identify and work on the problem, not the person. No one likes to be blamed or shamed or called names. Whenever possible, talk about how the two of you can solve the problem together. Apologize for whatever part you played in the issue. Focus on how you can move forward.
- Show people you care. If you don’t see someone for awhile, make a call to see if they are sick or having some kind of trouble. Be supportive. Help if you can. When someone returns to work after being ill or after a loss, check in now and then to let them know that you understand that it’s difficult to transition back to normal. Everything’s okay but general busyness keeps you and your friend from getting together? Stay in contact. Friend them on Facebook. Email. Skype. It only takes a few minutes and it keeps the friendship alive when you’re apart. Just make sure to get back to hanging out in person as soon as you can.
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2011). Turning Acquaintances Into Friends. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/turning-acquaintances-into-friends/0007474
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.