Follow these practical tips to connect with new people and groups.
Posted in , Mar 26, 2019
Human beings are naturally social creatures. We crave deep connections with others who share our interests and beliefs. But according to a Cigna’s U.S. Loneliness Index, nearly half of American report sometimes or always feeling alone. A quarter of those polled reported rarely or never feeling as though there are people that understand them, while a fifth said they rarely or never feel close to people.
Although forming close relationships sometimes requires time, there are a few simple ways to make friends and begin to build your network of support.
1. Attend a class or event in your area of interest
Workshops, classes, and other events offered in your areas of interest are all appropriate places to meet people. For example, if you like pottery—either to collect or do yourself—consider attending a local pottery shop’s open-house or sign up for a one-day workshop on how to make pottery. If you dream about penning the next great American novel, attend a writing class at your community college or an afternoon seminar with a local author. If you love dance, consider getting involved with the local ballet company, volunteering your time to their programs, or take an adult dance class.
2. Get involved in your church
Your church or parish is another fertile meeting ground for friends. Having faith in common is a great starting point for a deep connection. Most churches offer Bible studies and other discussion groups. Some have committees devoted to serving the poor or ministries for soldiers and veterans. If you tend to alternate your times of church service, consider committing to the same service each week so that you become better acquainted with those regulars.
3. Contribute to a cause
Feel passionate about a certain cause? Think about participating in a walk to raise money for that mission or a rally. You will meet others who share your enthusiasm.
Choose a nonprofit or local foundation whose agenda you believe in. Join a civic association or attend a town hall meeting and contribute your skills. For example, if you feel strongly about the environment, sign up to pick up trash or plant trees with other folks around your neighborhood. Conversations happen more naturally while immersed in a task.
4. Join a support group
My best friends in college were those I met at a local support group. We became close very quickly because we were struggling with similar issues and relied on each other as sounding boards.
Twelve-step support groups are an invaluable place to make connections with others who struggle with addiction, codependency, and family issues related to addiction. However, there are many more kinds of support groups: Christian-based groups, programs for relationship difficulties, and support for depression and other mood disorders.
5. Go online
Talking with someone online is different than chatting over coffee, however, I have been amazed at the level of intimacy exchanged in the online groups in which I participate. Several of my online relationships have led to phone calls and in-person meetings where our bond deepened. Two people I met online became dear friends that I see and talk to regularly. When you search for online forums, you’ll find a dizzying array. Be choosey. You can also create your own. I created two groups for depression. Psych Central hosts online forums on just about any issue.
6. Start a meetup
In 2012, Eileen Bailey was newly divorced and had just sent her daughter to school. She realized she didn’t have many friends. She joined a Meetup group for women over 50 but there were never any activities, so she started one of her own. At the first breakfast, the table was full of women from all walks of life conversing with each other as if they had known each other for years. “We sat there for three hours, soaking in the easy companionship we felt,” Eileen told Guideposts.org. Seven years later, the group still meets for breakfast twice a month. “We go [to] the movies, out to dinner, see plays at local playhouses, and go on trips together. But more than that, we have become friends,” she said. “We have found friendships where once we didn’t think it was possible.” With Meetup, you can search existing groups categorized by your location or interest area. You can find a gaggle of friends with whom to train for a marathon or learn a language or experiment with cooking.
7. Get to know your co-workers
You may be sharing an office space with a half-dozen potential friends and you just haven’t made the effort to get to know them better. You already have one major thing in common, so you can build on that base. When I was new to an organization, I made it a goal to take a different colleague out to lunch each week. As months went by, I felt much more a part of the company and enjoyed several friendships because of those efforts.
8. Befriend friends of friends
As with many people I know, I met my husband through a mutual friend. This provided a level of comfort from the start because I knew he had essentially been vetted by her. Friends are the same way. If you meet someone through another person whom you trust and respect, chances are good that you’ll enjoy a nice connection. Part of the weeding out process has already been done for you.
9. Get creative and have fun
If you apply a little creativity, you will likely come up with many more ways to build your network. The hardest part in forging new connections is putting yourself out there. That’s never easy, as not everyone will reciprocate your gesture. However, if you continue to take the risk and try to connect, you’ll be rewarded with a circle of close, intimate friends.