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Making new friends as an adult is tough. Trust me, I feel your pain. No one teaches you how to do it and, unfortunately, the days when you could walk up to another kid on the playground and say, “Hi, I’m Jessica. Will you be my friend?” are long gone. Kids were way less judgy. Got caught eating sand during recess? Kids be like, “I admire your experiential curiosity. Let’s eat this sand together.”
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that sand-filled haven anymore. We live in a world where it’s harder to admit that you need friends than to admit you need, say, a significant other. We live in a world where there are hundreds of dating services, but almost none to help people make friends.
We live in a world where we have to rely on social networking events and 5 minutes worth of small talk and nervous laughter to find best buds outside of our existing social circles.
Follow-up, you say? What the hell is that? “Hey, yea, this is the girl you met for 10 minutes at the 3-hour Social Networking for Cool People event last Thursday. Want to have lunch?” Let me know how that ends.
If you live in San Francisco, like I do, we live in a world where tech runs our lives and getting someone to glance up from their smartphone to look us in the eye is deserving of a slice of Zanze’s cheesecake. Just remember, a San Francisco “maybe” means no. (Can’t blame San Franciscans for trying to be polite though!)
In the 5 months we have been around, FriendTailor has learned a thing or two about friendship. After all, we meet all of our users over a fantastic cup of San Francisco coffee to understand what our users are looking for in a friend and then match them with a potential friend. We also take out the awkwardness of following-up, since we attract awesome people who are actually looking for friends. They want to hang out with you as much as you want to hang out with them. (http://bit.ly/1l3k11S)
Okay, so you want to know how to make friends with anyone. Before we delve into actionable steps, I think it’s important to see the bigger picture. Once it is clear what most people want out of a friendship, it will be easy to come up with ways to meet those needs. Just remember, a friend worth keeping will also strive to meet your needs.
When someone decides to be friends with you, he, or she, needs to…
1. Feel welcome and comfortable around you.
2. Have a good time when they hang out with you.
3. Feel that you care about them and have your support.
Wait! Don’t smash your computer on the ground yet. Holy crap!
Yes, most of this is common knowledge. The problem, I think, is that people over-complicate what it means to be a friend. Human interactions are shrouded by emotions, making relationships seem more mysterious than they actually are. To my overly-logical friends reading this, there’s hope. Take a step back and realize that people want very simple things: respect, companionship, and love.
Action steps to make friends can all be derived from the 3 building blocks we identified to create a good friendship. This is where friendships get fun. Just because these are the requirements to have a good relationship doesn’t mean that the action steps are always the same. Why is this good, Jessica? It’s good because different requirements mean you’re going to be friends with different people, which means a richer life.
For example, when meeting someone for the first time, some people will feel welcome if you just smile and make eye contact. Others won’t feel welcome until you directly address them.
It’s all about finding the right formula. Overly-logical people, you get what I’m saying, right? Form a hypothesis, test it, analyze the results, and conclude. Trust me, reading people gets easier the more practice you get. You’ll soon find that there are certain things that work well no matter who you’re with. Smiling is a solid go-to for me.
With that said, here are some action steps you can try. Mix and match and create your own to find out what works for you.
1. Make someone feel welcome and comfortable around you: Smile, make eye contact, introduce yourself, nod when the other person is talking, pay attention to the other person, keep an open stance, ask questions, engage in conversation, be willing to show kindness first, act naturally, laugh when you think something’s funny, keep an open mind.
2. Having a good time while hanging out: Be yourself and create a judge-free environment so that the other person can be themselves too, do an activity that you both enjoy, crack a joke to lighten the mood, bring up different topics to talk about, listen to the other person’s opinions and chime in with your own, laugh, teach each other things, ask questions to learn about each other, have new experiences, give genuine compliments, have fun!
3. Show someone you care about them and have your support: Be willing to share things about yourself and your life (this opens up a dialogue and allows the other person to feel comfortable sharing deeper things with you), show your appreciation (telling them that you appreciate them is a good start!), be open to hearing about the other person’s problems and engage, don’t judge, tell the other person that they have your support, give some guidance by telling the other person about your own experiences, don’t be afraid to show you care, go out of your way to show you care, hug a friend.
LASTLY, remember to invite the people you enjoyed hanging out with to hang out again. Relationships take time to build and you should look forward to hanging out every time!
If you ever have any doubts, remember not to over-complicate it. Stick to the 3 needs. Are you making your friend feel welcome and comfortable around you? Are you both having a good time with each other? Are you making your friend feel cared for and supported? Yes? Then take a chill pill. You got this.