Small steps to strike up friendships
Learn to identify opportunities
We let chances to make friends pass us by every day, says Kate Leaver in her book The Friendship Cure. She advises having the courage to take small steps as and when opportunities arise. “Instead of forcing a little small talk with your kindly neighbour,” she says, “ask them in for a cuppa and get to know them. Instead of leaving a party without contact details for your friend’s sister, add her on Facebook, for example, and ask her for coffee some time … You’ll be surprised by how many potential friends there already are in your orbit.”
Follow your interests
Joining a group, club or class is an effective way to meet people. “Teaming up for a shared activity, project or goal is an experience that can promote bonding and closer connections,” says therapist Miriam Kirmayer. Pursue a challenge or skill you are passionate about, because then you will have a good time and feel more at ease striking up a conversation.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable
It can be scary trying to make friends. What if your overtures are rejected? Leaver and Kirmayer say that a degree of vulnerability is needed in trying to strike up friendships. Put plainly, keeping yourself to yourself isn’t going to help you. Sharing recommendations or letting others in on plans, says Kirmayer, are simple ways to share, which will help build closeness and trust.
Use technology – but not exclusively
“Social media can be hugely beneficial for making friends as an adult,” says Kirmayer. Apps such as Peanut (which connects mothers in a local area) can be a good starting point, suggests Kirmayer, as can platforms such as Meetup, where you can sign up to local activities and events. But, she adds, social media does not replace personal interactions: “The more we rely on apps, the less practice we have with the kinds of conversations and experiences that really allow us to create close friendships, as opposed to superficial connections.”
Join a choir
A study by Oxford University, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal in 2015, suggests that singing has an “ice-breaker effect”, helping strangers to bond more quickly. Making Music, British Choirs on the Net, Big Big Sing and the National Association of Choirs all list music groups or choirs by location.
Don’t put too much pressure on it
As we age, our friendships inevitably shift. According to a 2016 study, we hit our peak number of friendships at the age of 25. When trying to make friends as an adult, clinical psychologist Linda Blair advises not putting too much pressure on any new connections and not expecting too much from one person.
Ask questions and listen
A simple tip, says Leaver, is to ask “better, investigative questions” and actively listen. That is not to say you should go around interrogating people – but showing a genuine interest in a person, asking them about themselves, and listening to their answers can take you a long way towards making more meaningful connections.