Loneliness is a major theme in many of the letters I receive and in conversations in the forums. People date the wrong guys (or women) not because they necessarily are desperate for a relationship, but because they’re desperate for a companion — for company, for a friend. Friends are so much harder to make once we’re out of school and fully immersed in the adult world of full-time work, partners, families of our own, and various other responsibilities and commitments. But quality friends in adulthood are every bit as important as they were in our childhood and they are worth the effort to make them. Keep reading for tips on how to find them and how to keep them.
Where To Meet Them
You’ve got to meet potential friends to make potential friends, and once you’re out of college meeting people isn’t as easy or as natural anymore. But, fear not, there are still plenty of places to meet them. Here are a few:
1. Book club
Or wine club! Or a supper club. Any club that has an activity that sounds at all appealing to you and allows for talking and interacting is a great way to meet people. Check Facebook pages in your neighborhood, Yahoo groups, and Meetup for existing groups or consider starting one of your own (this could be ask easy as inviting a few people you already know and asking them to invite co-workers, cousins, friends, etc. Again, Facebook or some other social network is a great way … well, to socially network.
2. On a team
An intramural sports team or league (think softball, bowling, soccer, roller derby, even kickball) attract people who like to be around other people — and, have time to be around other people. So find a sport you like and sign up/ try out for a team.
3. Places you frequent a lot
I mean, duh, right? But it’s easy to forget to, you know, talk to people when you’re at your favorite bar or park or beach or bookstore or coffee shop, which is a shame, because it’s exactly at those places where you’re likely to meet people who have stuff in common with you. Need a “pick-up line”? Here are a few: “Hey, I was thinking about reading that book. Is it any good?” “I need to break out of my drink rut. Any recommendations?” “What’s your dog’s name?”
4. At baby or bridal showers
Lots of women, a lot of whom you probably don’t know, stuck in the same place for two hours on a Sunday afternoon wishing the drinks were a wee bit stronger. Might as well mingle!
5. At volunteer gigs
Not only will you expand your personal and perhaps professional network, you’ll be a do-gooder in the process. Win-win!
6. In a moms’ (or parents’) group
Want friends? Have a baby! Already have a baby? Great! Then join your local parent listserv or put some flyers up at the grocery store and either advertise a new parents’ group or find an existing one and start weekly or monthly play dates or moms’ nights out. Parenthood has a way of bonding people in the same way college does. You may not have a ton else in common other, but there’s this big thing and this big thing is pretty much like 80% of your life right now.
7. At work
Hitting happy hour together after work is a great way to not only relieve work-related stress but also to get to know each other a little better outside the office environment. I also recommend lunch dates and carpooling, which is good for the environment and great for your social networking.
8. At a clothing swap
Invite any or all the women you know and like in your town — even if it’s just a couple of co-workers and a former high school classmate — and ask them to invite their friends to clean out their closets and come on over for an afternoon or evening of fashion, cocktails and snacks. Even if you don’t make a new friend, you’ll probably score a new outfit (and clean out some of your clutter in the process).
9. At a DW Meetup!
How to actually become friends
Now that you’ve met potential friends, here are a few ways to make it stick:
— Take initiative and make some effort. Organize dinner dates or movie nights. Let people know when a band you all like is coming to town, or when a cool art exhibit is opening, or when there’s a free night at your local museum. A simple group email with a link and “Anyone up for this?” in the subject link can get the ball rolling.
— Keep in touch between get-togethers. Just like with dating, short texts or email messages that let the other person know she’s on your radar, even if she’s not penciled into your busy schedule this week or next.
— Be a good listener and remember what you hear. If your friend confides that she’s worried about her job, upset with her boyfriend about something, or concerned about her mother’s health, for example, be sure to ask her about those things the next time you see or speak to her. It shows you care and are interested in her life and not just having company.
— Remember birthdays. Whether it’s an email, a call, or a small gift, remembering a friend’s birthday goes a long way.
— Friendship is a two-way street. If you find yourself doing all the reaching out, evaluate whether this is a person you really want to continue investing in.
— Don’t force it. Making friends is like dating — sometimes you meet someone who’s perfectly nice, but for whatever reason there just isn’t chemistry. Cut your losses and move on. And don’t take it personally if someone resists your attempts at friendship. People are busy or already have full lives and social calendars and aren’t in the market for new friends. It’s not a reflection on you! Just move on to the next person. Maybe she’ll be “the one.”