I timidly stepped into the New York café where I was meeting with a small group of women writers I’d found online in a new attempt to overcome my social anxiety and make some like-minded friends, something I’ve never thought myself particularly great at.
Forming connections, finding something interesting to say, and creating bonds with other people is something I’ve struggled with.
I often see girls who seem to effortlessly know how to make contacts, plans, and friends as if it were as simple as ordering a coffee. But as I walked into the café that day, the insecurities I’ve held since middle school bubbled up and told me to run; but I’m so glad I didn’t.
Over the next two hours, as I slowly but surely emerged from my shell, I was surprised to find that the small step of faith I’d taken in joining the group yielded laughs, conversation, and ultimately a one-on-one coffee date with a fellow quiet girl, who is now one of my best friends. We spend most Friday nights watching movies and making dinner together. Sometimes I think that had I not decided to step out of my comfort zone, I would never have found the kindred spirit who’s been such a support and comfort in my life.
Had I not decided to step out of my comfort zone, I would never have found the kindred spirit who’s been such a support and comfort in my life.
It seemed easier to make friends in elementary school, being that we saw the same people every day, took classes with them, and ate lunch with them; all you had to do was loan someone a crayon, and boom—you were friends. Making friends as an adult can seem like an impossible task in a society that’s so isolated, especially if you have social anxiety like me. But regardless of how difficult it might be, each of us needs kinship and support in our lives to evolve, prosper, and live well.
Here are a few tips for making friends I’ve found to be useful; I hope they can help you in your search for a kindred spirit:
Find a group of people sharing a common interest
C. S. Lewis famously said: “Friendship is born at that moment where one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” The very first step to finding people we’ll click with is to find a community in which the values and interests we hold dear are shared. Whether it be a book club, a pottery class, or a cooking course, the key to finding friends is investing our time in things we love to do.
The key to finding friends is investing our time in things we love to do.
Surrounding ourselves with people we’ll immediately have something in common with will help break the ice, make bonding just a bit easier, and give us an excuse to ask someone to hang out one-on-one—which brings me to my next tip...
Just ask them to coffee already
The first time someone suggested I ask a potential friend out for coffee, I practically shrieked, “What?! Ask them out for coffee?!” as if they’d suggested I kidnap them. Who would want to go to coffee with me? But when I challenged myself and made the first move, the outcome was so different from what my anxiety-ridden mind had imagined.
I ended up meeting with and connecting with a lot of amazing people and even made a couple of life-long friends. When we step out of our comfort zone and ask someone to have a cappuccino, it opens the door to some wonderful possibilities. Maybe you’ll meet your best friend, or maybe you’ll spend an hour getting to know someone a little better. Either way, what’s the worst that could happen?
If you think of something nice, say it
We all learned from mom that if we didn’t have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all. But what about if we do have something nice to say? Maybe some of us feel silly saying nice things, fear they’ll be taken the wrong way, or simply haven’t mastered the art of noticing the positive of the people around us. I’ve realized that the people I’ve found myself most often wanting to be near are people that always have something nice to say.
I’ve realized that the people I’ve found myself most often wanting to be near are people that always have something nice to say.
Complimenting someone simply for the sake of making them feel good about themselves is one of the easiest ways to reach out. If you think someone’s hair looks nice, tell them. If you think they have really good taste in music, tell them. If you find them to be an insightful person, tell them. Performing the simple act of saying something nice lets people know they’re seen, valued, and ultimately will provide us a way to connect with them.
Make time for them
Figuring out how to balance the demands of our own hectic life while caring about someone else’s is tricky, but it’s essential in our quest to cultivate a lasting friendship. This means being willing to sacrifice some coveted “me time” to hang out with someone on their only night off, suggesting you guys make dinner together instead of going out and asking questions that welcome them to share their heart with us. Making the effort to carve out time for a friend lets them know you listen, appreciate, and care for them and their needs.
Finding our people as an adult may seem unattainable at times due to our seemingly perpetual isolation, low self-image, and misguided (yet understandable) feeling that it’s simply too difficult to make friends. Sure, it’s not as simple as it used to be in elementary school, but that also means the friendships we create as adults won’t be as simple; more complex relationships lead to deeper bonds. I hope this list gives you hope, insight, and wisdom on your pursuit of friendship.