As a kid, life is simple. You can do what you want without giving it a second thought. But as you grow, you start taking every action seriously, weighing the dangers and benefits of every decision. Somehow, this heavy scrutiny also shows its face in how you make friends. In fact, it limits your ability to make new friends.
As you grow older, you will realize one thing that most adults already know: making friends becomes difficult with age. Laura L. Carstensen of the Stanford Center on Longevity observed that we interact with fewer people as we get older, focusing more on people we already know. You will want to spend more time with your kids than go partying. You will want to dedicate your life to work. These actions rob you of three factors scientists claim are important for new friendships -- proximity, frequent unplanned interactions, and the freedom to confide in another. Basically, you get trapped in a small circle of friends.
In this article, let’s explore how you can start again socially.
1. Get Your Mind Ready
Many people believe that being fun or over-confident are the keys to having lots of friends. But this is not always the case. Sometimes, the things that keep you friendless may be limiting factors you have in your head. For example - you might believe that nobody likes you or that you suck at making friends.
Research by Lisa Firestone found that the most common critical thought people have towards themselves is that of not being liked other people – they feel they don’t relate to those around them.
You must rid yourself of these beliefs. You will free your mind and making new friends will become easy.
First, you need to know that there is the conscious and unconscious mind. The conscious mind makes decisions while the unconscious controls actions that are second nature. The unconscious does not think on its own – it takes orders from the conscious.
So if you tell yourself you are a failure, your unconscious will believe that and will not prepare you for any challenging situations. Likewise, if you tell yourself that you need to make friends, the unconscious will automatically put you in a friend-making state, helping you stay motivated towards this goal.
Research by the University of Alberta proved that the unconscious mind can be a great motivator towards your long-term goals.
You can trick the unconscious mind to help you in making friends by telling yourself positive affirmations. Here are some examples:
I can have lots of friends because I am an interesting person.
I am confident and get on well with others.
People like me and enjoy my presence.
With such positivity, you will build your confidence to approach potential friends. And several studies indicate that people find confidence attractive.
2. Be the Friend You Want
Often times, we complain of being misunderstood by our friends, and yet, we never stop to think if we commit the same mistakes. We like to be treated better by others but we do not treat others the same way.
A certain survey, for example, showed that 30% of teens keep their problems to themselves just because they feel misunderstood. A similar study by Relate indicates that one in ten people does not have a close friend and that one in five feels unloved. Usually, these problems are because we do not relate to our friends in a way they would expect. Or sometimes, our friends misinterpret our actions.
In the book titled No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson narrates a story of someone named Tim. Recently employed as a manager of a certain company, Tim tried to communicate that he valued the input of his subordinates. So during meetings, he would put on what he called an “active-listening face.”
But after several meetings, one of his team members gathered the courage to ask him why he always seemed angry when someone was talking.
The thing is we all want to have friends who understand us. You may fail to connect with new friends because they may feel misunderstood by you. Or you may be the one feeling misunderstood. Therefore, you must pay attention to the signals you give others. In addition, you must strive to treat others with love and care. Make them feel understood and likable.
Think of how you would like others to treat you and treat others in the same way. Here are some things to get you started:
Do not rush to judge other people.
Treat others with respect.
Listen to other people’s ideas.
Respect other people’s privacy.
Treat everyone fairly.
Encourage people to live a fulfilling life.
When you become the kind of friend people want to have, you will notice that keeping friends or attracting new ones will be easy. People will respect you and will want to keep your around at all times.
Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.
3. Go After Your Passions
Ask most people how you can make friends, and they will tell you to ‘get out there.’
But is this practical advice?
Friendships started this way usually have a chemistry that does not feel right. Instead of chasing people, chase your passions. If you love music, join a music class and you’ll get to meet new people. Chances are that you won’t meet people with similar interests at a random party. That’s why approaching people at the bar won’t work nine times out of ten.
Scientists from the University of Southampton, Royal Holloway, University of London, and the Institute of Zoology at London Zoo found that strong friendships are formed based on having similar interests. They also said that as your interests change, you go from clique to clique.
During your leisure time, you are most likely to have a better chance of making friends than when working. That’s because you will be more relaxed.
Consider this study:
In 1985, 50% of Americans said they had a close friend at work. In 2004, this had fallen to 30%.
We now hang out less with those we work with. Although there are many reasons for this, one of them is that we are too busy at work to have time to develop a relationship.
However, there is another benefit that comes with chasing your passions – you will feel happy and fulfilled with your life. You will not feel like you are draining yourself, which may result from chasing people.
4. How well do you ‘know thyself’?
There are over 16 personality types. These differ in how they interact or make friends. Before you start making friends, it’s helpful to understand your personality type. You will find friend-making easier thereafter as you will have a better understanding of yourself.
For example: INFJs are the type of friends who encourage you to live your life the way you want. They are supportive and always there for you. Additionally, they are very good listeners.
To them, the number of their friends does not matter – what matters is the quality of those friendships. However, INFJs have a fear that their friends may betray them. Even when it comes to romantic relationships, they do not like to settle for whatever comes their way.
They value their privacy highly, keeping their lives mostly under lock and key. Although they can be communicative, they like to have alone-time to mentally recharge themselves.
ENFJs, on the other hand, are extroverts. They have amazing people skills and can blend into different social situations without difficulty. They are very supportive and will seem to never get tired of listening to you talk. They see themselves as helpers and enablers, giving so much of themselves to others.
ENFJs have really good communication skills and are fun to be around with. However, they can be controlling and manipulative. And they are critical of those different from them.
These are just a few examples of the different personalities out there and how they are like as friends. As you have seen, you too need to know your personality type. This will allow you to approach different social situations without overwhelming yourself.
The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world.
Your personality represents who you are. So instead of fighting it, work with it.
Here are a few resources that can help you determine your personality type:
Sidenote: The personality type tests are a tool to understand yourself. But they are not scientific and cent percent accurate. Consider them as starting points and rely on your personal observations from there.
5. Last piece of ‘strange’ advice...
Be happy. When you are happy, you become a people magnet. A study by the School of Psychology at the University of Aberdeen found that we are attracted to smiling faces that look directly at us rather than non-smiling faces that look directly at us.
Happiness is like an air-bone disease. It spreads to those around you. To prove this, a study consisting of more than 4,700 people followed for over 20 years discovered that people who are happy can make those around to be happy as well. This happiness can affect others for as long as a year.
Everyone wants to be happy. Unfortunately, life is so difficult that only one in three Americans reports being very happy. For these people, having a friend that makes them happy may be a lucky break in a stressful world. And they will hold on to such a friend for as long as it takes.
Thankfully, it is easy to maintain a happy life. Here is a short video explaining how one can do it.
When you are happy, you become a people magnet.
It is a fact that advancements in technology have broken most of the relationships we had with friends. However, humans have always been social beings. And technology is not going to change that any time soon. Therefore, you must work on making new friends to replace those you’ve lost.
The one thing most people forget is that friendships are like any job. If you want to be good at them, you must dedicate time and effort working on them. The twenties is a great period to make friends who will be with you for your lifetime. So don’t waste this opportunity.
Do you think you have enough friends in your life? If not, what steps have you taken to have more friends?