It’s tough making new friends.
Whether you’ve just moved to Charlotte for a new job, or you’ve graduated college and your social circle has all moved away, finding yourself friendless messes with your self-esteem and it’s seriously boring.
It’s even harder when you’re an introvert.
It’s not hopeless though. You don’t have to become an extrovert. You just have to learn how to take the step-by-step moves toward new friends.
Let’s tackle this problem in order, from the top down.
First thing’s first: get over your fear of rejection.
The main thing holding back most people from making new friends is the fear of rejection. Somewhere in our heads we think the bar and the boardroom is just like the high school in the movie Mean Girls, where everyone is judging each other constantly and waiting for any opportunity to cut someone else down. But that’s really not the case.
We’re going to use one major rule here throughout this guide. Read it close, because it’s going to set you free. I want you to repeat this to yourself during your social interactions, when you’re thinking about going out, and when you’re in the break room with your coworkers.
Here it is: people want to be your friend.
People want to have a conversation with you and learn more about you. People want to laugh at your jokes. People want to be able to text you when they’re bored. People want to get drinks with you after work.
So why aren’t they doing it? Because they’re afraid of rejection just like you are. You’ll be shocked at how many people are extremely receptive of new conversations and social plans when they don’t have to be the one who suggests.
Sure, not every person you meet will blossom into a future bridesmaid at your wedding, but there isn’t anyone who doesn’t want more close, fun friends like you.
You should say yes to every invitation, but you should also become the one inviting.
One common piece of advice for introverts on making friends is to “say yes to everything.” It’s common for a good reason: it works. You’d be surprised how much more confident you feel the moment you start giving a strong Yes to invitations. New experiences + rock solid confidence = tons of new buddies.
Still, I think saying yes is only half the battle. You also need to become the person doling out the invitations. Why wait for your coworkers to invite you out for lunch when you had Billy Jack’s last week and know it’s amazing? Why cross your fingers that the girl at Fitness Factory who wears the same athleisure brand as you will one day ask you to grab a post-workout smoothie when you’ve been dying to try Smooth Monkey?
Invite your coworkers out. Invite that girl at the gym out. Invite the couple you met in the dog park out. The more you do it, the more yes responses you’ll get.
Don’t be afraid to do stuff by yourself.
One of the hardest parts of building a social circle in a new city is making that first friend. Once you’ve got one in the bucket, it’s a lot easier to head out and make more since you’ll have a partner in crime to lean on if you chicken out on cold approaching.
So, basically, what you’re looking for is a crutch. How about we skip that? Instead, get comfortable doing things on your own.
There’s something enjoyable about doing social activities by yourself. No one can pressure you to take another drink, or call it an early night. No one can make you leave a bar you’re digging, or stay at one you’re hating. Attending a somewhat structured social event on your own, and getting comfortable doing that, will give you access to lots of potential new friends with plenty of time to get to know them.
Here are a few ideas.
- Attend the weekly meetups organized by Charlotte’s Reddit community
- Join a church
- Take a class
- Attend a networking event
- Find your home team’s bar and hang out for a game
- Join a running club
Go with the cold approach.
Now that you know that most people want to be your friend, you can stop waiting for a “sign” or “signal” to make your move. Mastering art of the cold approach will be the difference maker in your new friend-full life.
Here’s the anatomy of a cold approach.
- Find someone who looks like a match for you. It could be their demeanor, their fashion, the beer they ordered, their glasses, or anything. Be as open as possible, but be cognizant of who you choose to approach.
- Start with a genuine compliment. Something like “Great purse!” or “Clean fade!” People love getting complimented on something about themselves they chose (that’s why “You’re hot!” doesn’t count as a good cold approach).
- Transition the compliment into a question. “Great purse! Where’d you get it?” or “Clean fade! Who’s your barber?”
- Take their answer, provide information about yourself, and transition it into another question. “I’ve never heard of that boutique. I’m new in town so I have no clue where the best shopping is. How’d you find out about that place?”
Now keep it going. Maintain genuine interest in learning more about them while also telling them about yourself. That’s not so scary, is it?
Quick note: don’t be afraid of silence. Natural moments of silence are in all conversations. It doesn’t mean you’re boring or they hate you. Take a sip of your drink, think through your next question, and keep going.
Ask for the digits explicitly and directly.
The reason why most of your acquaintances or random meetups don’t turn into true friendships isn’t because you aren’t likable. It’s because the other person is likely waiting on you to make a move to deepen the friendship the same way you’re waiting on them. Someone has to shoot first, and since you can’t use a Jedi mind trick to force them into doing it, it’s going to have to be you.
Remember the rule: people want to be your friend.
So, once you’ve said yes to invitation, invited people out, and cold-approached as if you were trained by Will Smith in the movie Hitch, it’s time to get the digits.
The secret key here is to tell them exactly what you plan to do with their number. Giving out your number can be a scary thing. Ease their fears by letting them know you aren’t going to try selling them LuLaRoe or send them late night “you up?” texts.
“Hey, do you mind if I get your number? I’d love to text you next time I’m going shopping so you can remind me of which boutiques are best.”
“Can I have your number? I’ll shoot you a text next time I need a haircut. I’ll buy you a burger if you can get me in with your barber.”
Follow up and follow through.
Remember, most people are as afraid of rejection as you are. After you’ve hit off in the bar, exchanged numbers, and departed, they’re probably overanalyzing the situation, convinced that you couldn’t genuinely like them and you’re trying to get something from them. That’s why follow up is so important. It shows your new friend that you truly like them.
Investing energy into a relationship is attractive. Your new friend will be impressed when they see you kept your word about texting them. They’ll be blown away when you proactively make plans with them. As tempting as it is, don’t let your fear of rejection creep back in and make you flake. Friendships take work to grow. Get energized, get excited, and be enthusiastic about exploring all you have in common.
People have a tendency to believe that our problems are personal. By that, I mean that someone with no friends generally thinks that there’s something wrong with them.
I don’t think that’s true. I believe most of our problems are not personal, but practical. Use this guide as a practical solution to your practical problems. Implement it into your life with the same step-by-step care you’d use putting together IKEA furniture. You’re constructing a new social life for yourself, the one that you want, and the one that you deserve.