(Part 1 of friendship and making friends series)
Being alone or feeling lonely all the time is a real drag. Yet 43% of adults report feeling lonely- almost half the people in the US said they feel lonely. While that is a staggering number (and a true black mark on what has happened to community and the sense of personal connections) it is also the potential bright spot for you if you are part of that huge number. Why? Because it means that there are a lot of people out there that feel the same way as you do and that want to meet people like you to spend time with and feel less alone. When you feel lonely it seems there is nobody else in the world. The truth is there are millions of other lonely people all waiting to be your friend. This article is going to offer some hints about socializing and making friends, and will be followed by other articles with specific ideas you can try to meet others and make the problem of loneliness into a problem of the past.
Whether at work or out and about in social situations, there are some keys to being accepted and to becoming “friend” material in the eyes of others.
- Smile, be positive. People want to do social things with fun or happy people. Nobody is going to say “let’s go out and talk about depressing things and try to feel worse about life when we are done talking than when we started.” Maybe you want to have a best friend to share your problems with but you will not get a best friend while having no friends, and if you are seen as always depressed and morose you will not find making new friends easy at all.
- If people ask you to do something say yes. Do not be over selective in what you are willing to do with others if your goal is to make friends. It hurts a person’s ego to ask somebody to do something and have them say no. People do not ask and risk rejection multiple times. If they ask and you say no because it is not the type of thing you do then do not be surprised if there is not an invite when they go do something you would like to do. Friendship is about being with the people – not just what you are doing. If it was only about what you are doing then you could go do things by yourself.
- Be polite and courteous to all– even the people that are not there. Do not get sucked into complaining about other people. Even if everybody is doing it, you as the newcomer will be remembered as the person that talks bad about others or one of the jealous busy bodies will feel the need to share whatever negative thing you said with the person it was said about, ignoring the fact all others said worse things.
- Have fun and make it clear you are enjoying yourself. If you look bored to death all the time, never laugh or smile, or seem to gravitate to negative discussions then you will be viewed negatively. Nobody thinks to themselves “let’s go out this weekend and complain about people and things” – people go out because they want to have fun and part of that is about being around positive and fun people.
- Listen more than you talk. Try to watch the dynamics of the group and figure out what topics are okay and which are not. Make add-on comments to the current conversation instead of trying to change the topic or dominate it. Most importantly, do not be that person that every time somebody says something or tells a story you have a better/bigger/worse example of the same thing that makes it look like you are constantly one upping people. “That’s nothing, one time I …” as a response to every topic is not a way to be liked. It does not impress people, all they hear is that they or their experiences are nothing.
- If you are thinking being positive and acting like this is strange or “this is nothing like me” and “I am not like that” then consider why you are reading this. Is it because you do not have many/any friends? It is for you to decide. Do you want to try to learn to be more positive or do you want to stay lonely and not have friends? To the next line “I want people that like me as I am”. Most people that are lonely and negative do not like their lives and in fact do not like themselves. If you do not like your life or even like yourself, then why do you NOT want to change? It makes no sense to say “I don’t want to change” if you are not happy and don’t like yourself.
From Knowing the Basics to Making Friends
It may sound hard to do these things or to even imagine yourself in social situations. Social anxiety, shyness, introverted – these are real things that exist and just saying you want to make friends does not make any of these things disappear. All of these things may be reasons or even the cause of your situation, however they are not insurmountable obstacles. You may have to start in smaller group settings to be able to cope at all. You may have to “practice” the positive and polite responses with just a family member or during incidental contact at the checkout line or bank teller or a single coworker the next desk over.
This is just an extra step in the process however, not an impossible task. You can even practice these things online. The end result is- if you are more positive and let people know you want to have friends and act friendly without making major social errors like gossiping, constant complaining, one-upping others, and these type of things you will see results in people being more open and friendly back to you and seeking you out to talk to and be with. This gives the confidence to progress to real life friends instead of online relationships and chance social encounters not capitalized on.
There will come a time when you are comfortable and well established in a group and will be able to talk about the bad things, to complain some, and those other things that are “no-no’s” when first meeting people. It is different to get accepted into a new set of friends than being around people that know you well and are used to you. That said, if you have noticed people pulling away after you have been friends for just a few weeks it might be worth reading through and seeing have you become too negative, do you talk about others and complain a lot, are you always one upping stories or always know more than others? It is possible you are just over sharing and making the person uncomfortable because they do not feel the same level of closeness to you. They may become that close friend some day to share all with no matter what, but you have to give that more time to develop.
I am not a Fake Person
This is not about pretending or being fake. It is just social etiquette and courtesy. It is polite to smile and be gracious and it is polite to listen to others. It is not polite to talk about other people (gossip) or to complain about everything around you. It is not polite to discuss problems and issues in larger group social situations because it is bound to make some people uncomfortable. You can be yourself and make friends so long as you are following basic common courtesies and etiquette. If you cannot follow those then ask yourself why would anybody want to be friends with somebody that is intentionally rude? That is what is happening if you know the courtesies and choose to ignore them. It is not “being yourself”, it is choosing rudeness over courtesy and ultimately loneliness over friendship.
(This introduction to making friends will be followed by specific places and ways to find people to hang out with and to make more friends. All readers are invited to submit their own ideas and comments on tips in general or specific places and ways to make friends. Exceptional and well written comments and ideas may be used as future feature articles in the friendship series.)