In my first blog on friendship I talked about how having friends is important for stress-management but for some people the idea of making new friends can be stressful. For some, meeting new people may be easy, but forging long-lasting friendships may be confusing. For others, overcoming social anxiety can be their biggest challenge.
I gave a quick overview of these things in my “How to Create Your Support Tribe” blog last week. This week I am deepening the conversation to give more details about where to find new friends to add to your support tribe!
WHERE TO FIND FRIENDS
This can be a truly perplexing topic for adults. Most of us are no longer in school where we were forced together with a finite group of people to choose from. Some people forge friendships in the work place but in many jobs, more than casual relationships can be problematic. Stay at home parents and those who work from home can have a particularly challenging time meeting people because they are often alone.
Be a Joiner!
Finding a group of people with whom you have something in common is a really good way to make friends. Joining groups also gives you something to do while you are getting to know new people. This is something that introverts find particularly helpful. If you have a book to discuss, it gives you something to say. If you are hiking or kayaking it gives you something to do while talking. Here are some different ways to find groups to join:
- Meetup.com: This website has groups with every interest under the sun! And, if you don’t find a group already in your area, you can start one up! If you build it, they will come.
- Book Groups: Go to your local book store and inquire about groups. This is something you can also find on Meetup.com. Start one for kids through the PTA/PTO at your children’s schools if there isn’t one already. Join it with your kids if there is one. Goodreads.com also has online book groups specified for different genres. Pick one or more and create an online community for yourself.
- Politics: Join the political club in your area that matches your political affiliation. Again, these will most likely be like-minded people
- Find a Church, Synagogue or Spiritual Center: This is most challenging of course for those who are not religious. So I will focus on them. There are “fellowships” even for Atheists and Humanists. I personally attend a Unitarian Universalist Fellowships where a rather large part of the congregation is Atheist or Humanist. And while I personally am very spiritual and follow multiple religious teachings, I fit in quite well there. You can also try Unity Churches, Buddhist Sanghas, or Hindu Satsangs. But, if this is just complete anathema to you, then ignore this one.
- Classes & Activities: Classes are another place to meet people who have similar interests to you. Check through your local Community College, Community Parks & Recreation Division, or Adult Education program: they are chock full of classes in everything from advanced physics to dance to photography. If you are into art, see if the local galleries have classes. If you are into music, go to the local music store, I’ve never seen one that doesn’t offer classes.
- Join a Sports Team or Activity Group: Ok, I am not an athlete. I’m a yogini. So for me, going to a local yoga studio is a good way to meet people. I do know a lot of people who join sports teams and make great friends – everything from adult softball to basketball to bowling. I even have some friends in Denver who are in a kickball league! That sounds like so much fun!!! But gyms & yoga/ Pilates studios can also be good places to meet people.
One thing to remember about gyms and yoga/ pilates classes is that individuals can truly stay in their own worlds in both environments. People wear headphones at the gym and silence is encouraged at many yoga studios. So I recommend chatting when you can (maybe the locker room) or going to community gatherings hosted by the gym or studio. Many yoga studios have Kirtan concerts and other community events where talking and even dancing are encouraged.
AN EXTROVERT WITH NO FRIENDS?
Even as an extrovert I have twice found myself in situations where finding friends was extremely challenging. And now that I’m moving from the west coast to the east coast, to a city where I know absolutely no-one, I may be encountering that situation again. That can give even a super extrovert such as myself a bit of anxiety! ACK!
A School Without Friends:
The first time I found myself friend-challenged, shall we say, was in graduate school. I know, I talk a lot about the stress of graduate school. But that’s because it was sucky!!! And not having friends was a part of why it was so stressful. In many school situations an extrovert can find at least a few friends. But in my graduate program it took me a couple of years to find some people I could truly connect with. My program was highly competitive and the students in my cohort took that competitive nature to heart. I was also feeling very insecure and thus was probably repelling people just with my insecure energy.
Additionally, while I tried to keep in contact with my friends from my home-town. It proved to be really tough to do so. My work schedule, between being a student and a teaching and research assistant, was overwhelming and beyond time-consuming. I also got into a huge fight via email with one of my best friends in my hometown and stopped going home on a regular basis.
A Mom, A Job & A Town With No Friends:
The second situation occurred not much later in life – I call the entire period of my life from 25 to 35 “The Dark Ages!”.Just when I had finally forged some nice friendships in my graduate program and the surrounding community, I got married and we moved several hours away (as did many of my grad-school friends). I was in my first faculty position teaching at a major university, but I was an adjunct lecturer, as opposed to a tenure-track professor. Thus I was caught in a no-man’s land of sorts; I was part of a department, but most of my colleagues did not see me as such. I wasn’t invited to faculty meetings. I rarely crossed paths with other lecturers. AND, I lived over an hour from campus. So as soon as I was done teaching I would head home in order to beat the Southern California traffic.
Soon after starting my new teaching job I also got pregnant. Now one would think that having a baby would be a great way to make friends. This is true to a certain extent, especially for an extrovert. I met a nice couple in my water aerobics class at the gym and my husband and I met a nice couple in our child birth class (but they lived 40 minutes from us). Yet the area of Southern California in which we lived was a little challenging for us. We found that we didn’t have a lot in common with the people in our community: religious, educational and political differences (and of course, those are the things you don’t want to talk about in polite company, right?). So when I tried joining a couple of mommy groups it was definitely challenging. That said, I did make a couple of friends in those groups, one of whom I’m still very close with today.
Having the baby also furthered my alienation with my colleagues at the university. Most of the women faculty members in the department did not have children. Moreover, children or not, tenure-track faculty members were so dedicated to their jobs that socializing and swapping kid stories was just not on their agenda. Coincidentally, there were women in the mommy groups that had a really hard time understanding why I would work. Being a stay-at-home mom was the only way to be a good mother in their eyes – and yes, they did say this to me!
What to do? Become a joiner!
There I was stuck in-between two worlds: career woman & mommy. And I had very few friends. It was really lonely! So I started to join things. First, because the area in which we were living was a very church-centered community I started church shopping. As a person who supports same-sex marriage, is pro-choice and practices yoga, this can be a challenge! But with the help of my mother I finally found a small Lutheran church with a pastor who is my age and a growing group of young families in the congregation. It was at this church I forged what have become life-long friendships.
The other thing I did was I started a National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter in my area. This was a lot of work, but it was also fun. I met some amazing young women from the local university. And I forged another life-long friendship with one of the women who worked for the state chapter. Thank goodness for Facebook! I get to keep in touch with all of these wonderful women even though we live miles & miles apart!
At this point in my life, online groups were just starting to appear, so I didn’t join any Meetups or Yahoo groups. But now, because these online resources are so prevalent, I have used Meetup on several occasions to make new friends. When we moved to San Diego I was all over Meetup! I’ve also learned how to reach out to other women and tell them I think it would be fun to hang out – moms from the school, baseball moms, women I meet through my business, women from church, etc..
Here are a few things I like to say to extend new friendships beyond the “group” setting
- I like you! We should have coffee or lunch sometime!
- Let’s get the kids together for a play date. Do you guys have time in the next couple of weeks?
- We should talk about working together. Let’s have lunch.
- Wow, your business is really cool (or what you do is really interesting). Would you like to have coffee or lunch sometime? I’d love to hear more about it!
Finally: Be “the starter”:
In my experience, I have found that many people just do not make overtures like the ones mentioned above. Well, maybe in business they do. But not so often in personal life. This may be a regional thing. Southern Californians, in my opinion, are really nice when you get to know them, but they’re not necessarily overtly friendly. If you find yourself in a place where you have a lot of acquaintances, but few friends, you may need to be “the conversation starter.” Use the phrases above, or your own, and reach out to people who you like! The best way to make friends is to be one!
Please leave comments! I would love to hear what you have to say about friendship!
What friendship challenges do you have?
What friendship challenges have you had in the past?
How did you overcome them?
What are your favorite friendship-making conversation starters?
Thanks for reading & commenting!
Love, Light & Namaste!