“Would you be my friend?”
It seemed like such a simple question. Looking back, I guess it was odd for an 18-year-old college student to ask the girl sitting next to her point blank to be her friend.
In my defense, Nikki seemed really cool and I had just moved to a new town and a new school. I needed friends. I grew up in a small town and my friends were always just there.
The idea of making friends doesn’t seem scary when you’re five, but 13 years later I was way more in my head.
You can probably assume Nikki never sat by me again. Sure, we passed each other every now and then on campus, but a friendly glance was the deepest our friendship would ever get.
So how does a grown person make new friends? There’s no manual out there and obviously asking directly comes off creepier than you may intend, eh hem.
I did end up with some amazing friends in school. Those friends are people I still keep in touch with today. So, let us all forget about my first attempt at friendship and focus on some more popular mechanisms for making new friends:
1. Just do it.
Personally, I am always looking for a good opener. “I love those shoes, where are they from?” Then I dive into more conversation maybe talking about the shoes I am wearing with a joke thrown in.
The important part of this is to put yourself out there and make the first move. Your nervousness is not exclusive to you. Everyone wants people in their lives that they can connect with, you’re just getting ahead of them.
2. Be yourself.
Don’t start off with a British accent to make yourself more interesting. Genuine friendship requires vulnerability. But you don’t have to spill the last 15 years of hurt, happiness and the in-betweens.
Think about what you’re comfortable sharing with others. Chances are, that vulnerability will be reciprocated and will begin to build a solid relationship.
3. Get to know the person.
Yes, having hilarious banter will draw them in but a friendship means a two-way relationship. Ask questions about the person. Here’s a few suggestions, but you know what you want to hear about so feel free to just do your own thing:
- Where are you from originally?
- What do you do for work?
- What’s the worst book they’ve read lately? (This one can get you to some pretty funny conversations if you dig into the “whys” of their distaste for the book.
- What are their goals in the immediate future? (As your friendship grows, you can get into the long-term goals but let’s not go too strong too fast and pull a Nikki on them.)
4. Find commonalities.
OK, this one seems obvious but if you love tacos and there’s a club just for lovers of tacos it feels like you are set up for success – and a full stomach as a bonus.
If you’re in school, there’s a club for literally everything just look through your college’s website and if you’re in a new location, look up the city’s website and see what they’re advertising or look at the local paper for opportunities to meet people and pick up a new hobby.
5. Love them well.
Wherever you are in life, you’re making a connection with a new person. You have the opportunity to open up your heart, set aside judgement and care for another person. Friendship is a gift. You can choose to be gracious, mercy filled and loving or to be harsh, abrupt and closed off.
True friendship will take you to a point where you will have to be honest, hold one another accountable, talk through conflict and at times extend grace when you probably don’t want to. That’s OK. That’s a true, long-lasting friendship. But let’s get that first hangout on the books before you dive too deep.
Friendship is a gift to you and to the person you are in relationship with. It’s super scary to be vulnerable and hope that someone wants to keep talking with you and getting to know you. But those true friendships are worth the awkward jokes, forced openers and all the other things we’ve all done to make a new friend.