Kids do it easily enough, and it seems that the vast majority of fellow adults you encounter have successfully done it.
However, you just can’t seem to do it ― you can’t figure out how to make friends.
It’s not your fault.
High school and college do not adequately prepare students for many aspects of the real world, but in particular, campuses set unrealistic expectations regarding the ability to find and befriend like-minded folks. After you graduate, you will never again be in an isolated community of people your age with your interests, which means it will forevermore excruciatingly difficult to make friends.
However, that’s not to say you are destined for a lonely life of solitary Netflix binging. You can build a group of friends you love and cherish, and all it takes is a few simple social hacks.
Do Stuff You Love
Right now, you should get a paper and pen (or open up Notepad) and write down five things you love to do. Ideally, at least one of those will get you out of the house and interacting with your environment ― and, with any luck, other people too.
Nearly every interest has clubs, groups, and gatherings for you to attend, and most passionate people are friendly and accepting of newcomers. With some quick online research, you should be able to find a potential group of friends meeting this week. In fact, you can even use apps like Meetup or one related to your interest (like RPGGameFind or MeetMyDog) to connect with people like yourself.
Always Look Approachable
You might remember from college how easy it was to pick out the people who didn’t know anyone at the party ― they were the ones whose smiles were more like grimaces; who were clutching their drinks like life preservers; whose wide-open eyes kept darting to anything that moved. Guess what: That’s you now.
Instead of looking painfully awkward and desperate for social contact, you need to relax and seem at-ease ― even if you aren’t. If it helps, bring along a stress-reliever, like a piece of chocolate or your favorite vaporizer to keep you calm. Whenever someone passes nearby, you should smile and nod, which usually enough of a signal to tell people you are open to communicating. Then, when someone does engage, you must remember to spend time listening as well as talking to keep both of you comfortable.
Always Be Positive
It isn’t easy to have a positive attitude, but no one wants to spend precious free time around downers. Whenever you are in a social situation where you could find friends, you should strive to be upbeat and supportive, making those around you feel good that you’re there. Smiling, cracking (harmless) jokes, asking questions, and validating feelings are all ways to show others that you have positive qualities that would make you an excellent friend.
Additionally, you should be positive by saying “yes.” Though social situations can be intimidating, you will never make friends by staying home alone and stalking your old college friends on social media. Anytime anyone invites you out, or anytime you see an event or gathering that interests you, you need to say “yes” and follow through.
Make Time for Friends
Meeting people might seem like the hardest part of making friends, but the truth is it’s easy to find strangers willing to converse. The hard part comes after ― when you have to commit time and energy to building the friendship.
Instant friendships are incredibly rare, especially after college. Adults are busier, and most tend to be warier of new people (more on that later), so you have to put in hard hours to develop close bonds with people you like. Even though you might feel pressed for time by work or family commitments, you need to carve out a period each week to catch up with your new friends. Then, one day, they might be your old friends.
Know It’s Okay to Be Vulnerable
The reason you don’t have friends yet ― the reason you are reading this blog post instead of instinctually doing what you already know will make you friends ― is that you are scared. Putting yourself out there is incredibly terrifying; if you say the wrong thing, look weird, or laugh wrong, you’ve ruined your chance at becoming friends with that person or group.
However, it is impossible to be friends with anyone if you are unwilling to be vulnerable. Therefore, you just have to go for it. You need to be open and willing to make a fool of yourself for the sake of meeting the people who will support you throughout your adulthood. When it comes to making friends, there’s no time like right now.