If you want to make acquaintances, live life as you normally would. But if you want to make meaningful friendships, you have to be intentional.
I’m a fairly shy person. In a crowded setting, I stand by myself wanting to talk to people, but not knowing how. In small groups or one-on-ones, I get awkward about long silences but don’t know what to say.
It’s not easy for me to make friendships. But I know I need them. I need to invest in people and I need people investing in me.
Maybe that’s the case for you.
For years, I would live without intentionally trying to make friends. Sure, I had casual friends at work, at church, or other social settings. We all do. But what I longed for was deep, meaningful relationships.
But I didn’t put the effort into it. I would often say no to going out or going to parties. I’d much rather stay home and watch TV. I rarely called or texted anyone.
I wanted real, organic relationships to develop, but just passively sat back hoping that they would happen.
I’ve gotten better over the years at developing relationships, but it’s still a challenge for me. Maybe you’re in a similar position, and this might be helpful to you.
Put yourself in environments where you see the same people regularly.
Work is a natural place for this. You see the same people every day. But to develop friendships, you need to see them outside of work. Consider after-work dinner or drinks with a group once a week.
Church is another natural setting. If you’re not religious, find a local club or social group to attend that meets weekly. Again, find opportunities to hang out afterwards, like lunch or coffee.
Join groups with common interests.
You’ll naturally gravitate towards people you share interests with.
Once again, church is a natural fit because of the shared faith component. But this could also include sports leagues, book clubs, or volunteer organizations. Meetup is a great website for finding groups of people you click with.
This doesn’t mean you only meet people that agree with you. Having friends who disagree with you is good to challenge your worldview and help you grow, but shared interests make it easy to start.
Swap info & initiate.
This part is always awkward for me. It feels like asking someone out on a date. But it’s really not that intense.
I’ve discovered that if you ask someone you know for their phone number, they’ll give it to you. I’ve never had anyone say no. Then just send them a text so they have yours.
If that’s too much, just friend them on Facebook or follow them on Instagram.
Then initiate. It can be just with that person or a group of people. Get coffee or drinks. See a movie. Go golfing. Whatever is a mutual interest.
Just ask. Because nothing will ever happen if you don’t.
(Wow, this really does sound like dating advice. It’s not. You’re just making friends.)
Get out of your comfort zone.
People might invite you to stuff that’s inconvenient for you, whether it’s the time, the place, or the activity.
Of course, know your boundaries, but be willing to get uncomfortable. If developing this relationship is something that matters to you, go if you’re tired. Go if it’s a bit of a drive. Go if it’s a little later than you’d like to be out or a little earlier than you’d like to wake up. Go if it’s something you’re not really good at (like dancing tennis).
Give grace when people bail.
I’ve had this happen to me, and I put weird expectations on people.
Just like you, people are busy. I’ve canceled a lot of times. There will be times you have to cancel. And there will be times that your friend cancels. Things come up and plans change.
Don’t get bummed. Don’t get bitter. Don’t assume they don’t want spend time with you. Just reschedule, knowing that in the future you may have to cancel as well.
Don’t let life get in the way of life.
Real life is spent in community. Even if you’re an introvert like me and need alone time to recharge, being with people is good for the soul.
But it won’t happen on its own. Life is full of stuff to do that crowds out our time. Relationships don’t happen on their own, you have to commit intentional time and effort.
It’s the only way to grow the things you want to grow.