It’s National Make a Friend Day, Y’all!
That’s right. There’s actually a whole day of the year, completely dedicated to the task, the joy, the vulnerability and the adventure of making a friend..
It sounds easy, and really, it was a pretty simple thing to do when we were in kindergarten. However, now that we’re adults, making friends can feel a little intimidating. If that’s how you’re leaning, don’t worry.
Here are 7 natural ways to make friends as an adult. No overthinking necessary.
Friends from Home
My first friend was my little brother. Our parents gave him the name Carl, but I called him something different. To me, he was Budgie. Oh, gosh, he was cuter than cute, and Budgie and I have always been the best of buds.
There are three years between us, which was apparently just enough age difference for me to come up with all the ideas for mischief and for him to be dumb enough not to know any better.
Poor little thing. We still laugh about how long it took him to realize that the card sticking up higher than the others fanned out in my hand would always be the dreaded Old Maid.
Friends for a Season
Making friends with the brother or sister who jumps with you on the trampoline or sits across from you at the dinner table night after night is pretty easy, isn’t it?
But what happens when a job change requires moving to a new city? What if your marriage unexpectedly ends, leaving you feeling like an extra lug nut in the couples group? Likewise, what if you’ve invested all your energy in a long friendship that suddenly goes south?
Seasons change, life happens, and some things just don’t go as planned. That’s why we need friends, my friends. But from time to time, we might just have to suck it up and make some new ones.
Friends of Intention
For whatever reason, if you’ve been thinking about it or been brave enough to say it out loud – I need a new friend – then don’t wait. Strike while the iron’s hot, my friend-making-friend, and here are 7 natural ways to go for it.
1. Say hello.
When one of my friends moved from a small Texas town to a big Texas city, she felt both the excitement of the adventure and the anxious trepidation of making all new friends.
One day while pushing her kids around in a red cart at Target, my friend spotted another mom whose life appeared to be a little similar and whose kids looked about the same age, so my friend went for it. The old-fashioned way. The only way she knew to do it. She just said hello. Soon, the two had exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet again. After more than 20 years of friendship, these two still love to tell their story.
Hello. It’s the universal icebreaker.
2. Go when invited.
Accepting an invitation of any kind can be a hard thing to do, especially if you don’t really know the person who has extended it. However, when it comes to making new friends, this is one of the most natural ways to do it.
The first person I met when we moved to Austin was the wife of my husband’s boss. They gave us a couple of days to get our socks and underwear in the right drawers, then invited us to dinner out. As the guys talked about business at their end of the table, the ladies chatted about our lives, getting to know each other from square one. Ground zero. And it was wonderful. My first friend soon became my best friend in all of Austin.
If someone asks you to coffee or dinner, don’t let the unpacked boxes stand in your way. Accept their hospitality and enjoy the opportunity. Who knows? It could turn into something pretty amazing.
3. Join a book club.
A book club is a great way to find common ground with new friends. Most book clubs are made up of people whose paths would otherwise not have crossed.
When a friend of mine moved from a house in a neighborhood to an apartment in the middle of a busy city street, she signed up for the book club that meets on the first Tuesday of the month in her building. Everyone brings a munchie to share before diving into their thoughts about the book they were assigned to read. “It’s so interesting to hear someone else’s viewpoint,” says my friend. “We can all read the same book but come away with such different insight.”
If you’re looking to make a new friend, try attending a book club at your local library. You can also check local event listings on Facebook or peruse the Meetup opportunities to find a group in your vicinity.
4. Go to church.
Naturally, you would expect to find friendly people at church, so, naturally, if you’re looking for a new friend, look for one at church! Most churches operate with similar structure, including corporate worship (everyone together) and small group Bible study (on Sunday or during the week).
Don’t be afraid to shake hands with the people around you and open up. Tell them it’s your first time there. Let them know you’re a visitor. If you’re really transparent, just lay it out there that you’re at a transitional spot in life and need some new friends. Some may smile and say, oh, that’s nice, but I guarantee some will eagerly volunteer.
No one is better at this whole connecting people at church thing than my mom. She has a real gift for spotting someone who’s new-to-the-pew. You won’t go away feeling one bit lonely, left out or lost if you have the privilege of sitting next to my mama at church! She’ll walk with you to a Sunday school class, introduce you to eight people along the way, and she’ll get your email address for easy communication the following week. Countless times, I’ve been told, “I’m here because of your mom. She made me feel so welcome.”
Whether you’re new to town or just looking to make a fresh start, find a place to worship God where the people are friendly and full of joy. I can’t imagine my life without the friends I’ve made at church.
5. Be creative.
Do you like to entertain? Do you have a skill to teach? Maybe you have a passion for raising money for local charities? If so, try spinning your natural interests into a creative way to make a new friend.
One friend has a large, sturdy dining table and an electrical adapter that can handle several cords. She whips up some lunch while her guests set up their sewing machines, then helps them complete t-shirt quilts for their kids. You can really bond some friends together over needles, bobbins and a warm cheesy quiche.
Host a dinner party for a few people, asking them to bring someone you don’t already know, or use another idea from a friend who help start a unique men’s group in his small town. When they get together each quarter, each man brings $100, then they discuss what local need they can meet by combining their funds. In just under 5 months, membership has grown to 110 men, and they’ll be able to give away thousands of dollars this year.
6. Ask for recommendations.
In his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John Maxwell encourages his readers to enlarge their network of friends by asking this question of people who are already in their circle: Who do you know that I should know? This world-renowned leader has lots of personal stories of friends he’s made by capitalizing on the networks of people he knows he can trust.
Once he gets the contact info, Mr. Maxwell simply introduces himself via phone call or email, sets up a lunch meeting, and starts developing yet another friendship between two people who are adding value to each other’s lives.
There are times in our lives when we need to lean on the good friends we already have. No one can, or should, pretend everything is okay when it simply isn’t. At those times, we really need the shoulder of someone with whom we can cry and wallow for a while.
But, when it comes to making a new friend, don’t lead with your troubles. Start with a big ol’ Texas smile. No one can resist it. You won’t even have to do much of the talking if you just have a natural expression of joy. People are just drawn to those who smile!
If you have a warm smile, even strangers will want to sit by you, talk to you, be in your midst and tell others about you. So, if you’re a little low on friends, try smiling at everyone you meet or see for an entire week. Make eye contact. Be confident.
Turn that frown upside down and make someone’s day.
Psychological research has shown that smiling is key to forming new friendships, and William Arthur Ward says that a smile is the universal language of kindness. Go around sporting a sincere smile, and you’re likely to have a whole satchel full of new friends in no time.
Friends for Life
Recently, I posted an Instagram caption @TexasOverFifty about friendship Over Fifty. Next to a picture of me with a friend I made on an Austin street corner, I wrote: One really great thing about Life Over Fifty? I think it’s easier than ever to make friends. Any walls once hidden behind have long since been torn down. Pretense is pretty minimal, and compassion runs deep. Ain’t nobody saying life has gone exactly as we planned it. For the most part, everyone just is who he is.
The comments from followers were mixed. Some agreed, while others felt it’s actually a little more difficult to make friends at this age and stage of life. I think we could probably pose the idea to a group of millennials and get the same response, don’t you? Perhaps making friends is a challenge for everyone. But it’s worth the effort, and the reward is worth the risk.
Because one thing is for absolute sure. We need ’em. For life.
Has my blog post motivated you on this National Make a Friend Day? Share your ideas and success stories in the comments. You can also share a goofy story about your own sibling-friend if you’d like.
Encouraging an everyday life of intentional adventure with old friends and new ones,