In school it was easy. Show up, talk to people, don’t be weird, be weird and own it. With peers galore there was a place for all of us.
What do we do when we aren’t surrounded by a group of friends every day anymore? Panic. Freak out. Wonder how we ended up alone. Start planning lunch dates 3 weeks in advance. What the hell?
Here’s my problem– I’m not a huge drinker and I have high standards when it comes to my friends. I’m not looking for someone to have superficial chatter with at the bar…I want an adventure buddy that I can call at 3 a.m. to pick me up from the airport when my car gets impounded. And it would help if they didn’t have empty eyes when I talked with them about things of substance.
You too? Read on and then send me an email, dream pal. In the meantime, here’s my game plan for growing a solid inner circle, regardless of your requirements:
1. Try something new
Believe it or not, this is the easiest step. Think of it as…that time your parents forced you to play soccer in 3rd grade and you ended up loving it (oh, you quit after 1 game too?) The good news here is that you’re in control of your own extracurricular destiny. And the best part? Trying things that interest you will help you find friends that dig the same things you do.
I joined an indoor soccer team (yeah, giving it another shot) and volunteered for a nonprofit. Now I’m running a 5k in a few months with some new pals and I get to attend a few free concerts this summer in the name of a good cause. There are more new things to try than excuses you can think of, so get out there and sign up for those dance lessons, join that volleyball team, volunteer at that animal shelter, and on and on…
2. Try something old
Okay, this is awkward. So you’ve got 500 Facebook friends, big deal. How many of them would you be beyond mortified about accidentally tagging in a photo? Thought so. There may be a perk to keeping all of these “friends” around besides showing that impressive friend count after all. There’s a good chance that at least a few of these expired friends were once decent enough pals that you simply lost touch with.
Here comes the awkward part: send them a message. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just a quick “It’s been awhile, how are you?” or “Thought of you the other day– remember when ran out of TP on that hike? Had one of those moments at work before a meeting!” What do you have to lose? If you never hear back, oh well. If they unfriend you? Who needs ‘em. And if they write back and call you a freak? Oh come on, who does that!?
3. Be the one you want to find
Picture your dream sidekick. What do you see? World traveler? Athlete? Social butterfly? One thing I can promise– you will not find this person sitting at home with your package of Oreos watching YouTube videos. The best way to meet a world traveler is to travel the world. A hiker? On a mountain. An activist? In a movement. You get the idea.
While you may be really interested in books, joining a book club may not be enough to score you that chance meeting with your next partner in crime. Meeting friends takes more than joining the right clubs, you need the right attitude. This is where we fake it to make it. Want to connect with an outgoing, upbeat pal that’s always up for adventure? Limit your complaining and start challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone and people will be drawn to you.
4. Take it to the next level
More awkwardness, comin’ atcha. So you’ve joined that boxing club and you’ve chatted up a few of your peers. Now what? Time to make a move! Invite them to coffee, throw together a happy hour group, find an event they’d be interested in and toss it out there.
Whatever you do, don’t let this chance slip through your fingers– it’s go time! Before you know it you’ll build up a great group of friends. You may even have options when it comes to who to call when you’re stuck at the airport. Good work! Now don’t forget to keep it up. Don’t be a flake– we don’t want to go back to step 1.
How’d you meet your grown-up sidekick? Have a story about a friendship strike-out? Share below!
Amanda Cripps is a writer and marketing professional taking one day at a time in the NH Seacoast. You can follow her on Twitter @amandacripps