Inseparable, pals for life, thick as thieves and eating chips and peas round each other’s houses. But when you’re a new mum, a grown woman, estranged or just geographically far away from childhood friends, it’s another story. Making new friends can be intimidating, you need common ground, shared experiences, a similar sense of humour, boundaries and ideally the same postcode.
There’s a different pressure that comes with making friends in later life.
There’s a different pressure that comes with making friends in later life. You’re a different person now than you were when you were stood in the playground; a five-year-old in pigtails clutching a Velcro book-bag and a doll that probably smelt like cherries.
Shouldn’t we have used our younger years to build up a reliable network of friends we can rely on so we’re not, well, here in this situation – standing in front of a woman in body combat and striking up a conversation about the pros and cons of natural deodorant.
Get yourself out there and find your tribe!
Life doesn’t keep us all on the same path – career-changes, family life and travel plans thrust us into new cities away from the safety blankets of our familiar social circles and suddenly we’re stripped, naked, vulnerable. And we’re expected to somehow show up and be approachable in this state? Send help.
“Do you want to be my friend,” isn’t a line you’re likely to feel comfortable asking but making new friends isn’t impossible. Here are a few ideas for breaking the ice, getting yourself out there and finding your tribe.
You’re not the only one
There’s a BIG loneliness epidemic out there and realising you’re not the only one to feel this way or be in a situation where you want to make friends is half the battle. In order to be emotionally and physically available for friendship, you need to be ok with the idea of making new friends and putting yourself out there. Once you’ve left the embarrassment, shame or anxiety at the door, you’ll be open with yourself and others. It takes one leap of faith!
Why wouldn’t someone want to be your friend? Seriously. Sometimes our greatest fears are completely unfounded and exist only in our head. Make friends with yourself before you let anyone else in and you’ll be off to a cracking start.
Join a club
Rather than sitting and waiting for the opportunity to make friends come to you, be proactive and push yourself out of your comfort zone by speaking to others. Bonding over a shared hobby makes conversation flow easier, so why not join a local running, craft or book club. Something that involves an activity and invites genuine conversation takes the pressure off the making friends part.
Get involved with your local church community or give up a few hours of your time helping out at a food bank. You’ll be doing something for a great cause! It’s also a great way to diversify your friendships and build cross-generational relationships with people you wouldn’t otherwise get to speak to.
Join a gym class
There’s solidarity to come out of working out as a group – you’re in it together. Apart from being good for your mind and your body, joining a gym class can be a great place to meet likeminded people in a relaxed environment; the Dr that lives on your road, or the lady who owns your favourite florist.
Get chatting to your fellow members before or after the class and join in the social meet-ups (beer with the body pump crew, it’s all about balance) – making friends is easier when you don’t have to try hard and you’ll already have something in common right from the get-go if you’re attending the same class.
Organise a meet-up
For all its downfalls, social media is good for one thing in particular: community. If you find yourself chatting to the same faces on a regular basis in your DMs or commenting on one another’s lives, then the chances are you’ll get on like a house on fire IRL too. There’s no reason why your favourite virtual friendships can’t become part of your off-screen life. Create a group on Instagram, add in your favourite girls and arrange a blogger’s brunch, a picnic in the park or a kid-friendly activity for the local mums you follow. It just takes one person to make the first step and round up the troops.
The friendly follow-up
Unlike the circumstantial friendships you made in your youth, you can’t rely on in-jokes and memories with your new-found friends. If you’ve had an interesting conversation with someone, master the art of the friendly follow-up. Strike up the dialogue again, invite them to a gig or an event you’re going to or send them an article to something you’d think they’d love to read. It can be nerve-wracking to be the one pursuing the friendship but seeing if there are opportunities to reconnect can pay off.
The advantage of making new friends is that you already know what you’re looking for in a friendship and although you want to make a good impression, you also want them to see and enjoy spending time with the real you. The truest friendships are formed when both parties are open, honest and genuine.
Say yes to invitations
Get invited to go out for a dinner or see a show? Then go! It might seem intimidating at first but won’t make new friends by staying at home.
Bumble for friends
Like the dating app but for besties, Bumble BFF helps you expand your circle of amigos, just start building a profile to connect with potential friends nearby.
You can also join interest groups like Meetup.com to find people with similar hobbies and passions and do more of what you love. From aspiring authors, board-game enthusiasts or foodies, the online community can be an amazing space for finding your tribe and making meaningful connections.