How To Make Friends And Keep Them
Updated April 07, 2021
Making friends is something that people are expected to do from birth. Parents arrange playdates for their children as young as infancy in hopes that those connections will last a lifetime or at least a childhood. For many, the relationships we have in college are the ones that stay the closest to us as adults. Many people don't go to college and make lifelong friends in their neighborhoods through work or other social activities or hobbies.
Many life experiences may inhibit friendships. Moving a lot as a child, being shy or introverted, suffering trauma, mental and physical health issues, and problems within the home can make it very difficult to maintain friendships. Even as adults, friendships can be hard to maintain with the constant demands from work and family. Friendships are a vital part of our society. They act as a support system and can be a valuable emotional outlet. Knowing not only how to make new friends but keep them is an important skill for anyone.
Our parents are usually the initiators of our first friendships. When we start elementary school, our teachers put us into groups, and the other kids who sit at our table become our first school friends. As we get older, however, adults have less influence over how we make friendships and who those friends are with.
Learning how to make new friends and build relationships with people is an important life skill that anyone of any age or ability should know to live a happy life. You can do several things that are easy and natural that will help you make friends at any age.
- Be Nice - Being nice means that you are polite and treat people well. When people are nice, they are more approachable. When potential friends don't have to worry about whether you will be mean to them, there is a better chance of those people becoming friends.
- Do Things You Like - If you enjoy poetry, try going to an open mic night. Join a pool or dart league if you like bar sports. Business owners can join their county chamber of commerce to meet new people, or if you enjoy fresh foods, start shopping at your local farmer's markets. Get out and about doing the things that you like, even if you are by yourself. There is a big chance that you will meet people who like the same things you do, and those are the easiest friendships to build because you already have things in common.
- Ask Questions - When you meet someone, ask them questions to get to know them and keep the conversation going. Try to ask meaningful questions that help you find out more about the other person and their opinions. Don't just talk about the weather or ask yes or no questions. Try to ask open-ended questions that make the other person think about what they want to say. You can always start with a question about the weather, such as "How do you like this heatwave?" but then try to relate their answer to something relating to your life, such as "I lived in Las Vegas, and it was hot like this all summer, where have you lived with crazy weather?"
- Be Forward - Letting people know that you are new in town or new to the group is O.K. You'll be surprised at how many people will invite you to another group activity to help you get to know more people. Everyone has been the new kid at least once in life, whether at school, starting a new job, or moving to a new place. Don't be afraid to ask new people you meet to get together again in the future or exchange information.
- Smile - Not only does smiling make you look nicer, but it will also make you feel nicer as well. Science has proven that the more we smile, the happier we feel because the physical act of smiling stimulates chemicals in the brain that make us happy. When people smile, they are perceived as being more attractive and more approachable.
Making friends is one thing; keeping them is completely different. When we establish relationships, sometimes those relationships are on a very basic level-acquaintances, people who know each other but do not have a bond. Sometimes this can be co-workers, friends of friends, or other people that we do not interact with on a social level regularly. Most people start as acquaintances and have to make an effort to keep working on and building relationships to have a lasting friendship. Here's what you can do to keep friends once you make them.
- Be Supportive - Outside of our families, friends are our most important support system. We often tell our friends things that we don't tell our parents. Be willing to be someone's support. Listen when you are asked to listen, congratulate friends on their successes, give them a shoulder to cry on when they need it. You should also expect these things in return from a friend. Leaning on each other encourages a mutual relationship rather than a one-sided friendship.
- Be Yourself - There is nothing more difficult than trying to pretend to be someone you are not for a long period. Be authentic, and don't try to be someone you are, not just please your friends. Relationships built on lies will always fail, so be truthful, honest, and open to being yourself.
- Stay Open-Minded - Friends should have things in common, but they should also be willing to learn from each other. You are not always going to agree on everything 100%. There may be differences in opinions, tastes, or ideas, and you should stay open-minded and willing to try new experiences. If your friend loves Thai food and you don't think you will like it, go ahead and try it anyway.
- Connect In Real Life - Everyone has a Facebook, most people tweet, and the most popular people get followed by thousands on Instagram. Still, relationships in the virtual world are not always the social interaction we need to connect. Make sure that you are talking to your friends face to face, not just through social media. Make plans to get together in person and have fun in the real world.
- Make An Effort - Friendships take work. Losing touch with someone is easier than ever, even though we are all connected online. You may get a text from a friend and be busy at work and forget for days to respond; emails may go unanswered because they aren't "important." Ensure that you are making your relationships a priority and that your friends are doing the same for you. Set aside time for get-togethers and social activities; check your phone at the end of each day for unanswered calls and messages.
When Friendships Don't Last
Sometimes we don't stay friends with people. There are many reasons why friendships may fail. A falling out between the two people, a realization that you are too different from each other, a fundamental difference in values, distance, or just losing touch. Sometimes, we become friends with people and realize that they aren't who they portrayed themselves to be, they aren't good influences on us, or they do something that hurts us, and we have to let those people go from our lives.
When friendships don't work out, feeling sad is normal. Feeling angry, frustrated, confused, or grievous is also normal. Many different emotions go hand in hand with building relationships, and when things that we work hard for don't work out, the emotional turmoil can be surprising.
Relationships that fall apart can be difficult to understand and process, especially when an emotional attachment is involved. Seeking out advice or a mental health professional's ear to understand and process the end of a relationship is not a negative thing. Mental health professionals can also help those who are having a hard time making new friends or keeping them.
If you find yourself struggling with relationships, not being able to maintain friendships, or feelings of sadness, depression, loss, grief, or anxiety, start your journey to be a good friend or finding good friendships here. ReGain can help put you in touch with licensed therapists and professional counseling that can lead to saving or improving your relationships or set you on the path to becoming the social person you always wanted to be.
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