Making New Friends

Have you ever met someone and felt an immediate “like” connection — that insta-click? Maybe you have experienced a sense of understanding and mutual appreciation with someone, bordering on the familiar, as if you known each other all your lives despite only just meeting.

The beauty and mystery of making new friends is that it can happen anytime and anywhere, through pure chance or planned intention.

Why is it important to make new friends?

Friends make our lives richer: they laugh with us, they bring lightness and joy to our lives, they listen to our stories and stresses, and they spend time doing fun things with us. Friends know us personally and can be our advocates and power of attorney when we are ill.

Sometimes we do lose friends as we move through life transitions — relationships, health, career and residential — so it is important to continue to make new friends throughout our lives.

Friendship takes time and effort. First, to meet new people, then to get to know each other, see if you have enough in common and if each person wants to continue to create the friendship and finally, to build and deepen it. Establishing strong friendships, moving from being acquaintances to new friends to good friends, takes time – months and even years.

“The best time to make new friends is before we need them.” ~ Ethel Barrymore

What do you need to make new friends?

The act of making new friends requires different ingredients. Here are a few possibilities for what we need to make new friends:

  • openness on both people’s parts,
  • common values, interests, and/or humour,
  • cultivating interesting and engaging conversations,
  • taking action like getting together outside of school, work or whatever brought us together,
  • continuity and reciprocity, inviting each other out or over,
  • courage and vulnerability, a willingness to make it known that you want to be friends with this person,
  • strength and flexibility, moving through life together, through the good times and the bad times, and knowing that we will show up for each other and be understanding towards one another.

So where do we make new friends?

Becoming friends certainly seems easier when we are young and attending school with 30 other kids five days a week, or when we spend many hours daily at our workplace working together with colleagues.

Regardless of age, making new friends takes courage: to get out in the world, to put ourselves out there, and to take emotional risks. Social media and technology can be great ways to connect with people and initiate new acquaintanceships. Trying new experiences, going to new places, being open to learning about a meaningful subject matter are all opportunities to meet new people. And not unlike dating, making a new friend requires that we be vulnerable to the possibility that our attempt at kindling a new friendship can result in rejection, hurt, or disappointment.

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you have not yet met.” ~ William Butler Yeats

Six steps to making new friends:

  1. Step into a positive mindset – one that is open-hearted, open minded, friendly, warm, kind, humourous, good-natured.
  2. Step away from negative self-talk – about how hard it is or why it is not worth the time to bother meeting new people and making friends.
  3. Step out there – go to (new) places or events where you can chat with people, do things with others, or create something with other people.
  4. Step into conversations about issues or topics that are meaningful, fun or important to you, e.g. human trafficking, politics, yoga, StarTrek, the latest gadgets, race horses, etc.
  5. Step up the invitations – invite a new or an old acquaintance to join you for an event or activity.
  6. Step into vulnerability when you feel ready and share something personal about yourself — about your family, your childhood, your history, your background.

Are there any other steps you might add to the process?

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Questions to ponder:
When was the last time you made a new friend? How did it happen? What did you do to make it happen?
When do you consider someone or call someone your friend?
What are some ways you can make new friends?
What attitude or perspective is helpful for you to make new friends?
What information about yourself are you comfortable to share at the beginning of a friendship?

Friendship and Retirement

“Wishing to be friends is quick work; but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” ~ Aristotle

Work provides us with all kinds of great opportunities to be social and to meet new people. Maybe it is while walking down the hall, in the elevator, before or after a meeting, sharing a few words while grabbing a coffee or popping by a colleague’s office. These experiences add up to a lot of people who we chat with over the course of a work day; some of them are acquaintances and others are good friends.

When we transition into retirement, whether it is abruptly or after years of planning, our friendship network can be greatly impacted. The people whom we saw regularly or met up with during our workday are not going to just show up for lunch or a coffee break at our home.

Retirement planning most often focuses on planning our finances but, if you plan to sustain friendships and maybe even develop new ones, then you will be a whole lot richer than your bank account. You will invest in your emotional, mental and relationship health.

Retirement is a wonderful opportunity to deepen our friendships and to expand our friendship networks. The process of retiring from work is a measure to:

– find out whether a friendship is site-specific and if will it continue once the context changes.

– learn who will initiate getting together when the structure of work (taking lunch, taking a break, being in the same place) is removed.

– discover whether two friends can play together without working together, whether there are any other interests shared outside of work.

Staying connected with work friends
While in your work environment, you can start to take steps so that your connection with friends extend outside the parameters of work. Some ways you can do this are to:

  • Have conversations that are not work-focused. Chat about current events, sports, politics.
  • Talk with each other about your personal life. Chat about your family, your leisure activities or plans for the weekend, vacations or holidays.
  • Invite each other to connect on non-work time, after work or on weekends.
  • Consider a new project you and your collegial friends can work on together in retirement. You already know that you work well together!
  • Talk about retirement, leaving work and your friendship.

Making new friends
Retirement is a poignant moment in our lives when we realize that some of our friendships will end. We will lose some of our friends. It is also a powerful opportunity to appreciate the importance of having a healthy friendship network. It is a prime time for making changes in our lives and ourselves to invest in our social well-being.

Some ways to make new friends in retirement are to: 

  • Prepare yourself for getting out there, be open to new experiences and meeting new people.
  • Explore new leisure experiences, study new subjects, practice new skills where you can meet new people who have similar interests.
  • Go back to school – in person – so you can meet people. Get a certificate or diploma or degree and maybe a couple of new buddies.
  • Try volunteer, philanthropic or legacy work. You can apply your skills, knowledge and expertise while meeting peers who value the same issues and causes.
  • Travel with an organized small group trip or tour where you can spend concentrated amounts of time with peers or diverse age groups. Having a wide range of ages in our friendship network is great for broadening our sense of community.

Making time for personal friends and for couple friends
One big challenge many couples experience in retirement is how to retire with your spouse so that you both enjoy it. Retirement can be a timely opportunity to review your needs as an individual and as a couple, and discuss making changes to your lifestyle and schedule so that you both feel a sense of meaningfulness, connectedness, fulfillment and enjoyment. Having your own friends as well as friends that you spend time with as a couple are both important.

I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.” ~ Jon Katz

Copyrighted 2014:  The Smart Art of Friendship- Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert