Proverbs is filled with lots of wisdom about friendship, mainly who to be friends with (Proverbs 22:24) and what friendship looks like (Proverbs 27:6). The Bible extols the value of community and gives us many insights into how those relationships work. However, one area I found the Bible less clear on is how to make friends. I believe that’s because such a process is going to change from culture to culture and generation to generation.
Today, with our very globalized and technology-linked world, we have more avenues of interpersonal communication than ever before. Many psychologists, teachers and parents have theorized, perhaps rightly or wrongly, that face-to-face interaction in the younger generations has subsequently suffered as a result. To quote one of my favorite Threadless T-shirts: “The art of conversation is, like, kinda dead and stuff.”
Now, I don’t know how much of that is true, but I know I was incredibly socially awkward throughout grade school. I was always moving, so I spent a lot of time reading and playing with my LEGOs. I had always wanted friends, so when I became a teenager, I decided I’d learn to make friends. After much practice, research, and many awkward situations, I eventually became semi-confident meeting new people and slowly building friendships.
More and more young people still need to learn this skill even when they reach adulthood. Perhaps they grew up in one area until they went to college and had to start their social life all over again. Or maybe they decided to move to the big city, or perhaps the lure of international travel was too strong to resist. Whatever your reason, hopefully these four tips for making new friends can be helpful to you.
1. Be intentional.
If you’re moving to a new place, make your goal to find or build a new community. Good friends are hard to find, and maybe they magically happened in school when you saw the same group of people every day or week, but that’s a lot less likely when you’re a young adult with YouTube and Netflix. Make that call and plan to achieve it.
2. Practice conversation-ing.
Whether you’re shy or naturally charismatic, you’ll need to practice talking with people if you’re going to be any good at it. If you’re in a new place which speaks your language, practice by starting simple conversations with anyone you’re around. Talk to your barista, the couple sitting next to you on the bus or even that cute girl sitting by herself at church. Studies have shown that the best opener is, “Hi, I’m [insert name here].” Then make sure to follow it up with something good, too, like “I’m new here. What’s there to do in this [insert place]?”
3. Don’t be scared.
Being shy is fine, but you’ll need to put yourself out there if you want to make new friends. There’s no need to be scared. Everyone’s insecure, so chances are, if a conversation gets awkward, the other person will think it’s all their fault. You’re in a new place with literally thousands of people to meet, so if it seems you screwed it up, no stress. Just learn and move on.
4. Find the right places.
Once you’re suitably confident with talking to people and making conversation, move on to making new friends. For that you need to be in places where community can be built. A church or young adults fellowship is an obvious example. Others could include swing dancing clubs, casual sports teams/groups or poetry jams. Relationships can take time, unless you’re a freakishly strong extrovert, so you need weekly interaction to build up connections. If you’re new, feel free to talk to as many people as possible to see who you click with best. If you enjoy conversations with multiple people from the same social group, maybe ask (casually) what they’re doing after church or swing. Who knows? They might invite you along.
These are just some of the things I learned when trying to make new friends. As a TCK (Third Culture Kid) I’ve had a lot of practice, and making new friends is definitely something I wish I had learned when I was younger. Hopefully you find my ideas helpful, and if you do, let me know!
What are your tips for making friends?
Copyright 2014 Josh Loke. All Rights Reserved.