Once upon a time it was easy to make friends. You didn’t need someone to tell you how to make friends. In fact, when you were younger you didn’t give much thought about how to make friends because making friends was a natural part of life. You met new kids all the time at school and at activities, and if you hit it off you became friends.
As adults, it can be a little trickier to make friends. That’s because as adults were are taught to be more standoffish and we are more preoccupied with our worries and life. But, that doesn’t make friends any less important. Friends act as a support group when times are tough and as a fun boosting group when things are good. And, as adults, we appreciate our friends much more than we do when we are kids, especially when they make us feel good about ourselves when we are around them.
With a little bit of effort, you can break out of your bubble and into other people’s lives, and you can make friends all over the place. Following is an 11-step system (taken directly from how kids do it) to help you make a new friend. Use it over and over again to make as many friends as you want.
Step 1: Be OK With Being By Yourself
Kids are generally not needy beings. They are fine playing by themselves, even if it is something that actually requires more than one person, such as a tea party or a sport. Kids are content with who they are as a person and they will be just fine if someone is playing with them or not. Their friends add to the fun, they don’t make the fun.
As an adult, you won’t be happy with a friend until you are happy with yourself. If you enjoy your company, then there is a good chance that other people will too. But if you hate being around yourself, then there is also a good chance that other people will not want to be around you either. Therefore, enjoy your company and see yourself as a fun and exciting person, so others can see it too.
Step 2: Stop Judging Yourself And Others
Kids don’t feel they are unworthy of friendships. While they may have some times when they don’t feel great about themselves, they don’t call themselves too fat, too stupid, or too ugly to be someone’s friend. And, while they sometimes judge other kids and keep them out of their circle, as an adult you can eliminate that factor to help you find real friends who stand the test of time.
Stop judging yourself as someone unworthy of having new friends. You have a lot to offer other people and anyone would benefit from having you in their life. Moreover, stop judging other people based on first appearances or, worse, things you hear about them. Give everyone a chance to show you the essence of who they are, and then make your decisions based off what they show you.
Step 3: Go More Places
Kids are all over the place. They go to school, the park, and take on extra-curricular activities. Adults tend to go to work and then lock themselves in their house for the rest of the day. If you want to make new friends, you are going to have to spend more time out in the world, even in the virtual world.
This is just simple math when it comes to how to make friends. The more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to make friends. However, you have to put yourself in a place where you are actively doing stuff. Offline this could mean taking a class or volunteering, and online it could mean getting social with like-minded people in a certain community. The bottom line is if you go to a coffee shop or somewhere similar, you are less likely to meet someone who has being sociable on their mind.
Step 4: Introduce Yourself
Listen to kids and you will hear, “My name’s [fill in kid’s name], what’s yours?” The kids who put themselves out there the most likely to meet other kids, are they are always the ones who get the most friends. Again, this is just simple math. Every time they put themselves out there, they increase their odds of introducing themselves to someone who will be their friend.
As an adult, you may not want to lead with, “My name’s [fill in your name], what’s yours?” But, you can talk about something happening around you to start a conversation and then introduce yourself. For instance, if you are in a class, you may want to ask a question and discuss it before you introduce yourself. Or, if you are online, you may want to reach out to someone for their opinion about something they seem to be an expert at, and introduce yourself in the process.
Don’t skip introducing yourself! Giving them your name helps you stand out in their mind from everyone else, and they will be more likely to remember who you are and come to you next time they need to discuss something. Plus, they will feel more comfortable around you compared to other people who they have not been introduced to, which is an important part of how to make friends.
Step 5: Offer Something Of Value
This is a natural trick that kids use. They will offer to share their paint or show another kid how to do something, and it is a great tactic to make someone like you. Everyone wants to get something of value, and when they get it from someone else, a level of trust is built between them and that person, which is important for any relationship, especially a friendship.
Therefore, anytime you see an opportunity to offer something take it. It could be as simple as a pen or it could be as big as a ride. Nothings too small. If they need something, whatever they receive to fill that need is valuable.
Step 6: Strike Up A Conversation
Kids don’t have much of a filter, so they will instantly start talking about all things under the sun when they meet another kid. They will talk about personal things, dumb things, and seemingly important things. It doesn’t really matter because kids don’t judge too much as bad conversation, so all topics are on the table to form a friendship.
Adults need to be a little more careful when it comes to how to make friends. You can’t delve into your personal life because you don’t have that type of bond yet. You can’t talk about something stupid, because that will make you look stupid, which will be a turn off. But, you can talk about seemingly important things.
For instance, if you are in a class together you can talk about the class and any struggles you are having in it. This will help you start to open up to each other and form more of a bond. Once you start talking about the little things, you will find yourself talking about more personal things, and that’s when a bond really starts to form. You see each other in a new light and you have more of an investment in each other than you do with other people who you don’t talk to.
Step 7: Avoid Certain People
When we were kids, we made a lot of bad friends. As adults, we can see the bad behavior and warning signs and avoid a friendship that is more harm to your life than good. Even though you want to make friends, don’t buddy up with people just for the sake of being their friend. Some people are not worth it and will waste time you could be spending making real friends.
For instance, people who make cracks about you are often expressing how they really feel about you in a way that is low-key enough not to hurt you. If they don’t think much of you now, you will have to work hard to change their opinion, and you shouldn’t have to do that just to make a friend. It will feel more like a mission than a friendship.
If you see the signs of a user or someone you know doesn’t match up with your morals or beliefs, then you have every right to get out at this point and start looking for someone else to be friends with.
Step 8: Say Yes
Once kids feel they have a connection, they invite each other over to their house to play. And they both run to their parents hoping that they will say ‘yes’ so that they can actually follow through with the plans they made. Kids are much more open to saying yes than adults are.
If you want to get to know someone more, you have to agree to get together with them or do things that may be out of your comfort zone. This may be something like going out for coffee with them, which isn’t really that bad, or going to a party with them, which may be a little more intimidating. If you met online it will probably feel really uncomfortable to meet up somewhere. But, if you want to develop a friendship-like bond, then saying yes will help you do that.
Step 9: Don’t Get Too Serious Too Fast
Most kids are not too serious about the friendship in the beginning. They don’t get upset if their new friend wants to go hang out with someone else because they have a million other things to do. But, some kids take it really personally, and these are the kids that often don’t have a lot of friends because without a filter, they cry, scream, and stomp their feet at the very notion of their new friend not wanting to hang out with them.
Starting a friendship is all about having fun and getting to know each other, and if you get too serious in the start of your friendship, then you are going to scare the other person away. I would hope that you wouldn’t cry, scream, or stomp your feet, but even giving little unhappy remarks or rolling your eyes can send the message loud and clear that you are not the kind of person that will make a good friend because you are way too needy.
Step 10: Be Honest
Kids are quite honest with their good friends, and their friends either have to like them or not. Kids feel the need to be themselves at all costs, and despite their differences, they usually end up staying friends and accepting each other for who they are.
As an adult, you have to be honest too. This is a simple rule to form any kind of relationship, but using it when it comes to how to make friends will help you develop the kind of friendship that lasts the test of time. It may be tempting to pretend to like your new friend’s interests, but if you really don’t you are just doing yourself a disservice. They will find out the truth eventually, which can cause a major loss of trust in the friendship.
You can’t pretend to be someone you are not just so your new friend will like you. You can’t hold back your true feelings just because you are scared you will make them mad and lose them. You got to be honest, and if you end up getting in a disagreement because of it, you will work through it if you were meant to be good friends.
Step 11: Be There On That Defining Moment
As kids, friends stand up for each other and easily support each other. They are quick to offer words of encouragement, distract their friends from being upset, and offer words of wisdom (even if they are not that wise). In addition, they stand by their friend if trouble comes their way while they are together.
There will be a moment where you will need to support your new friend, and that will help you cross the line from an acquaintance to an actual friend who is going to be around for a while. If you choose to opt out of that moment, then you may be choosing to opt out of your friendship. But, if you are someone who shows up and gives whatever type of support you can, that person will see you as a real friend and your bond will strengthen even more. At that moment, you will have made a true friend.