Good friends are good for you.
“Good friends bring so many colors of happiness into your life by relieving stress, providing solace and eliminating loneliness,” says Amber O’Brien, PsyD, psychologist at the Mango Clinic in Miami.
Healthy friendships are also linked to better heart health, lower blood pressure, less depression, and a longer life. So it never hurts to try and make new friends.
Where to make new friends
Mahesh Grossman, 62-year-old hypnotherapist and owner of Berkeley Hypnosis in Berkeley, Calif., Has made many friends over the years by joining peer-led meditation groups, 12-step groups, and church groups.
“Everyone is going to dinner after the meeting. I know them a little in the restaurant. Then I make an effort to have a one-on-one meal with several members for the first few months, ”says Grossman. “It ultimately leads to a friendship with some of these people and more comfort with the group as a whole.”
You might find new friends when you:
Join a group or club. Find a local group where people with interests like yours meet regularly. Try a book club, church group, parent’s get-together, music group, or bike group. “The key is to fish in the right pond,” says Grossman.
Take a class. Sign up for a class at your college, senior center, or gym. Learn Italian, dance or a new card game. When the topic interests you, you are likely to find people who share your passion.
Watch locally. You might be surprised at the number of events happening in your community. Look in your local newspaper or on community bulletin boards. Go online for neighborhood listings. Look for the name of your city and the words “social network” or “dating”.
Volunteer. People who work together often form strong bonds. Meet people by volunteering at a community center, charity group, hospital, museum, or place of worship.
Join a social circle. One of the easiest ways to meet people is to surround yourself with people who have their own group of friends, says O’Brien. “You might already have people in your life who have a lot of friends,” she says. Join them when they invite you out. Ask for introductions. Take the first step and start a conversation with someone new.
Make friends online
It may seem easier to make friends online because you can find people from all over the world who have similar interests. If you are an introvert, online friendships may seem more comfortable to you.
But if you live in different areas, you can’t easily meet or hang out in person. And online friendships can become lopsided, with one person having a stronger emotional attachment than the other.
“Making new friends online is cool and fascinating, but it can get tough,” says O’Brien. Try to set healthy limits to avoid problems.
How to start a friendship
Friendships take time, but there are steps you can take to build a relationship and maintain a connection.
Say yes. When you’re invited to a gathering or event, accept the invitation. Return the favor by inviting them somewhere. Extend your own invitations and ask a friend or acquaintance for coffee or lunch.
Initiate. “You don’t have to wait for anyone to contact you and take the first step. Instead, become the kind initiator, even if you’re an introvert, ”says O’Brien.
Start the conversation. When you’re with someone you’d like to get to know better, strike up a conversation. “Share something about yourself,” says O’Brien. “Likewise, let them share about themselves.”
Show interest. Even if you’re just meeting someone, you can put them at ease by asking the right questions and being a good listener. Ask open-ended questions. Encourage them to open up by saying things like “Tell me more.”
Smile. Make eye contact and smile. “Smiling while keeping good eye contact will create a positive effect on the other person,” says O’Brien. They will feel more comfortable and interested in the conversation.
Share. As you get to know each other, try to share small but more personal things about yourself. “If you’re open with them, it gives them permission to be open with you,” Grossman says. But don’t go too far. Take it one step at a time.
Do a little favor. Small acts of kindness often lead to intimacy and connection. It doesn’t have to be big or obvious; just a small gesture creates a feeling of good vibrations.
Maintain it. When you meet someone, exchange numbers. Call them or send them a message later. Ask them if they would like to meet again. “Keeping in touch is crucial,” says O’Brien.
What you should not do
Avoid these common missteps:
Don’t change who you are. Don’t act differently just to fit in. “Always be yourself, genuine and honest,” says O’Brien.
Don’t brag. Boasting gives people a negative impression and can be off-putting.
Don’t be too aggressive. Coming too hard can turn people away. Facilitate yourself with friendly conversations before suggesting you get together for coffee or a run.
Don’t expect results right away. “It takes time to build a strong bond between two people,” says O’Brien. “Do your best, but keep your expectations low.” Research suggests that it may take 10 to 15 conversations before you feel like friends.
How to know when you are friends
Signs of a new friendship include:
- The other person starts to take the initiative and calls or sends you a message.
- You feel comfortable and natural with them.
- You don’t hesitate to share or do something in front of them.
- You respond to them with empathy and they do the same with you.
“First, there’s the becoming stage, where they do something to show that they value your connection. They start texting you or inviting you to something, ”Grossman says. Eventually you become friends of the hangout. And then over time you’re in regular contact and you feel like real friends.
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