“You cuss too much. You have questionable morals. You’re everything I ever wanted in a friend.” – From a greeting card by Skel Design
Sometimes there’s a wall between you and the rest of the world. It’s hard to meet people, never mind find friends. People emerging from addiction are no exception. Isolation can be painful. But finding hang-out buddies and best friends doesn’t have to be reserved for the lucky. Here are some tips on how to meet people and make friends.
Start with long lost buddies.
Past friends. Most of us have friends we haven’t talked to in years. Look up that elementary school peer, college roommate, or aunt you haven’t talked to for years. Think of all the people you’ve known. Text them out of the blue: “What up?” If it’s more formal, tell them someone you saw reminded you of them. Ask them to meet up for old time’s sake. Even if you find you have nothing in common, that “having nothing in common” might spark a new kinship.
Familiarity breeds friendship.
Pick a place that appeals to you, and visit it often. Don’t obsess all day long, but go there a few times a week. You don’t have to talk to anyone, not in the beginning, but once you’ve spent enough time at this place you’ll start to recognize the “locals,” and they’ll start recognizing you.
Are the owners of the tiny street café friendly? Do other coffee-lovers grin approvingly as you buy a super-sized triple-shot vanilla and pumpkin spice latte with skim milk? What about the museum? Is there another patron who frequents the Dali room every Monday night like you do? What about the library? Are there other students who, like you, prefer to study at 3 in the AM? If so, greet them and smile. Next time, ask about the weather or comment on how good the coffee is/good the painting is/hard the exam is.
Apart from cafes, museums, and libraries, other places to consider frequenting include:
- Sunday school
- Churches, synagogues, or temples
- Community pools
- Pet stores or zoos
- Senior citizen centers (if you’re a senior citizen)
- Student centers (if you’re a student)
Consider visiting different places: a bookstore on Saturdays, the café on Sundays. Remember, you don’t have to talk to anyone until you feel comfortable. Just get to know the faces and personalities. In time hi-bye conversations turn into talks about the weather or sports (or coffee and exams), which turn into deeper connections. Go at your own pace.
Join a club, any club.
Be part of a club. Pick an interest, and join a group of like-minded people. This interest can range from hobbies or sports to getting help for a challenge you’re dealing with. For many people, this means 12-step meetings, but there are other clubs. Check online or your community paper for information about local groups, meetings, events, and workshops. Many communities have groups that meet regularly or have guest speakers lecturing about different subjects. Here are some ideas:
- Hiking, book, knitting, art, stamp-collecting, or movie groups
- Sports groups, like rowing, sailing, or soccer clubs
- Depression or anxiety support groups
- Cancer-survivor, diabetes, or chronic pain support groups
- Alzheimer caregiver support groups
- Ping pong, bowling, or card-playing leagues
- Writer’s or artist’s workshops
- Symphony or rock bands
- Lectures about politics, philosophy, reaching your dreams, or making money
- Theater or musicals
Sign up and go! The more you show up, the quicker you’ll get to know people. You don’t have to talk to anyone until you feel comfortable, but little by little you’ll make friends.
School for adults is an excellent way to meet people in a structured environment, where there’s no pressure to carry on a conversation unless you want to.
Local college. Ask your local college for a list of their community classes. Usually these are low-priced and available to everyone. Some colleges also offer OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute). These classes are officially for people over 55, but they do accept younger folks when there’s availability. Community classes vary widely in subject, ranging from Getting to Know Shakespeare to Russian, GED, and English as a Second Language. Some schools offer career enrichment courses like construction technology, Notary Public, or continuing education for nurses.
Community stuff. No college or university nearby? Don’t forget community resources! Look into arts and crafts, music, and other specialty stores to see what classes they’re offering. Often you’ll find gems like cooking lessons and jewelry-making instruction. Consider local specialty schools too, where you can find lessons in dancing, yoga, tai chi, karate, the instrument of your choice, and probably much more.
Become a volunteer.
Want to meet kind-hearted people with a cause? Volunteering gives you a chance to spread compassion while reaching out to others for friendship. Places that often need volunteers include:
- Hospitals and emergency rooms
- Nursing homes
- Humane Society
- Museums and historical sites
- Soup kitchens
- Shelters for the homeless
- Red Cross
- Salvation Army
- Tutoring students at schools and university
- Local organizations with special causes, like helping illegal immigrants, victims of domestic violence, children with cancer, or people with illiteracy
- International organizations like the Peace Corp or Doctors Without Borders
Alternatively, call a business where you’d like to spend time and offer to help out for free.
Surf the web.
Frankly, going online is a great way to avoid being alone.
Meetup.com is a social networking site that helps get people together. There’s something here for everyone, from stuff for business-owners, writers, and vegetarians to support groups for Star Trek lovers, soccer enthusiasts, and people with bipolar disorder. Just plug in your location and your interest, then peruse the groups that come up. Meetups usually meet in person once a month, but members of each club can keep in touch online.
Online forums are conversation threads touching just about anything. This resource allows you to engage with others in a controlled, semi-anonymous manner, where you don’t have to worry about the “complexities of real conversation” while establishing connection with others. Forums let you answer at your own pace and consider your words carefully before submitting them to the world. They’re a good way of befriending interesting people who live far away, people you’d never meet locally.
Online support groups are a type of forum; they’re a wonderful resource for people to get extra support for a problem they’re having, without having to give away their personal information or make their problem public.
Friendship sites are a third option. They’re like dating sites but used primarily to help people find friends. Interactions include chats, small social groups, and big group get-together’s. Information can be exchanged, like favorite songs, business information, exercise records, or most recent drawings. Friendship websites vary according to desired age group, gender, sexual orientation, interests, etc. Some help couples find friends. Others are geared towards young career women. Still others are only for people trying to get in shape. Examples include Girlfriend Social, Social Jane, Active, My Social Passport, Couples List, and Cupple. Most are free.
Be smart when using these options. Don’t offer personal information to strangers. If you decide to get together with someone you’ve only known online, meet in a safe, public place.
So you’ve figured out a way to meet thousands of potentially interesting people? The next step is to talk to them. Be open-minded. Be kind. Be interested. And make sure to keep in touch.
Friendship is so weird… you just pick a human you’ve met and you’re like “yep, I like this one” and you just do stuff with them. – Bill Murray