Figuring Out Friendships – Series Part 2: How do you make friends?

(especially when you are older)

Making friends is like dating. Two strangers meeting – either consciously or coincidentally, either hitting it off or barely getting through small talk. Sometimes there is a spark and sometimes there isn’t. This part of two strangers meeting is the most vital part – somehow at some time, you must cross paths with a person for them to become your friend. This can be virtual or in person, but can never work without the two of you having a connection. This can be limiting. In order to meet a person, they have to come across our paths in our lives. This is where the trouble of making friends begin.

If you think back to the friends you had as a child – you probably had them because you either met them at school or at a hobby or lived nearby. They would fit in the life paved out for you. When you are older, if the person is not either working with you, or included in a hobby you do – it’s really hard for them to cross your path. Especially if you have a family, and your hobby is on that can be done alone. That’s what makes it hard to make friends, let alone keep them. You just don’t have the opportunity to meet, or you don’t have the mental energy to. We all need support that is outside of our families. An objective person that can listen to you and offer you a point of view often the people closest to you can’t. A second family. Here are some tips on how to build one:

  1. Give people the opportunity to cross your path
    You won’t make friends not having a life. Again – the life can be virtual. Friends that are online are just as much there as friends in real life. Follow groups on facebook that spark an interest. It could just be female groups, people with dogs – you don’t have to engage till you see if you like the group. Just listen and if you feel like commenting or posting – do it! It won’t hurt you.
    Start small talk in the break room, you might find the people in your office are more friend potential than you thought. Or start asking your neighbors questions, or parents while you are waiting to pick kids up at day care. Give people the chance to take up some space in your life. You don’t have to become friends on the first day, but slowly break down the barrier.
  2. Don’t limit your definition of a friend
    I once read about a woman in her 60s being best friends with a 20 year old. I thought that was strange and wondered what they could talk about. Then I realized I was discriminating against people in age and gender. I realized if someone was older or younger than me, I would automatically exclude them out of my life. Since then, I have opened up dramatically – and have build friendships with people of all ages that I value and can trust in my life. To clarify – I’m not friends with a 10 year old. But professionals like me, be it they are 10 years younger or 15 years older, we can laugh about the same things over a cup of coffee and exchange Netflix tips.
    Perhaps you are giving up a great friendship to some limiting belief you have. Ask yourself how you define a friend, and have a look at the people around you.
  3. Put yourself out there – Never Fear Rejection, because it will happen either way
    This is the most vital part and the worst part. You have to put on your brave shoes, be a little more extrovert and flirt your way into being a friend. You will have to ask people out, and ask for their number. You will have to make an effort. If you want to make friends, you have to take it into your hands. And you will have to face rejection just as much you will have to notice that some people you just don’t want to be friends with.
    There are many times I went to meetups in the hope of finding a friend and I just didn’t. I would come home tired and drained. And the other way around, I joined a sports team, and couldn’t find anyone that wanted to be friends with me. I did everything by the book, but other people just seemed content with the friends they had or they just didn’t like me. Sometimes you just don’t jell with people, and sometimes you don’t jell with them and both are ok.

Remember, friendships are like dating. It does need a spark to happen. And if it doesn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be. Nothing wrong with that.

Please feel free to share your tips if you have any!

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