11 Sep 2014

How To Be Social :: Making Friends

This one is 'next level'.  This is the really scary area.  You can't even see your comfort zone from here it's that far away.
With networking, at least there's a point to it. You hand someone a business card, and it's clear you do this a lot and there's a reason for doing so etc.


You meet a stranger and ask if they want to grab a coffee on Saturday... that's uncomfortable to a much higher degree.


Let me take you back to Melbourne.  I very quickly realised after around a month of being there, that I had two options and two options only.
I either lost all sense of pride, fear and awkwardness in regard to talking to strangers, or I would make literally no friends.

I think socialising with strangers in the UK is difficult because our focus is usually on alcohol.  There's very little cafe culture here in comparison to other countries - and cafe culture focuses on conversation!

The first time I really ventured out into the realm of adult friendship making back in Oz was Australia day, January 2013.  My second cousin Ben (who I ended up living with for a few months) invited me to celebrate with his friends.
I went alone and to be completely frank I was absolutely f*cking terrified.  I didn't even know Ben that well!

I felt like a sad, friendless, lonely idiot trying to start conversations with stranger after stranger and even considered disappearing at one point.

But then something happened.  I was chatting to an Irish girl and briefly mentioned how scary meeting new people can be.

'Oh it's always hard at the start isn't it?  You're so brave though!  Just you wait, a few weeks and you'll wonder what you were scared about.'

As she said this it hit me that nearly everyone here was an expat or traveller - they knew exactly what I was going through and they'd all come out the other end.  Well if they could do it, why not me?



After this little by little I kept meeting new people.  Some people I would have coffee with and never see again, some have become lifelong friends.  At first I would explain myself, tell them that I was on a working holiday and didn't really know anyone.
But after a while I started to realise that it doesn't matter.  If I'm explaining myself then I care what others think - it does not matter what people think and actually, if we knew how rarely others think about us, we'd stop worrying about it immediately!

Nine months later I had more friends than I could keep track of.



So what are the best ways of putting this into practice?

1.  BE THE KIND OF PERSON YOU WANT TO MEET
Ah this old chestnut again!  Trust me though, it works.  If you want to meet fun, kind, happy, uplifting, motivated people you need to be that.  You attract what you are and the best way to have a friend is to be one.  Be friendly.

2.  BE OPEN MINDED AND DON'T JUDGE TOO QUICK
The way she's styled those brogues does not look good at all.  I bet she's snooty in person, is she laughing at me?  I can't believe she arrived alone!

Come on, we're all guilty of this at some point.

How about this instead:
That's an unusual way to wear brogues, not sure I'd wear them like that but props to her for having the guts.  I wonder what she's like in person, she seems jolly!  Maybe I should talk to her - she might be feeling intimidated since she arrived alone.

What if you were the girl in the brogues?  How would you want to be treated by other people?  Would it be the former or the latter?

The fact is, you cannot make any judgement of anyone if you don't know them.  If anything else, it's just not fair!  Ultimately, if you judge people you close them off - that girl in the brogues might actually be your BFF for life, but you'll never know if you don't talk to her and be open minded.

3.  MAKE AN EFFORT AND KEEP MAKING AN EFFORT
Friendships don't magically appear and continue.  You have to make an effort.  This is true of any kind of relationship, new or old.

It's surprisingly difficult to make this effort though.  People get busy, have other plans, get sick and stuff.  Just keep trying.  The ones who are destined to be your friend will eventually fall into a natural pattern of seeing you regularly.

4.  FIND YOUR COMMON GROUND
Another repetition from the last post but for good reason.

I met a lot of different people in Melbourne.  Some liked to drink occasionally, some preferred to dine.  Some loved camping.  Some didn't really go out at all or preferred to do things like go to the cinema.  Some spent their days cooking and running and doing yoga.  And so on.

We're all different and you can never 'get everything' from one person.

For example, I could have a great day out shopping, having coffee and sauntering around markets with Marlee - who blogs at String Of Events.  That same experience with my cousin Ben though wouldn't have been much fun.

I could have a roaring night of belly laughs down at the pub with Ben - not with Marlee as she's not a big drinker (we would belly laugh, just in different environments!).

Marlee and I could & still do ramble on together for hours about blogging, Ben just about got the concept but would look bored after about 5 minutes.

And that's okay!  Whatever you do, don't try and force people into things that they just don't like.  It won't work.

5.  BE KIND
I really cannot stress this enough.  Being kind never fails to bring that small nugget of positivity back to me tenfold.  Kindness is contagious!  It's the best way to tell people that you're a friend not a foe.


I think making new friends as an adult sometimes has a certain kind of stigma attached to it - would you agree?

I no longer care at all if I look weird trying to make new friends, it's something I actively try to do regularly.  One thing that Melbourne taught me is that there are undiscovered friends who could enhance and even change your life everywhere - find them!

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