How to make friends

How to Make Friends

We all feel lonely from time to time, yes even me. A bit of loneliness is fine and it’s actually a useful feeling because it reminds us that we need to make new friends, (re)connect with people, and the world around us.

But if you’ve been feeling lonely for a while, making friends can feel quite daunting and tricky. Long term loneliness means we might avoid situations, or find it harder to trust people, or not feel great about ourselves. That makes it harder to make friends and it makes us feel more lonely. It becomes a self-fulfilling circle, and that kind of loneliness isn’t good for us.

Before the solution, a bit about the problem

I’ve written this resource for you that I hope you will find helpful. I’ve written this for the person feeling lonely who wants to make friends. I know that might feel quite frustrating for you, because if people became your friends you wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. 

And yes society is also to blame. The lack of places to hang out with other people, Covid, bullying, how expensive everything is, how neoliberal capitalism has created an over-individualised subjectivity which is captured by platforms and technology in a terrifying doom loop as we move into new epoch of the post-anthropocene….

All of this is true, but be careful about making this ‘the thing about you’. This article is advice for you on what else you might be. Tapping into the resources you already have so that you feel that little bit less lonely and to increase your chances of making friends and close connections with people. 

As you’ll see, it’s activity based and so I’ll be asking you a lot of questions. It’s a bit like this article on how to feel a bit better in that it’s based on solution focused brief therapy. I’ve been trained in this by the good people over at BRIEF and it turns out that it might be really effective at feeling a bit less lonely and more likely to make friends. (references for this at the bottom). 

Are you ready to get started? You might want to get a pen and a few sheets of paper. I’ll make the tea.

All the people you know: can you make friends with them?

I’d like you to make a list of all of the people you would say are in your life. Family, neighbours, school mates, work colleagues, that kind of thing. See how many you can come up with and be honest with yourself. 

For each one, write down a number for how close you are on a scale of 0 – 10. 10 being as close as it’s possible to be to someone, and 0 being the opposite. How come you are not one number lower than that?* Try to come up with 5 reasons for why you are (for example) at a 5 and not a 4. Give examples or write down qualities or words. 

Realistically, how close would you like to be with this person? Give it a number. Now, if you could get the current number up one (for example, from a 5 to a 6), what would you start to notice? What would be the very first sign that told you that you were a bit closer? When you next see this person, what would you notice about yourself that was just a tiny bit different? What would that person notice about you? How might you respond? What else would you notice? What else?

How confident are you that you can get that number up just one point? Again, give that a number on a scale of 10 (very confident) to 0 (the opposite). How come you are not one lower? What does that say about you?

I wonder if there’s anyone on your list that you would like to be more friends with, but aren’t as close now. Think back to a specific time and place when you were as close as you could be, can you recall it? Where were you? What were you doing? What did you notice about yourself? How did they respond to you? How did you know at the time that you were close? What else do you remember? Can you say this outloud to yourself? Maybe record it on your phone?

Make friends with yourself

Yes I know that’s super cheesy, but it’s important. Use this table from my resource called Big Up You

Big up you

Pick 5 words that apply to you (do this in a positive way). Take your time and be kind and honest. Once you have your 5 words, tell a story for each one about why those words apply to you. How do you know?

Think of a time when you were the most ‘that word’ it’s possible to be. Picture a specific time and place when you were (for example) ‘funny’. What do you remember about that time? How were you feeling? What were other people responding to you? How did you respond to them? What did you notice about yourself (your body, your emotions, your thoughts, what you were doing)? What else? Do this for all 5 words. Yes this is a lot of work, but do it anyway. Chop chop!

You might also like this resource about how you feel about your self.

Pick 5 potential friends

Now go back to your list of people in your life. Pick 5 of them. Imagine that they are thinking about you warmly and kindly, and that they have a smile on their face. Which 5 words would they use to describe you? Why would they choose those 5 words? What stories, or memories, might they have of your time together that might make them think that you are each of these 5 words. It could be something really small, quick, or tiny. Just a micro-moment that they might recall about you. Write them down or, even better, say them out loud.

Make friends with your interests

Make a list of every single thing that you are interested in. What do you like? See if you can get to 20. Then pause and ask yourself ‘what else?’ Then see if you can get it to 50. If you can get it to 100, even better? What else? It doesn’t have to be a big thing: maybe there’s a tree you like, or a chocolate bar, or a football team, or a TV show.

For each one of these, try to recall a time when you were really really into it. Can you bring it to mind and really remember what it felt like to be really interested in that thing? How did it feel? What were you noticing? How were other people responding? What might you have said to other people? What might they have said to you?

Do you and any of the other people you know share one of these interests? Imagine that you are both into the same TV show, what might you say to each other? How might you know that you are really interested in it? What would tell you that they were really interested in this thing? What might you say?

Research where your new friends might already be

I think that you have some new friends already, you just haven’t got around to meeting them yet. Let’s work out where they are. For each of your interests I’d like you to write down where people are who are also interested in that thing. Are they online or offline? Are they near the thing? Is it outdoors or is there a building? What events are there involving your interest? Are there any groups? Is there a party? What about a demonstration? Where are the people who are into the things you’re into as much as you are? For each of your interests see if you can find 5 things. Then see if you can get to 10. 

Ask people. If you (are still lucky enough to) have a library near you, ask them. They will probably know and they love to help people. Do it in person. If they don’t know they might direct you to someone else who might know. Ask them. As you do this, what are you pleased to notice about yourself? Focus on one part of the interaction that you had that felt nice. What did you notice? What were you feeling? How did they respond? What else?

Go and find your new friends

You’ve found where your friends are hanging out, now you need to go see them. How brave are you feeling about joining in? Yes, it’s scale times again. 10 is you couldn’t be more brave, 0 is the opposite, where are you on that scale right now? How come you are at that number and not the number below (say you’re at a 3, how come you’re not at a 2?)? What does that say about you? What do you know about you (and the rest of you) that tells you that you are that brave about doing a new thing? If you were able to be just one point higher, what would you notice about yourself? What might emerge? Can you recruit one of your other people to help you?

Let’s say you go in and start chatting to people to find your new friends. Here are a few helpful things to remember. You might meet a few people who might have a chat with, or maybe even share a few micro-moments with, but they might not be your new friends. They might just be other people. Even as you chat with them though, can you pay attention to what you are pleased to notice? What’s going well when you are chatting with someone new? Let’s say that the friends you haven’t met yet can see you, what would they notice about you in this situation? 

How to deal with setbacks in finding your friends

I also think it’s helpful to remember to think of your ‘self’ as a constantly flowing assemblage of words, memories, ideas, bodies, experiences and values. Like I was saying the other day when I wrote this article about how to impress someone. Because our ‘self’ is actually a multitude of lots of things, ‘we’ can never be rejected. It’s just what was happening at that moment, in that place, on that day. So if you don’t seem to impress someone, don’t worry because it really isn’t ‘you’. I think this drawing helps to explain that nicely. 

how you and the other are actually an assemblage of different relations, experiences, bodies, ideas, values, and stories


Just keep looking out for your new friends. At what point will you know that you’ve made a new friend? How will they respond? What would you feel in your body? What might you say? How would they respond to that? What else?

Then what else?

When you’re at this point you might find the other articles on how to actually do relationships (of all kinds) helpful. Maybe start with my comprehensive guide to relationships. Then when you’ve made your friends you might start to think about how you can make life better for other people too, for example with acts of solidarity. Or maybe you could throw a party? Or organise an event. Maybe you could organise a Maltesers eating meet-up in the park. Go hug some trees after. Pat a dog. That kind of thing.

I hope you found all that useful! Please leave me a comment to read below if you did, or if you have any tips you could share on how to make friends.

Justin

Further reading

I found these articles useful when researching this article.

Love in the time of Covid https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/10398562211010806 Intervention Effect of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Based on Empowerment Theory on Loneliness in Obese Children https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10512134/ Review: Alleviating loneliness in young people – a meta-analysis of interventions https://acamh.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/camh.12389 Loneliness in children and young people in the UK https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanchi/article/PIIS2352-4642(20)30213-3/fulltext Loneliness across the lifespan https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1745691615568999

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

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