How to make new friends (and keep the old ones)
Having a solid social support network of great friends is important for our health and happiness. It can be tough to find time to keep in touch with friends from the past, and even harder to make new friends we're on the same page as, especially as we get older.
Despite the fact that most twenty-somethings use social media regularly (1), we're getting lonelier as a society. Surveys carried out have revealed that compared to the 1980's we have fewer friends nowadays (2) and it's common to hear 20 and 30-somethings complain that they have no idea how to make new friends. We all need alone time, but nothing can replace close friendship and having a network of good friends can lead to a longer, healthier, happier life and can actually help to reduce stress (3)!
We've come up with a few ways to meet new people and keep up with your existing friendships - we think that having an active social life and keeping your friends close is so important for happiness!
#1. Go on a blind date
Blind dates aren't just for romance, they're actually a great way to get to know somebody new in a platonic sense too! If you've recently moved to a new city, why not have a work colleague or friend set you up on a platonic blind date? This way, you'll already have a mutual friend in common, as a starting point for conversation, meaning you're more likely to have things in common than if you were meeting a complete stranger. Of course if it all goes wrong, you can blame your friend!
#2. Practice persistence
Most of us know how to pursue a romantic interest, even if we're not brave enough to do it. Sending flowers, inviting them out on a date - it's really not that complicated! But you can apply the same tactic to meeting new friends too. Send them an email or text to invite them out shopping or to a gig and follow up after your 'date' with a text to say you had a great time, and set up another day or night out. Treating your new friends in this way is a sure-fire way to foster strong relationships!
#3. Be open to new possibilities
It's easy to get stuck in a friendship rut, and if you've always hung out with women or men your own age who work in similar jobs, it's time to stop limiting yourself! Age is just a number and you can open yourself up to new friendship opportunities by thinking outside the box. You might end up with a 40-year-old friend who works in a different industry, provided you have things in common. This will also widen your horizons and help you to learn about people from different backgrounds and with lifestyles different to your own.
#4. Maintain a virtual presence
If you've moved away from your home town and don't have as much time as you'd like to catch up with old friends - we're all so busy nowadays - social media can be a great way to catch up with old friends, stay in touch and strengthen your connection. Posting on a friend's Facebook wall to congratulate them on an achievement or sending them regular messages to update each other with your news can really help to strengthen your friendship.
#5. Keep things brief
Receiving an email from an old friend can be great, but if you're guilty of procrastinating and putting off replying until you have time, you're not alone. You don't have to send lengthy emails that take hours to write, and sometimes it can actually be better to keep things brief, sending just a few lines each time but keeping in touch more regularly.
#6. Dont be so sensitive
It can be easy to take things personally when you're trying to make new friends and somebody turns down your invite to the cinema or for a coffee. But in order to make new friends and have a healthy social life, you need to learn to be less sensitive. Chances are, they really are too busy to step away from their desk and enjoy a night out, or maybe they just don't feel like socialising this week. Be persistent and ask them again next week - don't let it knock your self-confidence and keep your inner negative voice at bay - it's probably not you!
#7. Talk to people
It may sound like an obvious tip, but you'd be surprised at how many of us attend parties and networking events, don't make the effort to speak to anyone and then wonder why we can't make new friends! Striking up a conversation with new people can be tough, but look for things you have in common. At parties, get a mutual friend to introduce you, or ask them how they know your friend. Talking about work is always a good way to start a conversation, or come up with something more original, like discussing a new show you're enjoying on TV and asking them if they've seen it. Apply the same approach to meeting new friends as you would to finding a romantic partner - and don't be afraid of rejection. Keep smiling and keep talking to new people and you'll end up with a much bigger social circle!
Remember that even though finding new friends and maintaining old relationships can be hard work, almost everyone is in the same position as you. We all struggle to put ourselves out there and meet new people, so it's ok to feel introverted and shy, as well as a bit awkward, whilst you're doing it! What are your top tips for making new friends?
READ THIS NEXT: Master your life in 5 easy steps