When clients tell me they’d like to have more friends, I ask them first if they have an idea of where they are planning to go to meet new people. If you’re not sure about where to meet new people, see part 1 (the previous blog). Once you’ve figured out where you’re going to meet new people, the next step is how you talk with them to get to know them and possibly become friends.
When you first go to a social event, try to talk to at least a few people. Start a conversation with a general topic that you think you’d have something to say about, like:
- How are you enjoying the weather lately?
- Did you catch the latest Vikings game?
- I’m new to this group/event. Have you been here before? What’s it like?
You can also start a conversation specifically about the group or event you are at. If you’re in a hiking group, you could ask, “Where is your favorite place that you’ve hiked in the past? Why?” If you take a cooking class, you could say, “I’m not that familiar with this kind of food, do you like it? Why?” (More details on these conversations in Meeting New People, Part 3—Small Talk.)
Some people will talk with you for a while, others will talk for a few minutes and then excuse themselves to go talk with someone else or do something else. Don’t worry about the people that don’t end up talking very long with you. You are looking for people that you have a connection with, and some people are not a good match for your personality or have their own issues going on. Just move on to the next conversation when someone excuses themselves.
Also, remember that it may take more than just one conversation to get to know someone or be friends with them. Especially in Minnesota, people are slow to feel comfortable with each other.
You’ll probably end up having several of these “small talk” conversations before they may be ready to start doing social things outside the group together.
If you think you’ve made a connection with someone and would like to be friends with them, after having several conversations, ask if you can Facebook friend-request them or email them. Get their email/Facebook address and write it down. Then, a couple of days later, Facebook or email them and ask if they’d like to hang out sometime for coffee or something like that. If you think it might be confused with asking for a date, make sure that you state directly that you’re just looking for friendship, nothing more. (More on Dating Relationships in a future blog). When you first ask someone to do something social with you, invite them to do something that will take only a couple of hours or less and that is in a neutral place (don’t invite them to your place, for example). Good examples are going for coffee, going out to eat, going to a movie, going bowling, or going to a concert. Try to come up with some interesting things to talk about ahead of time, so you don’t have to think about them during the activity.
Be careful about telling someone you don’t know well about your illness–it usually works out better to have them get to know you first and then tell them.
Also, keep in mind your own safety when you don’t know someone well. Offer to meet them in a neutral place, tell a friend or family member where you’re going, don’t invite them over to your place or go to their place. Leave the situation if you feel creeped out or threatened.
One of the most common questions people ask when they’re getting to know new people is “Where do you work?” or “What do you do?” If you are a person who isn’t working right now, it can be helpful to think ahead of time how you’ll answer this question. Some replies to this question are:
- “I’m looking for work.”
- “I’m between jobs”
- “I’m looking into going back to school.”
- “I do volunteer work.”
- “I’m retired.” (if over 55 or so)
- “I’m self-employed” (if applicable)
- “I’ve got some medical issues and I’m not working right now.”
Remember, you don’t have to give more detail than that, especially when you barely know the person.
When you’re done with the activity, if you had fun, tell them you enjoyed it and would like to do it again. If you didn’t really connect with the person, you need to decide whether you want to give it another chance, or if you’d rather just go your separate ways and meet other new people. Keep in mind that you may have to meet several new people before you find one that is a good personality match with yours. Meeting new people can be hard, but the short-term challenge of talking with new people is definitely worth the long-term benefit of making new friends.