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This Is How to Make Friends in Three Easy Steps

By Bull Garlington

Making friends is an anxiety-inducing nightmare scenario for many people, especially those averse to mingling. It employs all of the triggers for the socially allergic: small talk, shaking hands, looking someone in the eye, and just being in the same room as other people.

how to make friends

So, it’s not surprising that online chat groups dedicated to social anxiety, Gen Z problems, and the general angst of socializing rank “making friends” at the very top of the list of things that make them want to curl up and die. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You Don’t Have to Worry About Making Friends

Because you’re a social animal. Even if you’re a people-averse introverted hermit, there’s a part of you that is constantly looking for friends. (It’s a survival thing.) We are tribal people. Inside each of us is a drive to be among our own kind. And, instead of exacerbating your mild-to-debilitating anxiety,* this instinct to socialize works in your favor.

Here’s how to get started making friends.

Read our new LinkedIn newsletter of the same name for laugh-out-loud, actionable advice to help the horribly anxious handle potentially disastrous IRL encounters.

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How to Make Friends: Step One

Be Around People.

This is important since we‘re talking about IRL friends, not online friends. Online friends can morph into IRL friends, but only if you make an effort to visit them in real life. So you‘re gonna need to find a way to be around other people. You can find more than 87 million articles about this, telling you to join a book club or volunteer at an animal shelter. Assuming you like to read and adore cats, this might work. But there’s no guarantee a book club member is gonna want to do anything other than talk about Agatha Christie and there’s even less guarantee the people you meet at the animal shelter own less than 48 cats.

Besides, making friends is about more than just meeting people.

It’s about meeting your people. What are you passionate about? Where is your focus when you’re not working? If you’re into home-roasted Yemeni coffee made with traditional Yemeni coffee brewing gear, then find the place in town where Yemeni coffee freaks get their stuff. Go and you won’t have to try that hard to make conversation; you’ll share a passion with everyone in the room.

When you’re around people with a common interest, the conversation is easier, the passion is shared, and the likelihood of making new friends is higher.

How to Make Friends: Step Two

How to Make Friends: Step Three

See What Happens.

Yeah, that’s it. Just roll with it. You can’t force this to happen. It’s like dating with lower stakes. Just be yourself. Let all the awkward mistakes and weird pauses happen and let the whole thing unfold in real time. Maybe you’ll find out you and this person get along. Maybe you’ll find out this person uses the phrase “period of time,” and you can’t be friends with them. The important thing is just to be there. Remove the roadblocks and Let it happen.

There’s no guarantee you’ll make a friend. But you sure as hell might make a friend.

*Note: An estimated 12.1% of U.S. adults experience social anxiety disorder at some time in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Visit NIMH for resources and care information.

Frequently Asked Questions About Making Friends

How do I find people with my passion?

For once, “the internet” is the best place. Just search for what you’re into. Meetup, Facebook and Instagram are good places to look online. Eventbrite is an often overlooked app for finding local interest groups. It lists all kinds of groups dedicated to various hobbies and interests — and they are always local. Look for people exploring the same passions as you. That common interest is a leg up in making friends.

How do I make friends offline?

There’s no magic bullet here. It comes down to three things. First, you have to be around the right people. Find the crowd that follows your passions. Second, you have to take the initiative. Make an effort to introduce yourself and get involved. Third, you have to be present, authentic and patient. Know that making friends doesn’t always happen, but by making this part of your life, you increase your odds of meeting those people destined to be your crew.

How do I get over feeling awkward when I’m trying to make friends?

Don’t. Everyone feels awkward. Nobody is a pro at life. If you feel weird about the first steps of making friends, like approaching people or making small talk, remember that everyone else does as well. Your awkwardness is probably familiar to whomever you’re talking to. And if they make it weirder, then maybe don’t be friends with them.

Catch Up With ‘Fear of Mingling’

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Here are steps to follow when you (gasp!) have to start a conversation — and, if you’d rather, four steps for when someone else starts it.

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Categories: Fear of Mingling, Networking for Lawyers, Personal Growth, Relationships, Well-Being
Originally published May 29, 2024
Last updated May 31, 2024
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BULL Garlington Bull Garlington

Analog Attorney columnist Bull Garlington is an award-winning author, columnist and public speaker. He is the author of the books “Fat in Paris,” “The Full English,” “Death by Children” and “The Beat Cop’s Guide.” He prefers South American literature, classic jazz, Partagas 1945s, a decent Laphroaig, and makes a mean chicken and andouille gumbo. Follow him @bull_garlington.

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