People regularly ask me how I end up crossing paths with so many interesting people, and for a long time I didn’t really know why the gods have seen fit to bless me in this way. I’m a pretty shy guy and I usually keep too myself. And yet I can say that I have close friends on four continents who I can always count and and who can always count on me. Here are six of the techniques that have allowed me to have struck up friendships all over the globe.
1. Have a Passion
One thing that has proved to be invaluable to me in making friends across all demographics has been my love for heavy metal and radical leftist politics. The point is not that being into loud guitars and anarchism makes you more likely to make friends but that I have a passion and this allows me to reach across any boundaries and speak to people. Through these passions, I’ve been able to become close friends with conservative Catholics as well as Neo-Buddhist yoga instructors.
The reason this works is that passions allow people to get a grasp on who you are. My interests are pretty out there. But at least they are readily apparent and people can latch on to them and talk to you about it. Being able to talk about them with a fire in your eyes makes you seem approachable and interesting – the kind of person who will attract other interesting individuals. This ties into our next point nicely.
2. Be a Person of Depth
The people who seem to make the most lasting friends while traveling or at parties tend to have a degree of introspection and self-awareness that allows their interests to come to the forefront. These people look for others like them – people who don’t want to get lost in daily superficiality but instead talk about what they love. Now this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t watch TV or play video games or whatever – but simply that you need to be careful in how you spend your time.
One of my mentors, once said to me “The older you get, in my experience, the less time you have for the friends that you’ve got and the less friends you end up having. The friends that I’ve kept are the most interesting people they love broadening their horizons and learning things.” I think this is a solid maxim for maintaining friendships simply because it shows that maturity and growth are key aspects you’re going to want to have if you want interesting friends. And after all – if you’re not contributing anything to the friendship then why would they want to hang out with you?
3. Start the Conversation
This one is a little bit hard because like I said in the intro – I’m a shy guy and I’m sure some of you reading this are shy too. You need to be ready to chat with people about their interests, their lives, and their passions at any given time. It’s only by picking people apart that you can find out if they’re the kind of people you want to hang out with. If you don’t bother to start a conversation then you’ve lost before you’ve even started.
One way I’ve found that an reliably kick off a conversation is a compliment or a question about someones appearance or behavior. I’ve started great chats by asking someone about the book they’re reading or asking what beard oil they use (I’m a metal dude – beard oil chit chat is a thing).
4. Ask Others About Their Lives
In his incredibly influential text How To Win Friends And Influence People, Dale Carnegie talks about how people respond well not just to genuine enthusiasm but also to questions and smiles. If you continue to guide people along and ask them about their lives they will almost always respond positively and have interesting things to share.
See – other peoples interests are interesting to them for a reason – and in most cases they will probably end up interesting you too. By inquiring about interests I’ve gotten to learn all sorts of cool things – like with my friend Jeff who is a birder – the night I met him he spoke to me for two straight hours about the magic of birding. By the end of our conversation I too had a passion for birding and was excited for my first chance to go birding. The beauty of passion and interest is that it is easy to share and is never diminished by being spread around.
5. Realize We are All the Same
One thing that I’ve realized in my excursions with Playboy Bunnies, militant vegans, and acid eating high schoolers is that at the end of the day – we’re all pretty much the same. We might have diverse interests tastes and ideas, but we also have certain threads in common that make us all human. It’s understanding this that allows us to carry forward and live our fragile lives. The fact of the matter is that we need to work together to move forward and by understanding that our individual trials are reflected in the collective we are able to build towards something greater.
6. Be “Up for Whatever Happens!”
The second you get an invitation to engage in something be ready for whatever happens. Being open to new experiences and breaking your comfort zone is a key way to help make good friends throughout the world.
As hard as you try though some people you just won’t be able to crack and you won’t find what makes them interesting and that’s okay – they have other friends and you probably do too. Remember, the most interesting people are the ones who help to bring out the interesting bits of you – meaning that to be interesting is not just a personal trait but rather one that require some sort of intrapersonal interaction. Just remember that no matter what – this is how we guide each other forward and become better as humans.