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11 Reasons You Have Trouble Making New Friends (And What to do About It)

11 Reasons You Have Trouble Making New Friends (And What to do About It)

Making new friends is really hard to do when you don’t know how. Who wants to do something just to wind up struggling and failing?

That’s why I’ve put together this list of 11 reasons you’ve had some trouble in this part of your life and what to do about it. Once you see where you’ve been stuck within any of these common holding patterns below, you can more easily change your approach so you can start building a fulfilling social life today.

1. You think making friends should “just happen.”

Once we graduate from school, there’s not a lot of structures in place to help us along in making new friends. We have to be grown-ups and make those opportunities and structures for ourselves.

Health and wellness coach Sarah Jenks suggests that you come up with a strategy that works for you on finding and making new friends, including showing up at places where you figure people with your interests are already hanging out. When you do that, you’re not leaving things up to chance, but taking steps to go after what you want. Aside from making more friends, just the practice of taking strategic action feels good in and of itself.

2. You haven’t realized yet that making friends is like dating.

Last night I was at a party that my friend and charisma coach Fel Spar hosted, and I ended up especially hitting it off with one of the women there.

When I was leaving for the night, Fel said to me, “Looks like you two really enjoyed each other. You should make a girl date!”

As soon as I got home, I texted my new friend to plan a brunch date next month. The process of making new friends is a lot like dating – you meet someone you like, and you schedule a time to see them again. Fel is brilliant and has lots more great info on making new friends quickly and easily here.

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For whatever reason, scheduling new-friend-dates happens more rarely than it could. It’s normal to feel a little shy when initiating getting together again, but the important thing to remember is that when you feel a spark and genuinely enjoy each other, make a date!

3. You’re afraid that initiating conversations will come across as creepy.

Because of what I do for a living (teaching introverted men on how to attract women naturally), this is a fear that I hear often. The truth is, if there’s genuine mutual interest and it’s a gentle invite, it’s not creepy! In fact, my new friend and I were talking about this last night in the context of dating, and she said of men who have this fear, “If you think you’re creepy, that means you’re not! Because the truly creepy ones have no idea they’re being creepy.”

This is pretty funny, and there’s definitely some truth in there. Better than worrying about whether or not you’re being creepy, focus on noticing whether there’s a genuine mutual interest there, and whether the other person is ENJOYING you. If she is, then she’d probably like to see you again too, so it’s not creepy to help her have more of what she wants. This goes for dating AND friend contexts.

4. You forget your friends have other friends like them.

Another reference to last night’s fantastic get-together – My friend Fel brought together 10 of the brightest women she knew because she figured everyone should know each other. Because we’re all friends of hers, we had a lot in common. It was a big hit, and we’ve already made plans with each other to grab lunch or drinks and keep getting to know each other.

If you’re at a loss for where to find new friends, start with the people you love and respect the most. Organize a small get-together, or if your friend loves to do that kind of thing, offer to co-host. Then, even if you each just invite a couple more people, you’re making a great opportunity for new friendships all around.

Bonus points that you’re now a connector in your friends’ eyes (and in reality), so you’re an even more attractive person to get to know. Everyone loves a connector, and it’s really not hard to do. It all starts with a small get-together or two, bringing folks together.

5. You haven’t sat down and actually thought about what you want.

Until my mid-twenties, I would become friends with whoever was around, just because they were there. This habit took real effort to change, and my first big effort towards it was at a business development weekend I went to.

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I’d gone to the same workshop the year before and made mediocre connections. Throwing business cards around like confetti doesn’t tend to get you anywhere substantial.

So this time, I said, “You know what? I’m going to look around this room and purposefully notice the people I like the most, who I feel most drawn towards.”

I had to first consider what I even wanted in a connection, and I landed on ambition, style, and grace. I connected with three women that weekend, one of which remained a dear friend a couple of years later. Boom!

6. You pressure yourself to like everyone.

If you’re a nice person, you like everyone, right? Certainly, you don’t NOT like people. This is what I believed most of my life, anyway.

When I realized I can respect everyone and show kindness without doing back flips over getting to spend time with them, I became much happier and more relaxed. It’s okay not to like everyone. You can’t possibly, so don’t try to force it. If you find you like someone, capitalize on that by setting up “dates” and getting to know them better. Soon, you’ll have a budding friendship.

Meanwhile, don’t stress when you’re not into someone. Still be kind and respectful, but you’re under no obligation to spend time and energy getting to know them if you don’t want to. It wouldn’t be fair to them anyway. After all, do YOU want anyone befriending you just because they think they should? Yuck, didn’t think so.

7. You don’t want the chaos & messiness that intimacy can bring.

Don’t think that just because you make friends with someone that it’s going to be dramatic. It’s only dramatic if either (or especially both) of the parties involved are dramatic as well. You can make sure your relationships are full of ease and collaborative by first being an awesome person yourself (often takes work, folks), and secondly, choosing your friends well.

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Be the friend who naturally attracts the kind of friend you want. The same goes for dating, by the way. Be the man/woman who naturally attracts the kind of dates or partner you truly want.

8. You feel shameful about your lack of friends, which keeps you stuck.

When we see ourselves as “not social enough” or inherently undesirable, we don’t feel (or look) so hot. Just because you don’t have as many dear friends as you’d like now, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It simply means you’ve not identified exactly what you want in a friend and then gone about becoming a natural, intuitive match for that kind of person, and second, not sought out those folks and invited them on friend-dates.

9. You didn’t realize that making friends is 95% SKILL and 5% talent.

Does a little talent help? Good looks? Sure. Do you NEED the 5%? No, you don’t. Making yourself a more attractive potential friend is a skill. You can make yourself attractive to the kinds of people you’re drawn to by taking great care in your presentation, emotional health and happiness, ambition, and everything else.

Skills are learn-able and build-able, and most of life can be dramatically enhanced with skills alone, regardless of any talent that may or may not be there to offer its tiny 5%. We don’t often think of talent as so tiny, but it is compared to the monumental force of skill-building. It’s just that most of us don’t know how to skill-build very well, so we end up noticing and crediting things to talent much more than is warranted.

10. You’re a private person and don’t want 55 best friends.

Perfect! You don’t have to go nuts and spend every waking moment with folks just because you set up one friend-date. Remember that making friends is an inherently gradual process. You decide what kind of social life you want. It’s a creative process that is completely up to you, and with time and attention, you can make as many or as few friends as you want.

11. You’ve forgotten what you have to offer.

I bet you $100 that you’re awesome at something.

Maybe it’s something purely social like making people laugh. Maybe it’s intellectual or something more strategic, like with your career success. Maybe it’s a warmth and coziness, like baking or homemaking skills.

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Whatever you’re awesome at can be a GREAT quality to bring to the table in a friendship.

Laughter? That one’s obvious. You put people in their happy-endorphin-place.

What about intelligence and success? You can provide reason and objectivity to problems your friends are trying to solve.

Warmth and coziness? When your friends come to your house, they feel happy, loved, and nourished.

Think about the skills and/or natural disposition you have and how you can start sharing it with new friends.

Then, get cracking at skill-building to fill any missing pieces in your friendship-making process and enjoy what happens.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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