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12 Reasons Why Making New Friends Is So Hard and What You Can Do About It

12 Reasons Why Making New Friends Is So Hard and What You Can Do About It

After an uneventful and lonely day once, I wanted to pour my heart out to somebody so badly. Frantically scurrying down my phone for search of a patient ear to listen to my woes, I found myself scrolling down, skipping from one name to another. My Facebook page, Viber, WhatsApp listed 1000+ contacts but something made me skip names in my moment of fury.The plethora of relationships that we entwine ourselves today makes trust, faith, and being in a true friendship very difficult.

Growing up, getting married, having kids, or maybe being in a relationship has changed the dynamics of friendships today. One day, when a good friend confided in me some of her impending personal problems, I was horrified yet sad. “What made you keep this away from me for so long?” I demanded. She quietly replied, “I was scared, as what would you think of me”. Quite a change from our earlier childhood days, when we never thought twice before sharing about our shortcomings, inner fears, and absence of a particular thing from our lives.

Why has making new friends become so tough? If you count on your fingers the list of new friends you made say, in 5 years, you may say numerous. But out of them, maybe one or two are really genuine and dear to you. So the question arises – what now? Could you possibly linger onto your platonic relationships, let go, or do something else? Let us find out why making new friends is so hard and what you can do about it.

1. Virtual relationships.

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    Relationships and that includes our friendships are becoming more and more virtual. You have your old friends with whom you chat with endlessly, keeping them posted, pinging them, tagging them, poking them, sending them game invites and what not to keep in touch. Similarly when you make new friends, you always have this “gap” of communication as you prefer going the “web” or “phone” way. Sometimes communicating virtually might not actually work for a naive and new friendship which requires a lot of personal interaction. So one reason why friendships are limber is because of the excessive virtual communication between them.

    Communicate more, but in person. Of course you can’t visit your old friends time and again, but make sure you video call them frequently instead of chat or SMS. For those friends who are around, try to genuinely know them in the first two-three meetings. If you don’t hit it off, you can always back off.

    2. No time to invest in relationships.

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      Time is money or in fact even more precious than money nowadays. People hardly find time for social interactions as they are caught up by work pressure, marital problems, health concerns, and a lethargic lifestyle involving TV and social media craze. After all this, if they find some time left, they like idling away or sleeping rather than hanging out with friends.
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      Solutions? Nothing. Relax and chill but whenever you do squeeze in some time, make time for your hobbies or simply enjoy moments of silence. Your solitude may prove to be your best friend at times.

      3. People move on.

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        Need to pursue careers, spouses, or education outside of your home may at times weaken or even uproot your long friendships. After a tussle of trying to make new friends for quite some time, I can now safely say “In life we never lose friends… We grow up, we move, we change”. After studying for some years outside of my home state, when I returned back, I was met with no welcome visits, no calls, and no emails. I was devastated. Turns out many of my school friends too had moved and the rest were busy with their new-found friends. They had made friends of their own and so did I (at least I thought so).

        Nothing much could be done in situations like these, other than letting it go. It gets difficult to carry on and make new friends as childhood friendships are definitely the most special, but they too won’t be entirely the same. This is one reason why we don’t make new friends. We wait for the past friendships to be reignited and they don’t. Look for new friends where you currently are.

        4. Compatibility issues.

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          Somehow with the increasing intellectualism within the youth and rapid increase in general well being, people hold themselves at high accord with other people. So when the intermingling happens, you often do not see eye to eye with a recent (or old) friend on certain issues. So new friendships get soiled due to ego and compatibility issues and old friendships due to changing times and status issues. A not-so-old friend of mine just got back from her business trip abroad after staying away for like a couple of years. The way she dressed up, talked and reacted to situations was completely very elevated. In the next few days, she began finding herself more and more deserted by her friends here as they felt suffocated in her company. Turns out she was actually making people feel worse about themselves.

          I would say compatibility needs to be developed. Similarly, decide how you feel in your respective friendships. If you argue on some worldly affairs say politics, sports or culture that is fine but if there is an ideology or thought process clash, then I would worry.

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          5. Relationship issues.

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            I was talking to a classmate of mine who was heavily troubled by the dislike of his girlfriend towards his best friend-roommate. Finally one day it grew so bad and she demanded him to change his room as she could not stand the sight of his friend. My poor friend had to succumb to his girl’s wishes. He is not on talking terms with his friend and often tells me how unhappy he is to lose such a solid guy. Sometimes when couples meet, the wives may get along but the husbands do not. And we all know what happens after that.

            It is difficult to say what to do in deadlock situations like these but the choice is very subjective and whatever the person thinks is right for them at that moment. But I feel the person who really loves you will never tell you to choose among your friends.

            6. Priorities change.

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              Friends. But you have a boyfriend or girlfriend or family to turn to, so why do need friends? Sad but true. Once you become an adult it is natural for you to give importance to other significant people in your life. Obviously your time gets divided between your friends and other relationships. You start slowing declining in making new friends and the old ones too start to drift apart.

              Tricky one here. But why not try dividing time between friends and love interest or family? Or even better, try having common friends or introducing your partner to your friend. You can keep both your relationship as well as your friendships intact.

              7. Ghosts of past friendships.

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                Whenever I try to venture out and seek new friends, I always am reminded of my not-so successful attempts in the past. The times when I had tried to venture, seek and met new people. The times when I invited them over for dinner, offered to take care of them when they fell sick, called them up frequently only to be let down at a later date. On one hand, we have the vulnerable side of us scared and hurt by the past traumas. On the other, we have the eager, lonely, and expectant us who wants to try again and trust people. Emotional baggage can be difficult to let go of but remember that not everyone will be the same.

                If you feel people let you down every time, maybe you need to contemplate and think about your actions. Oprah Winfrey quotes: “If friends disappoint you over and over, that’s in large part of your own fault. Once someone has shown a tendency to be self-centered you need to recognize that and take care of yourself. People aren’t going to change simply, because you want them to.”

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                8. A hint of suspicion.

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                  There is always this hint of judgement nowadays when we meet somebody new. Moreover in this world when people are vying each other, there is always this strange feeling when people are trying to be sweet to us.

                  What to do? Some of them can be really genuine. Take a chance and reciprocate. There are some people who really care about people and are trying to make new acquaintances. Allow them and be led.

                  9. Putting ourselves into defined brackets.

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                    Making new friends gets seemingly difficult as people with similar tastes and preferences get together and the rest get sidelined. I felt myself surprisingly aloof initially living in Europe, being an expat. There are groups for cooking, mothers, kitty parties, and I didn’t fit in any of them. Even though in some places I found common interests, I didn’t meet like-minded people. I felt out of place with groups of mothers and kids, people sharing the same native language, or people talking about cooking recipes all the time.It is like putting an extra effort to go and bond yourself with the groups.

                    Quoting ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, “I am always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.” Of course we will always need people but if you feel you are being with people just for the heck of it, that doesn’t sound nice at all.

                    10. The fake, the formal, and the famous.

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                      I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod. One of the reasons why we don’t end up in making lots of new friends is the closed web that people weave around them and stay put. As we grow up, we tend to get more closed and stay huddled within ourselves. When we were in college, we had an easy way of looking at things and behaved similarly. Once we grow up, we begin to feel more threatened by the stiff competition around us, be it in work, relationships, or money. We somehow don’t like hanging out with people more popular than us, famous or likewise.

                      I would say get challenged and hang out with all weird personalities of people and observe them. Yes, you may not want to do anything with the fake and the formal ones but they help you to distinguish between the wrong and right ones. They give me food for thought and end up being some weird character in my articles!

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                      11. Lack of initiative.

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                        In the beginning of any new found friendship, there has to be someone who takes the initiative, breaks the ice, and offers to get together. That is perfectly fine. But there are some people who do not do anything and are always waiting to be led. Although some people can’t help but be overly enthusiastic, sometimes it can get you no where or even repel people.

                        I would say give people their space and check if they are genuinely interested in you or are in it for the sake of the event, food, drinks, loneliness, or for some real company.

                        12. The selfishness quotient.

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                          The using people thing. When I started to hang out with new people after I started working, the dynamics of friendships around me took a rapid hit. Friends whom I knew from yesteryear and new ones started giving me undue importance due to the nature of the job I had. Initially, it felt good to be recognized, but then the uneasiness grew. People started knowing me not for what I was but for who I was. Eventually, as we grow up, we realize that people make friends because they “need” them, not because they adore them. Mothers of kids may not actually be great friends but they hang out together because of their kids.

                          People would always be selfish but maybe not everybody. But yes there would have been times that you would have been the selfish one unknowingly. Unfortunately the world has been programmed that way, so try to do as much as you can for the people who mean something to you and those in distress. For the rest, well you know what to do.

                          “I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, and don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.” ― Jon Katz. There are some people in life that make you laugh a little louder, smile a little brighter, and just live a little better.

                          Your career and life will change for the better when you learn to surround yourself with positive people and keep the negative ones away. Of course meeting and retaining all the new people you like will always be a challenge now, but then I say hold one to the few ones before they fly away. So who knows, maybe the new friend you just ran into the party yesterday, might turn out to be your best friend one day?.

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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

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