No matter what stage in life you're at, it isn't always easy to make new friends. When we are in school making friends is relatively easy, even for shy people, as people are of a similar age, with fairly similar interests, in the same location. However, making friends later on in life can be much more difficult.
There may be colleagues at work, people you know at the gym, somebody you walk past every day, acquaintances in the pub, but how many of these are your real friends? How many would you trust with a secret, or a problem? For people who have moved away to a new town, or whose relationship circumstances have changed, having to make new friends can be a daunting prospect. Following these suggestions can help make finding new friends a bit easier.
Do something! Don't stay in waiting for new friends to suddenly appear. They won't. Sign up for an evening course and you could learn a new language, become a wine expert, improve your cooking skills, or make better use of your computer in just a few weeks. Find a gym, play sports at a sports centre or at a local pitch, join a film club, learn to dance, take up a martial art, or do voluntary work. Go on the works night out, anything rather than spend another night in front of the TV.
If you can't find a hobby or a social activity that interests you, why not see if there's a Friendly Society or Friendship Club nearby. These are a great way of meeting people, and can be invaluable if you have moved to a new town, and don't know anybody. As well as like minded people, these clubs offer many social activities and social group events which can range from quiz nights at a local pub, to foreign travel, and may include special offers on such products as medical insurance.
Although easier said than done, try not to be shy when meeting people for the first time, even though you may feel you lack confidence. When you are in a social situation, aim to make the first move, and other shy people will be glad you broke the ice. Remember to listen more than you talk as people usually like to talk about themselves, so give them the opportunity, but don't talk about yourself unless asked. Ask plenty of questions but nothing too personal or controversial. You can ask them how they got to be invited, or how they know the host, about their job, about their hobbies, music, film and TV tastes and more. Be yourself, and try not to change just to fit in. Accept that you won't like everyone you talk to, and not everyone will like you.
You may be able to tell a little about a person from the way they dress, or from what they are carrying. This can help you to "break the ice" with that person. If somebody is carrying a camera, listening to a portable music player, reading a book or magazine, walking a dog, or pushing a pram, you might have something to talk about!
Try to ask open questions when meeting new people such as "What do you think of ...?" rather than "Do you like ...?" as they require a more detailed answer, and encourage conversation. Questions that require a Yes or No answer don't make for an easy conversation.
Like minded people often become friends. If you've always wanted to do something different, or take up a new activity, this could be the ideal time. From abseiling to zoology, there's bound to be a local club or society that you can join. For example, if you play a musical instrument, why not visit a local music shop and see if you can find a band to join, or musicians to play with. If you're an avid reader, why not join a book club. Volunteer work can be very rewarding if you have the free time. If you're an animal lover, there may be an animal rescue centre that you could help out. Cycle shops will often have information about local routes and the local cycling club. Getting to know your neighbours can also be an easy way to make friends.
You can also make friends online using social media sites or chat rooms. However, these types of friendships are not usually the same as real life friendships. You might have a great time talking to someone in a foreign country who likes the same music and films as you do, but this friend won't be able to give you a lift if your car won't start.
Once you've made friends, don't forget to get a phone number or email address, and be positive! Contact your new friend, but don't be put out if they are too busy or unable to meet you for a while. Remember not to seem clingy or desperate. If you have the opportunity to make more friends, then do so, don't feel like you have to rely on just one person.
Being an honest, dependable and trustworthy person and sharing a bit about yourself is important. People value loyalty and punctuality too, so treat other people as you would like to be treated. If you turn up late, and start divulging secrets, repeating rumours or spreading gossip, people will be less likely to be friendly towards you, and may not trust you again.
As well as the good times friends can have together, you should be prepared to be there when a friend really needs your help. Whether it's a shoulder to cry on, a late night lift home, or advice, friends should be reliable. There might be a time when you have to be a real friend to someone who needs you!
Finding a good friend won't happen overnight, and you will probably need to work at maintaining friendships. Sometimes a friend won't be able to see you for a while, and sometimes that friend will want to see you daily. Some people need time to themselves, and others don't.
Friendships can last a lifetime, and there are plenty of people who still keep in touch with people who are thousands of miles away. Get out there, find yourself some new friends and have a happy social life!