You may have heard this phrase before: “Your network is your net worth.” It’s one of my favorite sayings because it rings true in life the more experiences you have. Learning how to make friends, and subsequently how to build your network in the process, is easy for some and harder for others. You may have been prom king or queen in high school, but then struggled to make friends in college and beyond. Or (like me) you may have been the high school nerd that didn’t fit in, and then learned how to network and make friends in college. Either way, it’s understood that, as an adult, building and cultivating meaningful relationships is extremely valuable.
Put Time Into Building New Relationships
Putting time and effort into building these new relationships as an adult can be challenging for tons of reasons: work, marriage, kids, stress, poor time-management skills, etc. Even though all of these things may make socializing and making new connections more difficult, they don’t have to stop you. There are ways to train your mindset and time management to work around these barriers.
Insecurities Get in the Way of Making Friends
It doesn’t matter how much social clout you have, how much money you have in the bank, how senior your executive title is, how affluent your neighborhood is, or how cool the car you drive is—EVERYONE has had doubts, insecurities, or troubles when making new friends and building meaningful relationships at one time or another. Maybe you just can’t bring yourself to a place where you can open up to a new person. Or perhaps you feel that you either bring too much value or too little value to the potential friendship/partnership, causing you to hold yourself back.
Don’t Let Your Past Inhibit Your Ability to Make Friends
You might have been burnt by new acquaintances or friends in your past that have used you, causing you to be hesitant to make new connections. Maybe you recently moved to a new city, or maybe some of your closest friends moved away, and now you’re left on your own and need a new friend group. It’s very common to find yourself in any of those situations. Don’t fret, just keep reading!
What’s important in all of this is your level of self-awareness. Know who you are, know what you value in potential connections, and know the value that you bring to your friendships and relationships. The couch on the weekend often times may seem like the best bet, but taking a chance and getting out into the networking scene can create that spark, friendship, or connection that could potentially change your life! Building new connections is important, and whether you realize it or not, healthy friendships are essential to your well-being.
The Importance of Friendship and Nurturing Meaningful Connections
Having meaningful connections and friends you can count on can be beneficial to every part of your life. Good friends can challenge you, make you laugh, and help you to open your mind and see life from a different perspective other than your own. Good friends also tend to offer support when you need it the most. How can you tell if someone can potentially fall into that “good friend” category, though? Here are some signs:
- They add positive energy to your life as opposed to negative energy.
- They’re appreciative of the time that you’re willing to give to the friendship, and not needy of all of your time.
- They’re not jealous of your other friendships/relationships.
- They are a person of their word.
- They’ll introduce you to new people, things, and experiences as a way to naturally bring you out of your comfort zone.
- They take the time to get to know your personality.
- When in public/around other people, they’re the same person that they are when it’s just you two.
- They treat other people with respect.
Socialization and Your Mental Health
Another interesting tidbit regarding building new connections is the fact that socialization plays a huge role in your overall health. There are some experts in the field who argue that social health should be promoted to the same degree as physical and mental health. When thinking of “social health,” think of this as your relationships and connections with the people in your life. Research has actually linked loneliness and isolation with a higher health risk. In addition, a lack of social connection can increase your chances of developing a range of mental and physical complications such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and more.
Social Isolation is Unhealthy
Nurturing very few or no social connections at all can be as damaging to your mental and physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. As humans, we’re social creatures. Some of us are introverted, extroverted, or in-between. Connections with other people allow us to thrive, both physically and mentally. Whether you’re that person that has meaningful relationships with many or only cultivates a few, the benefits can be life-changing.
If you’re looking for some extra information and motivation to get you out of the overthinking stage, look no further. Check out the 6 tips below that will help you make new friends (the right ones) and expand your network without being a try-hard (Because no one likes a try-hard.)
6 Ways to Make Friends and Network
So, how do you put yourself in a position to make friends and network, naturally? Let’s talk about some realistic steps you can take in your life to connect with other people and build new relationships.
- Identify Your Existing Networks
- Use Technology
- Know Yourself (Be Authentic)
- Follow Your Passions and Interests
- Ask Questions and Listen
- Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself (and Don’t Be a Try-Hard)
1. Identify Your Existing Networks
Do you belong to an office with co-workers? Are you in different groups outside of work like a league, association, or book club? If so, think about tapping into your existing networks and making an effort to get to know the people within these groups a little bit better. This doesn’t mean going out and meeting 10 strangers all at once (this would cause some anxiety for most people). Instead, it’s about identifying contacts within your current network and seeing if there’s some commonality between you. It’s often much easier to build and develop a meaningful relationship with an existing contact than it is with someone new. I mean, just take a second and think—you probably already know a handful of people that this applies to!
People In Your Existing Network
- People at work you get along with
- Someone you occasionally hang out with but could see more often
- Friends of friends who you enjoyed meeting
The second way to find potential new friends is to meet completely new people. Although this sounds a bit scary, it’s completely achievable (I promise!). Meeting new people requires more effort than your day-to-day routine, and a little bit more planning and thought. Most importantly, it requires you to step outside of your comfort zone—which is a good thing. Remember, nothing good has ever come from a comfort zone! Some of the best places to meet new people are usually centered around your interests. This heightens the chances that you’ll meet people that have similar interests, which makes conversation and connection easier.
Where to Find New Friends
- Places where you volunteer
- Events (either closed groups or professional events that are open to the public)
- Coffee shops
- Co-working spaces (like WeWork or The Wing)
- Membership-based communities (like SoHo House, The Well, or Ludlow House)
- Group fitness studios (like Soulcycle, Gloveworx, or Orange Theory)
- Bars and lounges
- Yoga or Pilates classes
If you want to learn how to find more people that share similar interests, read the book Belong: Find Your People, Create Community & Live a More Connected Life. This book introduces step-by-step philosophies on how to create connections while using technology to build healthy relationships and create communities of belonging.
2. Use Technology
Technology has taken over the lives of many people. Try not to let it dominate your life, but definitely use it as a tool and let it be of use to you. Social networks, dating apps, and community apps can give you the help you need to make friends via technology—all you need is an honest profile, complete with some nice photos and an accurate written representation of who you are. In 2020, it doesn’t matter where you are; social media has the power to connect you with another person from anywhere in the world, almost immediately.
Social media can be hugely beneficial for connecting with people as an adult if you know how to navigate the wide world of apps. Apps like Meetup, which lets you sign up for local activities and events, can be a good starting point. Even though technology can give you a push in the right direction, it doesn’t replace the benefits of personal interaction. What technology can do, though, is facilitate these personal interactions. Below are some examples of dating apps that can double as networking and friendship connectors:
Bumble has 3 Modes: Bumble Dates (find dates with people nearby), Bumble BFF (meant for you to find new friends with other people nearby), and Bumble Bizz (grow your network with people nearby). Ladies, if you’re not on Bumble, then this is the app for you! When you match with someone on Bumble, the woman has to start the conversation with a message. The ball is ALWAYS in her court. The Bizz and BFF modes are also great for finding new friends in large or small metropolitan areas.
The League is a dating app and networking platform that requires users to submit an application. The good news is that this means that not everyone makes their way onto the app (think quality over quantity). The cool thing about The League is that they have events, meetups, clubs, and more! Once you’re a part of The League, you have access to League Events and League Groups—two amazing ways to meet quality people in person, in a curated environment. There’s just one caveat: The League is only available in major cities.
Facebook Groups are a great way to find people that share a common interest with you. You can simply go to your Facebook search tab and type “young entrepreneurs” or “cat lovers,” and tons of groups will appear! You can check out the groups and request to join them. From there, you can communicate with the group and take part in their events, meetups, and forums.
3. Know Yourself (Be Authentic)
It can feel like a daunting task to try to make friends or get over your fear of networking. Do you know what’s worse? Gaining these friends or connections while fronting to be someone that you’re not. When you do this, chances are you’ll get found out for a fraud sooner or later due to the fact that you won’t be able to keep up the act over time. Having self-awareness, knowing who you are, and understanding the value that you bring will, in turn, attract the right friends and networking opportunities to you—it’s the law of attraction! You also must agree to be slightly vulnerable when embarking on the journey of building new relationships. Having a healthy level of vulnerability can go a long way in allowing new friendships and positive connections to enter into your universe.
The Charisma Myth
If you need to give your relationship-building skills a boost, read The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. Cabane breaks down the science of charisma and teaches you how to apply her practical tips in real-world situations.
Another good self-awareness exercise to perform is what I like to call the SAWA, which stands for “Strengths And Weaknesses Assessment.” Here’s how to do it:
- Take out a notepad or whiteboard and some pens or dry erase markers.
- Make a column labeled “Strengths” and a column labeled “Weaknesses.”
- Honestly and truthfully list all of your personal strengths and weaknesses in each column. Examples of this include: Strengths – good at small talk, good with numbers, an expert at social media, can inspire others, etc. Weaknesses – procrastinate, overthinks things and forgets to act, scared to build new habits, not good with numbers, etc.
- After you list out your attributes, edit them down to words or sentences so that they make sense.
- Re-write your edited list so it is easy to read.
- Study the list and keep it in mind when you’re searching for like-minded individuals to connect with.
- Learn to double down on your “Strengths” list, and work on your “Weaknesses” list. Put more time and effort into doubling down on your strengths than improving your weaknesses.
4. Follow Your Passions and Interests
Do you love to play tennis? Are you an amateur photographer in your spare time? As I mentioned earlier, an easy way to fill your life with people that share your interests is to join a group or class for a topic that you’re passionate about—whether in person or online. Group activities or partner workouts are also a great way to meet new people. I listed some of my favorite group fitness studios in New York City in Tip 1 above.
One of the top wellness trends right now is community wellness support groups. I know you’re probably familiar with groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, so think about wellness groups as being more targeted versions of this. Community wellness support groups are designed to help you cope with specific life changes, health problems, and mental barriers. This allows you to find people going through the same issues as you are, which can be an incredible coping method and a base to build valuable friendships and connections.
Shared experiences and team-building activities can promote deeper bonding and connections. You’ll find it easier to start a conversation with like-minded individuals who share the same passions and problems as you do.
5. Ask Questions and Listen
Make sure to ask questions and listen actively when engaging with new people. Showing a genuine interest in a person and who they are/what they have to say is extremely important in building new connections. Whether you’re trying to court a potential mate, or trying to build your network – no one likes someone that makes every conversation about them and talks too much. Make it a point to actively listen – everyone appreciates and likes someone that knows how to listen.
Asking genuine questions in a conversational setting is just one element of building new friendships. If you’re looking to be more sociable and improve your networking skills, one of the best starter books to read is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book is essentially the “Networking Bible”. Take out your yellow highlighter as you comb through it—you’ll be a master networker in no time, as long as you apply what you learn.
6. Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself (and Don’t Be a Try-Hard)
As we age, our friendships naturally shift. We lose friends, we make friends, and we have loyal ones that stay. According to one study, you hit your peak number of friendships at 25. When trying to make new connections, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and don’t expect too much from one person or connection. In other words, don’t set your expectations too high and begin to expect YOU from people. Just take people at face value and make sound judgment calls on their character.
And whatever you do, DO NOT be a try-hard. As my college basketball coach used to say, “Let the game come to you.” You can’t force meaningful relationships to happen. The best, longest-lasting, and most beneficial friendships and relationships happen organically. You never want to be that guy or girl that is trying too hard to be funny amongst a group or asking too many weird questions in an effort to break the ice. Just know yourself, be yourself, and let it flow. In doing this, you will attract the right types of people into your network and circle of friends.
I know that the prospect of making new friends and networking can sound a little scary if you’re not fond of it. It’s a bit like dating— we can all agree that it can be pretty scary to jump into as well. But close friendships and good connections provide love, meaning, happiness, and support, and they increase your self-esteem. So, take that deep breath, put yourself out there, and work on broadening your social network! Your future self will thank you.