4 Things to Know When Building Your Social Circle

If you’ve experienced any type of transition at all, whether it be transitioning to a new job or a new city, a new baby or a new lifestyle, chances are you’ve had to adjust to a new social environment. Whatever the reason, you may be at a point in your life where you are longing for the comfort and familiarity that a sense of community affords. But if you’re the new kid in town or you just feel like one, making heartfelt connections may be more difficult than you care to admit. Here are four tips that may help.

1. Deal with loneliness before aloneness.

Being alone is essentially a physical state that does not imply anything is wrong. We may choose to be alone or try to offset it by spending time with others. On the other hand, loneliness denotes a state of distress that may be difficult to resolve even for those who have groups of people around them. Loneliness has less to do with those around you, and more to do with what you feel you need to be complete.

Loneliness has less to do with those around you, and more to do with what you feel you need to be complete.

Loneliness implies that something about us is missing, and often we seek to fix this feeling by looking outside of ourselves. If you struggle with loneliness and feel it is because you do not have a solid friend group, consider what it means about you to have or not have those friends in your life. If your desire for friendships is really an attempt to resolve some insecurity, you’ll spend a lot of energy focusing on attaining those relationships, and risk devaluing the relationships you do have. Even after developing the friendships you desire, you may still feel lonely. Instead, think of how you can get what you believe you’re missing without needing someone else to give it to you. This way you can be free to build friendships with those who complement you rather than with those who you use to fill a void they can never really fill.

2. Have a positive perspective, unaffected by past friendships.

We all have past experiences with friends that shape the way we view our current friendships. If you had a difficult time making and keeping friends during your teenage years, you may be more guarded about making friends as an adult. So statements like “I’ve always had a hard time making friends and it’s still hard” may be part of your friendship narrative.

On the other hand, if you have good memories of friends, your friendship narrative might read: “I had a great time with friends throughout high school and college and I expect it to be the same as an adult.”

Remember this: a bad history with friends does not doom you to a life of poor friendships.

Our friendship narrative tends to locks us into a pattern of predictable behaviors that support the narrative. Negative friendship narratives often lead to, predictably, poor relationships. So remember this: A bad history with friends does not doom you to a life of poor friendships. The quantity and quality of your friendships are determined by what you tell yourself about the kind of friends you can have or can be to others. Try to gain a renewed perspective and create a new narrative that is more helpful and hopeful. Something like “I may have had a hard time making friends in high school but I’ve grown since then, and those experiences are not the ones I’m having now” is one way to flip a bad narrative, and encourage more rewarding friendship experiences.

3. You’re not weird because you make the first move.

Trying to make new friends, particularly in a new community can make you feel like it’s the first day of school all over again. Only when you started school there were usually other new people—and having that in common may have helped to ease the situation and establish friendships more quickly.

As adults, it can be challenging to reach out to form connections with people, especially if they are already immersed in their friend groups. You may feel you are not needed or you should have established your own group of friends by now and this can hinder attempts to create connections. During those moments, it’s important to remember that you are the one seeking connections because you want them, not because someone else does. And this may help you to push past fears of rejection and initiate a conversation, a lunch date, or some other type of get together. Sure, some will seem unresponsive or uninterested, but don’t internalize the rejection. Instead, consider that those who are receptive will probably be better friends for you anyway.

We aren’t going to necessarily have that same “spark” we had with one friend with every friend moving forward.

4. Different friends fulfill different needs.

As children this can be a hard concept to learn. In elementary school, I remember having a difficult time playing with anyone other than my best friend for fear that I’d be betraying our friendship. As we grow, our concept of friendship becomes less rigid, yet we may find ourselves learning all over again as we attempt to negotiate complicated peer relationships as teenagers and young adults.

And when we reach adulthood, we may continue to struggle as we attempt to re-experience close, past friendships. In our quest for the comfort of friendships, we may forget that we aren’t going to necessarily have that same “spark” we had with one friend with every friend moving forward; this could hinder our ability to develop new connections. Since one friend cannot meet all of our needs, we must learn to relegate our friends to different roles in our lives. You may decide some friends are better for certain things than others, or you may feel some are best as acquaintances. This does not mean you are flippant or self-centered, but it means you are becoming more aware of what types of friends you need and what role they should play to enhance your life.

These tips are just a few among many others to consider as you are building new friendships.

What has your experience been making new friends? Has it been challenging? Do you have any unique experiences that would be helpful to know? Comment below!

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  • Sophia

    This is a great post! A good way to meet new people is to tap into your own interests and find others who share that with you. If you like soccer, join a soccer league. If you like books, join a book club.

    One thing I haven’t completely figured out is how to become better friends with a friend of a friend without the mutual friend feeling left out or hurt.

  • Christiane Bégin

    Love this post! Ive had this challenge since ive moved to the city. I feel extremely weird and pushy If i make the first move in making new friends. Im now in my thirties and the difficulty is when im always calling or making plans to meet and when others dont put any effort in doing the same thing. I know that everyone has a busy life so should i continue in contacting those individuels when they say that we should meet but always cancel.

    • Christin

      I feel this is a constant thought for most people who have to deal with rejection in friendships. I usually try to put the other person’s cancellation into perspective: do they know that cancelling a few times in a row makes me feel bad? Or do they care? There’s def. a difference between life-long friendships and new friends. Usually I would try one more time, but then wait for them to make the next move. A good friend will always get back to you eventually, apologizing for not getting in touch earlier. As you said, everyone has a busy schedule, so be forgiving. Also keep in mind that everyone is treating relationships differently.

  • Very good point about loneliness vs being alone. A good tip I got from a professor in university was that you should try to avoid moving as a reaction to a traumatic life event because this could intensify your loneliness. I waited a year between a big breakup and moving overseas, and it really helped my ability to transition into life in a totally new country.

    If you have moved overseas rather than just to a new city, I would recommend finding a balance between friends from your own country and friends from your new country. If you’re only friends with other foreigners, you’ll miss out on key parts of the local culture and the chance to meet interesting people. If you completely avoid other foreigners, you will definitely have moments of feeling very alone in the experience of being away from your family, friends, and culture (plus, other foreigners will understand the quest for new friends since they’re likely also looking or have been through the same thing in the past).

    -Courtney
    unsettledlife.com

    • I so agree with your suggestion, Courtney. I moved overseas to Italy and at first, I didn’t work very hard to maintain my home-based friendships, but I saw later that that was a bad move on my part. It’s actually very stabilizing to have friends from home as you continue to meet new people, isn’t it?

      Marie
      marietheresebatt.com

      • Exactly! I initially planned to be in Australia for 6-8 months so I figured I’d connect back with my friends at home later and made a conscious choice not to give up time in Melbourne for time spent Skyping with people I was planning to see within the year anyway. Fast forward five years and I’m regretting that a bit, but I guess I couldn’t have seen the permanent move coming at the time.

        The only downside to having friends from home is that they end up moving back! I have one lone Canadian friend left here and she’ll probably be gone within a few years. Trying to find new friends from home is difficult, too, because I find I don’t have much in common with the just-arrived 23-year-old working holidaymakers anymore. Ah well. I guess it just pushes us to reach out and make connections when we do come across people with friendship potential!

        • Yes, I think it just pushes us to step out of that good old comfortable zone and be a little more open to new friendships. In general, regardless of where you are, I think it’s hard to find good friends, the older you get. Maybe because you become more specific as a person? I don’t know for sure. Well, enjoy your Canadian friend as long as she’s there-maybe you could even make new friends together, and that way, if/when she moves back, you could all stay in touch? 🙂

          • Good point. I’m trying to be better about staying in touch with people who aren’t in the same city as me– though sometimes it can be tricky seeing friends who live down the street when real life gets busy!

  • Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media. So many of my adult friendships started over social media, and then grew to IRL friends!

  • Amy Nguyen

    Gah, every post from TEG resonates with me. I love reading your articles.

    Since moving to a bigger city and being in the creative industry, networking is so important. I feel that I do try and reach out to other creatives in the photography industry and it is either we make plans and they cancel (and don’t bother to reach out) or never get back to me. Which leads to thoughts like, “my work/I’m not worthy enough for them to make the time of day”. So I don’t want to be a bother!

    And as TEG mentions, it’s hard to meet new people when there are well-developed groups. I’m definitely going to look into attending events/clubs that fall under my interests in hopes of creating new friendships!

    Man, I would love a core group of friends! #goals

    • Thanks for reading, Amy! Like Sarah writes above: “Sure, some people will seem unresponsive or uninterested, but don’t internalize the rejection. Instead, consider that those who are receptive will probably be better friends for you anyway.” We couldn’t agree more :).

  • This is great advice actually! I’ve had this exact challenge when I moved to a whole new town for uni but I learned that it can be fairly easy to make friends along the way if I put effort in it myself and make the first move once in a while.

    Hugs,
    Hannie from Missing Wanderer

  • Jackie

    This a wonderful read! I also think its great for people to get to know others regardless of race. When you have friends from different cultures, you open yourself to cooler experiences. Its like traveling without actually going anywhere!

  • Great insights! My issue around friendships is that I feel like I’m always the one initiating and reminding and chasing people down to spend time with me. This results in my feeling like a burden or an obligation or that they really don’t care about me all that much. I’m trying to work through these insecurities and stop taking it so personally.

    Also related, I recently wrote my own post about the 7 types of people you want in your life. If you’re interested, you can check it out here: http://www.heartfulhabits.com/types-of-people-you-want-in-your-life/

  • Myriam

    Love this post. At 40, I find that I only know have a real understanding of true friendship. In my late teens and early twenties, making friends seemed to come easy. After being quite unpopular as a young child, I found this really enjoyable & comforting. I felt like it was a blessing to be able to connect with people. At that point in my life, I was not examining the quality of those relationships and wasn’t always concerned about whether the other person was a genuinely good fit for me. In the years since I’ve seen my friendship pool decrease significantly and mostly from my own realization that that knowing someone and being friends with someone are two different things. I cherish the relationships I have now because they are mutually loving, supportive and fun. A lesson I will keep with me for the rest of my life.

  • Such an excellent article. Saving. <3