6 Ways to Approach Someone You Want to Be Friends With

Making friends when you’re young can be as simple as sharing a toy or deciding that we’re suddenly “best friends.” But the older we get, the significantly less straightforward it becomes — at least it can feel that way. It’s probably been a while since many of us had to put ourselves out there. We might feel out of practice and, at the very least, a little confused about what we should actually say to someone we’d like to get to know better.

There isn’t one right way to approach someone you want to be friends with, but here are a few ideas that might help.


1. Highlight a similarity

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C.S. Lewis

It’s true what they say; the root of friendship is often an underlying similarity, whether it’s a shared interest, hobby, or sense of humor. That’s why pointing out something you have in common is a great way to approach someone you want to be friends with. Commenting on your shared love of hiking, sushi, or jazz music shows that you’re paying attention to and are interested in the other person and can set the stage for future conversations and outings, and a friendship. The key is to not force it. Avoid exaggerating and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Noticing and highlighting genuine similarities will not only make you feel more comfortable approaching someone, it’ll also help you come across as authentic and increases the chances that you’ll actually hit it off.


2. Ask them a question

Asking someone a question is another option. But if you really want to have a chance at sparking an actual conversation, it’s best to avoid questions about the current time or weather. Come up with thoughtful, open-ended questions, ones that you actually care about learning the answers to. Ask for a specific restaurant recommendation, a new workout class, or the best nearby cafe to work from. If it’s someone you know a little bit, ask for feedback on something you’ve written or created. These kinds of questions show that you have an interest in the other person’s opinion, which suggests that you trust them. They also give a glimpse into your own personality and make follow-up conversations — like chatting about how that exercise class went or even suggesting that you go to one together — a little easier!


3. Pay them a compliment

Compliments from strangers or people we don’t know that well can be so powerful. They are often unexpected and deeply appreciated. That’s why it can be such an impactful way to approach someone we want to be better friends with. It might feel easier to compliment the things that are obvious, like physical appearance or style, but if you feel up to it, make it something a little more personal. Compliment their work ethic, creativity, insightful comment, compassion, or great laugh. Explain what you love about it and why it moves you. These kinds of genuine, perceptive compliments are the ones that stick with us. And moving beyond the superficial can make people feel seen and heard in ways that really foster connection and friendship.

The one caveat: When it comes to compliments, it’s best to avoid going overboard. Usually, the more you give, the more insincere they can start to feel. And ideally, most of us want friendships that are based on balance and equality, not adulation.


4. Offer help

One of the main things that separates good friends from casual acquaintances is the ongoing emotional, practical, and social support. That’s why letting someone know that you’re there if they need help, (e.g., solving a problem with a school or work assignment, or even with some heavy lifting) is a great away to approach them and subtly let them know that you’re interested in being friends. This can work out especially well if you’re able to work together toward a common goal (e.g., like train together for an upcoming race). Sometimes, offering tangible support or having a concrete goal in mind can make it easier to approach someone in the hopes of becoming better friends.


5. Use humor

This approach isn’t for everyone, and it can be harder to pull off if it’s not something you’re used to. It’s not about knock-knock jokes and it’s definitely not about trying to show off your wit or charm. It actually has very little to do with impressing someone else and everything to do with trying to make both of you feel more at ease. Sharing a lighthearted comment or joke, your penchant (pun-chant?) for puns, or your tendency to be self-deprecating gives the other person a glimpse of your personality and can be a great way to connect. Just remember, it’s best to avoid putting someone else down, even in a joking way. And don’t be too hard on yourself if your humor doesn’t land. At the very least it can be a helpful litmus test for seeing whether you can bond over your sense of humor!


6. Be upfront

This last strategy is the one that can make us feel the most vulnerable. It’s hard to put yourself out there and to worry about possibly being rejected. But when you feel like you have the most to lose, you most definitely have the most to gain. If you’ve had only brief interactions with someone you want to get to know better, it’s absolutely okay to share that you’re looking to meet new people and that you’ve really enjoyed the conversations you’ve had so far. Being direct about your desire to make new friends doesn’t have to be a big scary thing. Casually let them know that you’d be happy to chat again or get together in a different context (e.g., “Hey! I really enjoyed our conversation! Any chance you’re open to grabbing a coffee sometime?” or “I actually just moved here and don’t really know anyone. I’d love to find a time to hang out and maybe go for a walk together!”). People are often far more receptive to this than we expect. They might even be relieved that you made the first move!


Regardless of whether you are upfront about the fact that you’d like to be better friends or prefer a more subtle approach, keep in mind that it is a process. It takes time, patience, vulnerability, and repetition — which means plenty of opportunities to practice these different approaches!


What do you think is the best way to approach someone you want to be friends with? Have any of these strategies worked for you? Let us know in the comments below!


This article was originally published on July 19, 2017.

  • As I’ve gotten farther away from my college days and discovered how difficult it is to make friends sometimes, I’ve really found my brash sense of humor to be a lifesaver in attracting people I enjoy being around. Once I realized it doesn’t matter too much if I look a little silly, I really found my tribe. 🙂


    • It really can be tough. So glad to hear your sense of humour has been a way for you to meet people — Definitely one of my favorite strategies as well!

  • So true. When I left college, it’s like my support group went AWOL. Essentially, we’ve got to flirt with the people we want to be friends with. Court them naturally.

    Nicolette | http://www.nicolette.co

    • Definitely! Making friends really can feel a lot like dating. Best to find someone with whom you naturally “click”, but regardless it still takes effort.

  • Nikki Laraja

    Great tips, I especially love the idea of giving them a compliment, it like immediately forms a little bond!


    • Thanks for your feedback! So glad you enjoyed this post. I agree, as long as it’s sincere, paying someone a compliment can be a great way to create a sense of closeness — It’s rewarding to receive and to give!

  • Love these tips! It is super hard to make friends as an adult, especially if you lean more toward introversion. I’m a classic overthinker, too, so it’s probably best to just to smile and say hi before I get too in my head!

    • So glad you found some helpful tips! I was actually just having this discussion with a friend. Extroverts can also have their own struggles — like worrying about coming on too strong or intensely! Whatever the case, I definitely agree with you… While it’s good to think about the strategies we’re most comfortable with, it’s best to avoid getting too caught up in how we’re coming across!

  • cohalls

    I’ve met a lot of great friends through the local Redditor meetups in my city. I also have some friends who’ve had a lot of luck meeting people through community sports.

    Caitlin O.

    • Yes! There are so many great online resources now that can help, like Meetup and friendship apps – Bumble BFF, Hey! VINA, and peanut (for new moms).

  • I usually stick to number one! You click with people so much easier when you have something in common. After college, you meet so many different type of people, but the people I usually tend to click with are the people that I find a similarity with. It could be something as small as a similar favorite tv show! xxx

    Melina | http://www.ivefoundwaldo.com

    • I definitely agree with you. It doesn’t have to be something too personal or serious, especially at the beginning. Who doesn’t like bonding over their favourite TV show or movie (as long as no spoilers are involved)?!

  • Hayle Daye

    I’m NOT good at making friends, but I like to ask people about their pets, or where they like to shop. I’ve found it to be a fairly good conversation starter.

  • The problem for me is not that I can’t find people I have things in common with (although that *is* kind of rare) or people that think my sarcasm is funny, but rather that I have a hard time finding people that are on the same intellectual wavelength. I mean, if a new friend is gonna get spooked after a conversation about life, death, the universe, and our potential places in it – they’re not for me. If I open to someone about the things that fascinate me and their response is “Woah, that’s so deep. I’ve never thought about that before.” I pretty much engage the INTJ door slam technique. =/

  • erikg206

    A lot of people, only after you approach them do you learn quickly they are lacking in manners, social skills or basic etiquette. In this day of social media, the internet and cell phones, probably more so now than ever. People’s social grace swoons and they become more self absorbed. Not everyone is approachable regardless of their appearance or the impression you may initially have of them. Even if you are polite, well mannered and compliment someone, an individual may not respond the way you ideally wish or desire to engage in conversation with you. They are not obligated to either. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach people.If someone isn’t responsive or is rude and that upsets you or effects your ego, then you shouldn’t be approaching strangers in the first place. Some people might see you even complimenting their shoes, hair or anything as an invasion of their privacy when a simple “thank you” would be more appropriate. Someone might have social anxiety and not respond well or ask you if you know them. A lot of people are responsive and kind but if they are a stranger you won’t know unless you try to speak with them. Being kind and complimenting people is a positive, healthy way to live and it makes you feel good. It can open doors for you. If someone doesn’t react well to basic interaction that isn’t your problem. There is nothing wrong with being an ambassador of good will, just don’t expect everyone else to respond in kind.

  • Cat_Trainer_08

    The comedy idea worked best with me.