How to Make Friends

by Danny Zawacki

I don’t know if I’ve talked about this on here before–I know I’ve talked about it with a handful of different people–but, how do you make friends? Like, I legitimately want to know. 

As far as I can remember, I’ve made friends when I’m in places where other people are trying to make friends en-masse. Like the first day of kindergarten, middle school, high school. The first week of college. Peace Corps. I cannot think of any friends I’ve made outside of these places, none that lasted at least. When I think about these things, I get legitimately frustrated. Did I miss the day where we were taught these life skills? Or did the system fail me so much that I just never learned how to make friends?

As I get older, it seems I have less and less friends. Throughout grade school, middle school, and high school your friends change as people move away or your interests and beliefs change. Then school ends and your friends all go off in different directions. But you get college, or work, or something with the potential to get more friends. But once that’s over, those friends start to go in different directions, or you do. Slowly they all are disappearing. It becomes a lot of work to keep up with all these people you rarely see. Like, for me, I equate doing it well to a full time job and I really don’t have time to do it well. 

Part of my friend disappearance is because I cannot invest enough of my time in so many people. I choose to focus on a core group. I would venture to guess I really only have a few friends left from high school that I keep in touch with, a few more from college, and a larger few from Peace Corps. My guess is that the Peace Corps friends will weed themselves out and I’ll be left with two or three that I keep in touch with. Really, I just have a core group of friends left from each period of my life. 

At the end of Peace Corps, I started working a job stateside. I’m in a small office with about ten total people. To me, that’s no place to look for friends because I spend 40 hours a week with my coworkers, I don’t think I could handle seeing them outside of work. It would be an overload for me. 

So, I genuinely want to know how to make friends. Part of my problem is that I don’t have enough friends around that I could hang out with them and leech off their friends. I couldn’t brute force my way into people’s lives just to be their friends because those opportunities do not exist. Trust me, I would totally take this approach because it’s had fair results in the past. 

Another part of my problem for making friends at the moment is that I don’t know how long I’ll be living in this city. Let’s be honest. My girlfriend lives an hour away and my job doesn’t really interest me, so I will be moving sometime. That being said, I’m hesitant to go out and find friends because then I’ll either have to work to maintain the friendships once I move away or I’ll feel like I’m abandoning them. Not something I want to deal with either way.

How do you make friends? How should I go out and make friends when I move closer to the girlfriend? Really, this has been on my mind a lot lately and I’ve decided to do something about it. Leave suggestions in the comments.


4 thoughts on “How to Make Friends

  • Rose

    These are the specific ways that I have made some friends since coming back from Ukraine:

    The place I temped at for a few months after I got back from Ukraine: it was slow at first, but I made one good friend that I saw pretty regularly once I left that temp job and got my full time job. What helped with building and maintaining that friendship was the consistency- a group of us from the office played trivia once a week and then I continued doing that with her and the group once I’d left the temp job. I know this isn’t so relevant to your situation, but maybe Rust Magazine could be a way to meet some new people? Perhaps this new group of people could be a way to cultivate some friendships down the line, assuming that you actually like the people that you’re working with there.

    Being active with the Boston Area RPCV group. First I started be attending as many events as I could. I think I mentioned this to you before in another blog, but the first monthly RPCV drinking event I went to, I was sort of mingling and chatting with people, and then I approached a couple at one of the drinking events at the bar because they looked friendly. The girl is still one of my closest RPCV friends I’ve made since coming back, and we pretty much chat daily at this point. Playing softball now for two years in a row with essentially the same group of people has also been important, not only because it’s something I consistently do during the spring/summer and it’s fun, but I have a big group of people that I now reach out to for various things, and they invite me to their events, and I invite them to mine. And now, I’ve joined the RPCV board as an events planner, which has continued to solidify my commitment and my connection to a core group of people. While I have made many acquaintances from this, I have also started to get a bit closer to some people. I joined more with the intention to have something else to fill my time with, but naturally some friendships have formed.

    There are a couple of other things I’ve gotten involved in: volunteering, my gym which is the kind of place that people know you by name and are really friendly… while I have yet to make any true friends from these places, they are things that I consistently go to every week and I usually see the same people, so I think that could be a way that friendships could be formed.

    I guess what I’m trying to get at is that it’s really been the consistency that has helped me, as well as some perseverance. I suppose patience has also been crucial to creating friendships. When I met my RPCV friend at the bar at that first event I went to, I sensed that I would like to hang out again, and so we exchanged contact info and hung out maybe once every 4-5 months, and then eventually started hanging out more, and now we Gchat all the time, I have spent time with her family, and we have even considered becoming roommates. It took time. So I guess if you meet someone cool at something, I think you need to be willing to be like, “Hey it was cool meeting you, we should hang again” and exchange numbers/emails, and then actually contact them and grab a beer or something. At first, it will probably feel awkward and feel like work in a way, but eventually it becomes effortless.

    I have to think that geography and accessibility also has something to do with it? I live in an area that has a lot to offer. I don’t know much about where you live, but I would imagine that if you live in a place that has a lot going on, there will be more opportunities to seek out people. Although, it could be really easy to live in a place like I do and not seek out opportunities to interact with people, but at least the options are there. I think you have to be both prepared and patient to actively seek out those opportunities, and if they really aren’t there, and it’s not something that you can really create or spearhead yourself, then time to move, because having meaningful friendships is so important, and clearly it’s really important to you.

    Another thing I just thought of is that I took an art class a number of years ago and became friends with a girl in the class. While we are no longer anything beyond FB friends, that was a friendship that was important to me at that time. I don’t know if they have adult education classes in your area, but that’s another suggestion of ways to meet other like-minded adults.

    Someone on FB actually posted this the other day. Worth a read, and I agree with it:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/3038537/how-to-make-new-friends-as-an-adult

    One more thought: I know you said that you might not want to put in the effort particularly if you’re planning on moving in the near-ish future. I would say don’t let that affect your efforts. You should absolutely still go out and try to meet people… and if you do make some new friends and then you move, that won’t be time lost. You will have still made friends, and that’s what matters.

    So I guess to sum it up, my ideas for meeting new people are through Rust Magazine, the RPCV group, find somewhere to volunteer, take a class, try and start something of your own if these avenues don’t work (book club, running group…?), and try to have as much consistency as possible and put yourself out there. It’s not gonna happen overnight, which of course you know. But I think the effort, time, and sometimes money needs to be put in to begin the process.

    And if all else fails, you can always move to Boston. My various groups here will welcome you with open arms. Bostonians aren’t as cold as they’re made out to be. конец.

    Reply
    • Danny Zawacki Post author

      Holy crap, Rose. That’s a lot of quality advice. I’m really going to take time to sit down and consider it and how I can make things like that work for me this year.

      I’d totally love to be on a softball team this year.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  • taplatt

    Danny, I can empathize with what you say. I definitely just have a core few friends from high school, college, and Peace Corps — lots of people who I thought were friends just drifted away after those various stages of life ended. That was tough for me, but I’ve also learned that maintaining friendships is a two-way street: both sides have to be committed to it and if one person is more into it than the other, it may not work out. Geographical closeness definitely makes it tough.

    Sorry there were no tips in there…just wanted you to know that I can understand where you’re coming from and sometimes wonder how to make new friends, while also being happy with the few good friends I do have.

    Reply

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