Many of us are surrounded by people every day, and yet still feeling lonely and longing for someone we can really talk to. Here are some ideas on how to make close friends.
The older I get, the more people I meet, whether they be in business, friend-of-a-friend, storesperson or otherwise, the more I am starting to realize that a lot of us don’t really have a lot of close friends. I don’t just mean people we can hang out with, I mean people who will stop whatever they’re doing, and take the time to really talk to you. Not just “oh hey how’s it going k thx bai”, but really stop and intentionally ask you how you’re doing. How your emotions are doing, what you’ve enjoyed doing this week, the things you’re finding challenging, the stuff you mentioned in your last conversation that was important to you – the friends who are able to hang out with you anywhere and just start eating anything out of your fridge without having to be asked.
I was fascinated by a little short movie that was put on YouTube a number of years ago starring John C Reilly, where he asked a number of people on the street, “Are you anyone’s favourite person?”. It’s a pretty confronting question, isn’t it? Who is it in your life who really cares about you?
If you’re struggling to find an answer to that question, don’t panic. You wouldn’t be the only one in that boat.
I’ve written a number of different posts on a number of different topics. Traditionally, it’s the ones I write about relationships or sex that get the most visits. Those are big topics that all of us are interested in. To my surprise, my original to this new post, 7 Ways To Make Better Friends, had a similar amount of traffic to posts about these other issues. The issue of making friends is massive, especially as you head into your 20s, 30s, and beyond.
And so here are some more ideas on how to make those close friends.
#1: Recognize you probably already know them
Here’s the often overlooked thing about close friendships – you probably already know the right people who are “close friend” material. So often we overlook the people we already know cause there isn’t some magical effortless connection between you and they, or they and you. Sometimes that can happen where you just hit things off great right off the bat. But even in these circumstances, it takes hard work to build something great.
Think about the people you know already. Why couldn’t any of them be the friend/s you’ve been wanting? Sure, you may already hang out with them a bit or see them around, but why couldn’t it be more than that with them?
The missing ingredient may just be some effort on your part and some effort on their part… and some of these other ideas.
#2: Do you come across too busy?
You know, one thing all of us can be guilty of is appearing to be in a rush. Someone tries to say hello, you quickly look to the phone or the schedule or your destination and say, “Hey sorry, gotta go”. Someone invites you somewhere, and you cancel every time. Someone asks you when you’re free, your answer is akin to “never”.
Your days are full but your heart is empty.
Are you known as someone who is too busy for people? Here’s a scarier question – what do your current friends think? Do they think you’re too busy for them? Are you actually too busy for people, and then wondering where the people are?
No one gets to the end of their life and goes, “Man, I wish I invested more hours in my career, or in that hobby I did all by myself”. You can survive losing a job, but many people find it hard to survive loneliness. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
I know the pressure of this one. Working full-time, just finished studying part-time, very involved in my church – people often assume that my week is always full. It’s not always full, and neither is yours. Make sure that even if you are busy, the way you talk is still inviting, and that your first statement after “I’m busy that night” is followed by “But let me have a look right now and see when I’m not”.
Especially with the people you want closest to you.
#3: Don’t assume everyone else is too busy for you
By the same token, don’t just assume that everyone else is too busy for you. I know many people like myself who try to live full lives, but there are definite times in our weeks that we keep free to spend time with others. Sometimes we look at the people around us and write ourselves off before we’ve even asked if they can come along or we can grab a drink or a meal with them.
Put yourself out there. You may be surprised.
#4: Use social media properly
Ugh. If I see another clickbait article entitled something like “This homeless guy got on stage. What happened next… the skin on my face literally melted off”… When the heck did “social media” become just about sharing headlines that don’t tell you anything? Here’s looking at you, Huffington Post.
My point is of course that social media has a lot of nonsense on it. These tools like Facebook, Twiiter, Tumblr, Instagram… they were all intended to improve our interconnectivity with others.
And they still can.
We can’t always hang out with our closer friends every single week. But you can send them a message, post something encouraging on their wall, share a thought or link or video or idea that reminds you of that hilarious conversation you had last time. Organize group events, get the comms going.
Let’s put the “social” back into the way we use social media.
#5: Ask lots of questions
If you want people to be interested in you, you have to be interested in them. And there’s no greater way that to increase or develop your interest in someone than by asking lots of questions. Move past “how are you”. How about, “How was that specific thing you were telling me about?”, like their big presentation today, their exam last week, their family night. Find out about what they enjoyed doing this week. One question I’ve been getting into the habit of asking, especially with people I’ve known for a longer period of time, is “tell me something I wouldn’t know about you”. You may be amazed at what they say. I always am.
Asking questions places value on the person you are talking to. It tells them that you are genuine in your friendship. We all love people like that. You and I can be people like that for others, too.
Study people. Learn what makes them tick. That’s a guaranteed way to build closer friendships that costs you nothing but time. And close friends are often one of the best investments you can make with yours.
#6: Develop common interests, don’t just find them
Something cool about asking questions is it helps you discover what things you have in common. A lot of people only ask the surface questions and so only find out whether or not you have the same career or the same education, maybe even being from the same country. If you keep asking and being open yourself, you may find out that they like the same anime you do, they cook the same meals you like, they have some obscure hobby that only you and that person know about.
But if you want to become closer with someone, you have to work to increase the number of common interests between you.
What’s a hobby or interest this person has? Why have you written it off? If it’s important to them and they are important to you, why not give it a shot and see the world through their eyes? For me, I’m not a huge sporting guy, for instance. I don’t even really watch it in the course of my own personal time. But hey, a bunch of my friends love AFL, NRL, tennis, soccer, whatever else. So when they’re out to see the game, I’ll come watch it too. Little by little, I’ve even learnt the rules to games I didn’t know (although the differences between League and Union still escape me).
Build those commonalities. It’s more opportunities for good memories and new things to talk about.
#7: Tell people you would like to become closer friends
I’ve had a few people over my life tell me, “Hey Matt, you’re someone I want to spend more time with, let’s make sure we hang out more and talk about things”. I’ve done the same with others. And guess what’s happened? Exactly that – those people and I make more time for each other, we give priority to each other’s concerns, and we don’t go too many weeks without having a good conversation, a green tea, or even just a quick climb up one of the mountains here in Brisbane.
Make your intentions clear. Not everyone is going to be your best friend. But think about the people who you want to be like, the places you want to go in your life, the things that are closest to your heart. Find people along those lines, and make an effort with them to hang out with them more.
You’d be amazed at the respected, “well off” people who are feeling just like you, hoping and waiting and wishing someone would invite them to be closer friends. Be the one to go first.
#8: Recognize seasons change and people move on
The reality of life is that seasons change for people. In my life, for instance, I’ve had large numbers of my friends get married, start relationships, or move away (and you can find some of my experiences on that at 8 Observations from a Third Wheel). Where some of these people I would see two or three times a week, I now see every few months (or less in some cases). But that’s okay – life does move on. People’s priorities change. Kids come into the mix. Geography can get in the way. Time differences. Even sometimes cultural gaps.
The reality is that the number of “lifelong friends” we will ever truly have is only probably ever going to be numbered on one hand (and we should be so grateful for those people). But the other reality is that all of us need those close relationships in our lives constantly. We will always need people we can be completely real and honest with. We will always need that inner circle who can help keep us strong. And sometimes that does mean that there will come a time where all that effort you put in those last friendships, you will need to put in again with new people as your seasons change.
If people have moved on, accept that, and make sure you are deepening friendships with others who are around you in your current season of life.
So there are some more ideas on how to make close friends. If you want even more, why not check the slightly older counterpart to this post, 7 Ways To Make Better Friends.
Over to you guys – what are some ways you’ve found have made your friendships closer?