For some, meeting people seems effortless. It looks as if they pick up new friends and acquaintances every where they go. Other of us have a much harder time with it. It can be very daunting, especially if we are shy or are generally fearful of being judged. This much is true, though, social relationships are absolutely vital to our happiness and even our good health.
Just before I sat down to write this piece, I checked out CNN and saw this article: Social relationships key to survival, study says. The point of the article is that, based on looking at the results of 148 different studies, those with more social relationships survive longer.
I've already talked about my lack of relationships in the post The Importance of Women in Our Lives, but I didn't tell you how I got to that point. It happened when I realized I was entirely too dependent on my husband for all my needs: companionship, happiness, love, support. There was no way he could do it all, and I believe the weight of that responsibility for my entire emotional well-being really took a heavy toll on our marriage. Instead of getting closer, we were drifting apart because he couldn't possibly be everything I needed, but I continued to nag him, berate him, and beg him for more and more attention.
One day I realized that I needed to start doing more for myself and start figuring out ways to get my emotional needs met in other ways. I came up with an action plan (I actually still have the email I sent myself about it somewhere--and, yes, I do send myself emails, it's very effective for remembering things!). The action plan said something like: "Taking control of you emotional health: make new friends, volunteer, join meetup.com, care about yourself". That was it. It was a simple little email, but it was revolutionary in terms of how those four things transformed my life. Using those four things, and the other things in the list below, I was able to make new friends, and you can, too!
1. Don't pass up an opportunity: See someone reading a book you have? Make a comment about it. Is someone looking at a blouse you have? Mention that you also have it. Learn to strike up conversations. Eventually you can start adding things like, "I'm looking to start a book club, would you like to be a part of it?" and take their email. Asking might feel weird, but it can mean the start of a wonderful friendship.
2. Be a good conversationalist: Make sure you have something to talk about when you do get in to conversation with a new person. I always hate when I meet someone and have nothing to say (not that I often have nothing to say!).
3. Explore your passions: Meet like-minded people doing what you love (singing lessons, cooking lessons, etc.).
4. Mine your address book: Used to be friends in high school? Knew a cool person in college? Send them an email, call them, find them on facebook and make a connection. Arrange a reunion or a girl's night. You may realize you still have lots in common.
5. Start a book club/poker club, knitting club with a few ladies/gents you do know and encourage people to invite anyone they know. Have a couple great friends? Have each person bring 1 or 2 new people to the next get-together.
6. Check out MeetUp! It worked great for me and there are meetup groups getting together all over the world. Chances are there are several where you live, too.
7. Maintain relationships once you make them. Once you get an email or a phone number, USE IT!
8. See what events are going on in your town and start attending. Here in Indy, there's a Slow Food group that gets together a lot. The same people tend to attend the events with some new people every time. It's a great way to meet people if you are shy because you'll see the same faces over and over.
9. Constantly be on the lookout for new experiences. I now make sure I am always planning to do things that will put me in the company of new people. I know that making friends requires work and opportunity (meaning you have to see new people in order to make new friends).
10. Volunteer: think of something you really care about and donate your time. You'll not only meet new like-minded people, you'll also be improving your self-esteem.
Now go out and meet someone! And then tell me about it.