How to start a friendship?

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purpose and is partially based on personal opinions. This article is not a substitute for professional advice, but general guidance. We advise you to always listen to your intuition and do what is right for you.

Do you fantasise about having a friendship like Langa and Reki from SK8 the infinity but don’t know how to get there?

Not to worry, we got your back! Friends who understand your weirdness and care for you are difficult to find. But sometimes, what is even more challenging is taking that first step towards starting a friendship. So, it’s natural to feel nervous and hesitant in approaching and initiating a conversation with someone. But once you have made the first move, trust me, it feels much easy.

It’s surprising how making friends is such a necessary social skill from the day you start attending school, yet no one teaches you anything about it. That is why we have Michael and Steve with us to share their experience of building friendships.

Here are 9 tips to make this adventure a little easier!

1. Highlight your similarity

Michael – Where did you meet her?
Steve [excitedly] – At the pottery workshop I joined a few days ago. She designs some of the best pots. And I have been wanting to learn from her.
Michael – That’s brilliant. You have been wanting to learn pottery for a long time now. So, what is the matter? Go talk to her.
Steve – No, I can’t.
Michael – You just have to talk to her like you talk to me.
Steve – You know me well. I freeze when it comes to socialising. My mind stops working. And I don’t know what to talk about. What if I make a fool out of myself?
Michael – How about this? You look at me and learn how to make friends.
Now, let’s see what Michael has in store for making friends.

Meeting someone at a pottery workshop is for Steve. What is it for you?

Meeting someone at a pottery workshop is for Steve. What is it for you? Making friends at school or college is easier because clubs, societies, and events bring like-minded people together. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to form new connections once you grow up. Volunteering, travelling, joining online communities or discussion forums could help you find people who share your passion. Communicating online can also feel less intimidating and help you connect with people who live miles away from you. You might understand each other better because they love the same activities you enjoy and might have faced similar struggles. So, join those cooking classes, or fill in for the weekend football matches to immerse yourself in a suitable environment to create fulfilling friendships.

The best part! You don’t have to think of any conversation starters because you can always strike up a conversation about your shared interests.

2. Start simple

Michael introduces himself to Maria and initiates a conversation.
Michael – what other activities are you into? 
Maria – I sometimes walk Ben, my neighbour’s dog, when they are unavailable. 
Steve – That’s cool! What breed is he?
Maria – It’s a Golden Retriever. 
Steve – Such a sweet and friendly breed. I used to volunteer at a pet shop. Bobby was a Golden Retriever too. Not to forget, he was famous for causing trouble day and night. 
Maria – Ben is a little mischievous too. That is why he cannot be left alone. 

Asking open questions like Michael used to initiate conversation will let you know more about their interests and personality. You do not have to come up with unique questions. Simple ones are good enough to let them know you are friendly and willing to interact with them.
What do you think about the new Batman movie?
What kind of music interests you?
Such questions are good starters to tell them you are curious about them and want to befriend them.

Next, Asking more questions related to the first one will give them space to elaborate and open up more about themselves. They will know you are paying attention to what they are saying and genuinely care about it.

Lastly, share something related to the topic from your side. Try to have a balanced conversation where both of you get a chance to disclose something about your lives. And giving sufficient detail in your answers can keep the conversation going strengthening your bond. A study published in May 2004 by a team of researchers found that the more participants revealed about themselves to their partners, the more favourably they were rated by them on social attractiveness and positive attributes.

3. Joke around

Michael – Really! Do you want to know about one of Bobby’s adventures?
Maria – Sure!
Michael – One day, Bobby came back inside after playing outside. He was running around everywhere with his muddy paws in the office. So, when Miss Peregrine came back, she was furious at Bobby because of the mess bobby created. And also because some important documents lying on the desk had been signed by his paws.

Humour can be a great way to connect and bond with others. Research published in 2004 by Barbara Fraley of the State University of New York shows that sharing a humorous moment can increase closeness between two people who have only just met by distracting you from the discomfort of your first encounter.

You do not necessarily have to make them laugh but making the atmosphere light and comfortable does the trick. Sharing some funny incidents or cracking a few jokes are reliable starters. You also get a chance to show your playful side to see if they appreciate your company. It helps you appear cheerful, confident or someone who knows how to have a good laugh.

4. Share a meal

Michael – Would you want to talk about Ben over coffee? Or we could grab something to eat. It’s just that I am a little hungry.
Maria – I could spare some time. Let’s go!
Isn’t food the ultimate weakness for all?

A study published in the physiology and behaviour journal in 2015 reported that eating a meal is associated with higher agreeableness among participants. It makes you like the other person and improves your chances of cultivating a friendship. Social interactions during a meal are more positive considering how people feel, behave, and perceive others. So, why not invite them to continue the conversation over a meal. You get to eat tasty food and go back with a friend.

5. Compliment them

The conversation continues at a café
Maria – I noticed your hair colour compliments you really well. Is it your natural hair colour? or did you change it?
Michael – Thank you. And yes, it is my natural hair colour.
Maria – It’s shocking how easy it is to talk to you. Otherwise, I am not a social person.
Michael – Is that so? Then if you continue to hang out with me, you will surely improve.

You can start with some compliments to indicate you admire them and are interested in becoming their friends. Be it the colour of their hair or eyes, their sense of fashion or even their confidence. If you notice something unique about them that you like, let them know because compliments leave a lasting impression on everyone. So, if you adore them, they will also eventually like you.

Some even resort to flirting. Yet you will have to be careful while flirting since you don’t want to give off the vibe of being romantically interested in someone. Flirting can be a playful way of finding people with a quirky streak. You can test your chemistry and get to know if they enjoy your carefree nature.

6. Seek help

Maria – I just recently shifted to this city so, do you know a place where I could go to watch a play? Like the ones performed on the stage of Shakespeare.
Michael – I am not a fan of plays. But I know my friend goes to watch them. If you want, I can get you in touch with him.
Maria – That’ll be great!

You might think asking for a favour from someone you just met would make you appear incapable. But that is not the case. According to the Benjamin Franklin effect, people tend to like someone more after they do a favour for that someone, especially if they previously disliked that person or felt neutral towards them. If you go ahead and ask for advice from someone, they will be more inclined to like you once they help you. Small acts of kindness like these often lead to intimacy and connection. It doesn’t have to be something significant; just a little gesture creates good vibes. You make them feel valued and helpful. And people like to feel needed. But make sure you are truly interested in their advice because pretending to be curious may seem fake.

7. Friend’s friend

Michael – Maria, this is Steve. He told me both of you attend the same pottery workshop too.
Maria – Really! So happy to meet someone interested in pottery. I have not met many people who enjoy making pots.
Steve – I can agree. And you also make beautiful pots.

It feels much more convenient and safe to expand your social circle by befriending someone from your friend’s group. Because they might also be similar to your friend. This can help you know what kind of person they could be and whether you would be compatible with them. Plus, your friend could happily act as a cupid to help you guys become friends and make it easier for you to bond. When spending time in a group, you feel relaxed and comfortable as you are already familiar with someone from the group.

8. Spend time

Jeffrey A Hall, a researcher at the University of Kansas, states that it takes students 43 hours and adults 94 hours to turn acquaintances into casual friends. Hours spent together were associated with closer friendships. And time spent engaging in leisure activities also predicted closeness. So, it requires you to invest your time and energy to nurture friendships.

When you click with someone, take the initiative and pick an activity that allows you to spend time together. Try to fit in some time from your schedule to catch up with your friends. Because going on for too long without actively communicating could make you distant from them. Interacting with them over social media, via calls, playing games or even going on an adventure together can help build trust and maintain your friendship. Caring and supporting them over a while will break down their walls as many people would only disclose about themselves after spending a significant amount of time together.

9. Doubts and fear

What will she think of me? What should I be saying? What if it doesn’t work out?

Do you also have thoughts like Steve when meeting new people? Or is it that your past experiences with friendships have made you believe that people just wish to befriend you to take advantage of your friendship? So we understand that it can feel scary and intimidating to approach someone. And you are not the only one who says so. If you are concerned about making your first impression, you might not be able to share your honest thoughts and opinions. And also, being occupied with such questions and doubts develops a mental fear which unknowingly blocks you from reaching out to others and making new friends.

Instead, be genuinely interested in the other person and don’t fake your concern for them. This will make it easier to come up with things to say. Ask questions in good faith to learn more about their perspective or experiences. Focusing on the other person might also take the focus off yourself, which can help you feel less shy. Once you have taken the first step towards initiating a friendship and understand that it is quite simple, you will realise the fear just resides in your mind.

Endnote

Put yourself out there with an open mind and heart to let your friendship develop. Believe that there are good people with good intentions because if you are fearful that things won’t work out, you might lose a potential friend. Remember, the more effortlessly you bond with them, the stronger your friendship will be. Because it doesn’t matter what method you use to make friends but whether you can express yourself and foster a genuine friendship built on trust and love.

Comment down below your way of making friends?
Let us know if you find the tips useful.

Truly appreciate you taking some time off your busy schedule to read this article. See you soon with more mental health content. Stay tuned until next time. Goodbye!

References

https://socialpronow.com/blog/worlds-fastest-way-to-become-friends/ https://personalexcellence.co/blog/new-friends/ https://www.scienceofpeople.com/how-to-make-friends/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938415001523?via%3Dihub
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2002.00071.x
https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-happiness-project/201009/make-friend-ask-someone-favour
https://effectiviology.com/benjamin-franklin-effect/ https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:SERS.0000027571.7455.ei htttps://www.tadfonline.com/doi/full/10/1080/00224545.2015.1095706

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