Does it take longer for you to make friends?
Too long sometimes?
Like maybe in the past, when you’ve switched jobs or transferred colleges or cities, people just didn’t seem to engage you or try to make friends.
And even with the few who did engage you first, things didn’t take off. You just got the feeling everyone wished you’d lighten up.
You know in a couple months you’ll probably sway some people who enjoy talking with you, but you’d rather it not take so long.
It’s all got you worried you’re just not giving off that friendly vibe.
Well, the good news is there’s nothing wrong with you. Plenty of people experience the frustration of wanting to connect and seem friendly, but not quite being able to pull it off.
I certainly had the same issues (and still do sometimes despite my knowledge of social skills and psychology).
But the problem is likely not one thing you’re doing or not doing. Many of your behaviors and mindsets could be the culprit. But in general, you’re probably not taking enough initiative to engage people or reveal who you are to them.
So here are a few tips on how to be friendly:
Take the Initiative, Don’t Wait for Them
To be friendly and make more friends, YOU need to make it happen. Waiting for others only makes you feel powerless and lowers your self-esteem.
- YOU be the one to say hello and introduce yourself.
- YOU be the one to join a new interest group (running, writing, etc.)
- YOU be the one to suggest future meet-ups with people
Yes this might mean some people will reject you because they’re not interested in being friends. It also means you’ll find people who are too different than you and there’s just no “vibe.”
But that’s all part of the process. Everyone experiences these pitfalls when being outgoing, not just you.
Just remember, the smart way to be friendlier is to do it gradually. If you’re currently shy, forcing yourself to talk to strangers might actually backfire. You’ll get SO anxious you won’t want to put yourself in that situation again.
This is when you’re likely to give up on your goal of being more outgoing.
Instead, work on some basic conversation skills (including body language) one at a time and with people you’re already comfortable around. This way, you practice in a low-pressure situation and then have the skills to tackle more “high-stakes” interactions.
Give Balanced Self-Disclosure
Conversations are meant to be two-way streets. Ideally, each person should reveal an equal and comparable amount about themselves. For example:
- If she talks about her cats, you talk about your pets (or lack thereof)
- If he reveals his fear of failing in his career, you confess how you felt inadequate at times too
This is the way people get to know each other and ultimately, get to LIKE each other (in fact, there’s research to support this). So if you habitually neglect to talk about yourself in conversations, it’s a good bet that’s why people don’t find you friendly.
There’s no way the other person can have that “friendly” feeling toward you if they don’t know you.
I understand you might feel naked revealing stuff about yourself “too soon.” Many shy people and introverts withhold personal information until others specifically ask for it. And even then they often hold back.
Maybe it’s because you think people won’t like you, but usually the opposite is true. When people start to know you, they warm up to you faster.
Speak About a Wide Variety of Topics
I find many people never even try to talk to someone or be friendly because the whole process seems so overwhelming. You want this person to like you, but what do you say?
Then what do you say next?
Well, a good rule of thumb is just to start, then keep things going through a wide variety of topics.
By starting in this way, you’re more likely to uncover topics you might have in common. Then afterwards, you can delve deeper into these common interests.
I find starting “wide” then gradually moving to more specific works better. It gets you out of the mindset you must find something spectacular to talk about right away.
All that does is paralyze you.
Be Kind and Complementary
But only when it’s genuine.
In other words, don’t say they have a nice shirt if you really don’t give a crap about their shirt. Just be a fraction more observant and you’ll usually find something about the person you can genuinely admire and comment on.
On the flip side of this advice, don’t be a door mat. Make sure you’re also assertive and look after your own needs.
Personally, I was always too much “the nice guy” and while people thought I was kind, they often didn’t respect me.
Know Your Strengths and Build Self-Confidence
Let’s be real for a second here.
If you’re shy or feel socially inadequate at times, the above “action steps” might be hard.
Things like better self-disclosure and speaking about a wide variety of topics make sense “on paper.” But when you’re in the moment, usually one of two things happens:
- You can’t bring yourself to even go up and talk to people
- Your mind blanks, you act awkward, and don’t feel like yourself
What’s happening is your anxiety (YES anxiety) is holding you back. There are so many negative thoughts and feelings coursing through you, you can’t think straight.
THAT’s why you can’t act naturally.
Well, this is where confidence, courage and self-esteem have to step in and save the day. The more confident you become socially, the less anxiety will affect you. And that’s when you can start acting more natural and authentic with little effort.
One way to start building your confidence is by knowing your strengths. Because knowing you have value boosts your self-esteem.
Also, this gives you a sense of worth from what’s inside you, NOT from the approval of others. That’s key, because when you learn how to not care what people think, you’re free to act silly, fun, and spontaneous with little to no fear of the “consequences.”
But of course, gaining confidence is a process. In fact, if you’d like I have some helpful videos on this subject in my newsletter. Just click here to watch them.
We all want to connect with others. It’s a basic human need. And when you’re not sure how to be friendly or find a place to belong, that hurts in a very primal way.
Just remember, you’re not alone in feeling this way. Not all of us were lucky enough to grow up being naturally outgoing. Take it gradually and try just one of the above suggestions at a time. Eventually, with a little effort, you’ll find people are warming up to you faster.
Back to you:
When are some times it has been hard for you to engage new people and be friendly?
(photo courtesy of Damian Gadal via Flickr)