Making friends beyond your high school and college years can be challenging. You don’t see the same faces every day anymore — now it’s the dog-eat-dog “real word.” Your social and dating life can meander if you don’t plan and make it a priority.
So why do young people say it’s so hard to make friends after college? I asked Mike Guerrieri, an inspirational dating and fashion coach of StyleCoachNYC.com, about why women complain about dating in big cities. “It really comes down to perspective,” he said. “You could argue that dating is easy or hard in any environment.”
But let’s get real: Millennial Tindr and OkCupid habits are not improving their real-world social skills… right, Mike? “What’s really going on is that with the increase of social media and the use of digital devices, people are becoming more and more accustomed to communicating with their fingers on a touchscreen, rather than with their voices in real life,” he says. “The vast majority of clients I talk to are actually scared to talk to people in real life. They’re stuck in their heads about if they will be judged, or — the classic — are automatically coming up with a laundry list of ways the conversation could go wrong.”
Facts About Meeting Strangers
“There’s usually two possible outcomes from talking to a stranger,” says Mike. “One: You spark up a conversation and build some kind of bond. Or two: You don’t, and they ignore you, or the conversation dies quickly. That’s it! Most people imagine scenarios in their minds that are far worse. This causes them to stop themselves before they even take action, resulting in meeting no new people.”
Sound familiar? So let’s flip the perspective. Any place you live (even a big city) can actually be a huge advantage — both for your career ambitions and your social life. You simply have to know where to look. Instead of partying ‘til 3am, try connecting with people in other, more fun ways. We’re sharing 10 ideas that you’ll love and will kick that social life into gear.
How to Make New Friends *Without* Barhopping
1. Learn a partner dance. You love Dancing With the Stars, so why not live it? Most cities have a scene for either ballroom dancing, salsa dancing, bachata, Argentine tango, Kizomba, Zouk, Lindy hop, hustle or my personal favorite, West Coast swing!
If you want to make real friends as a young adult, join a beautiful community of partner dancers. You’ll be amazed at how welcoming everyone is, especially once they see you shake that thing. Plus, it’s a healthy activity. When you and your partner dance, you’re exercising and releasing endorphins, getting positive hormone spikes from touching other humans (hello, natural oxytocin boost), building confidence and expressing yourself. You’ll create social bonds while learning to dance and toning that core (and you know you’ve always wanted to!). What could be better than that?
2. Join a networking group. If you’re into networking, Business Networking International is an established international networking system with chapters all over the world. Membership dues can be pricey for a young professional, but it’s a great way to generate referrals and business connections for whatever line of work you’re in.
3. Attend live music and music festivals. Live music is full of moments that will never happen again — it’s a completely unique experience that will have you lost in the moment (and for once, not thinking about your bills). Why not go to local open mics and concerts for local artists in your town or city? Make friends at those events, and your musical taste could be the basis for a friendship, or even a romance.
So you think you’re the biggest fan of this or that artist? You might meet your match at a local venue and have a little healthy competition going before you walk out the door. Check out this amazing compilation of unplanned, magic moments — you never know what (or who) you’ll see!
4. Join a MeetUp group. There is a MeetUp Group for everything under the sun. Like outdoor adventure sports or hiking? How about minimalism? Interested in being part of a book club? How about yoga, or farmer’s markets? What about wine (not whining — you’re a grown-up.)? There’s a MeetUp for that.
Just jump on MeetUp.com, and search for things you’re interested in. But make sure you make a plan to really go and check it out — otherwise, you’ll just receive dozens of emails, but none of the cool benefits of the actual “meeting up” part of the equation.
5. Take an art or crafting class. Whether you’ve always wanted to learn pottery, watercolor art or basket weaving, there’s always someone near you who is passionate to teach it, and a whole group of friends you could make if you just get out and go.
Mike agrees that any skill-oriented group class is the perfect way to meet people: “You might want to learn how to become a bartender, or maybe you’re interested in learning how to sing. Taking on these group classes has the double benefit that you’re learning a new skill and can meet more people who also have a common interest.”
6. Take a seminar. Globally, people don’t just stop learning after college. You know how important people like Oprah and Tony Robbins hold fancy events? Now that you’re an adult, these events are built for you. Mike’s take is that personal development programs and seminars can be a fabulous way to build your social circle: “Taking part in these is a great way to meet people who are also working on themselves and have that kind of mindset. Not to mention, you’ll improve yourself too along the way!”
Check out your local Landmark seminar center, like BNI and MeetUp. Their courses on personal development are offered in multiple cities around the world. You’ll find people passionate about getting the most out of life, who are also excited to motivate others. And you’d be surprised how naturally vulnerable people will be in a seminar environment.
7. Local coffeeshops and bookstores. Mike says: “Although a bit cliché, many people meet in coffee shops. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation as you’re waiting on line or while you’re sipping your hot brew. You never know where the conversation could go from there!”
In a bookstore, it’s easy to take the focus off of you and onto the interesting array of available books, magazines, music and products. In that scenario, a simple “What are you reading?” can get the ball rolling. Try it!
8. Hit up an art exhibit. You probably think this is only for the fancy people, right? It’s not: It’s for people with good taste (yes, that means you!). Consuming art is a normal part of your adult life. Those classes on Van Gogh weren’t for nothing — go to an art gallery. Come on, at least you’ll look cultured. Do your hair and put on a nice outfit. Trust us, it’ll be fun. Bonus points if you know or meet the artist!
9. Be open in public transportation and public spaces. No, really. Mike says that’s it’s smart to consider public parks, transportation and waiting areas: “What happened to casually sitting next to someone and sparking up a conversation? Sometimes unexpected meetings are the best ones. You’re stuck on that train or bus for at least a few minutes anyway, so why not find out if the person next to you is any fun? This could be at airports, train stations or bus stops. If you think you see someone worth getting to know, find a way to sit near them and ask them about where they’re headed. Why not?”
Or, Mike says, consider everyday shopping malls and grocery stores. “It’s quite possible to meet people in these locations if you’re willing to go beyond your comfort zone and start a conversation with a stranger.” If you live in a city, you’re surrounded by people every day, and guess what? You’re allowed to talk to them.
10. Join a Crossfit gym, yoga studio or running group. Any popular workout craze will have you sweating bullets and working your ass off (literally), but you’ll also meet a great group of people who are all about pushing their fitness edge. Join them and stop running alone — they’ll cheer you on while you meet your goals. It’s great to have a cheering section, especially when you don’t feel like working out.
All you have to do is keep your eyes open, and keep looking for ways to express yourself, your passions and your interests. It’s not that much of a jungle out there, and you’re not alone. The adage that it’s hard to meet people in your twenties and thirties isn’t really true — you simply have to know where to look. Don’t be shy, and go have fun!
Where do you go to meet people? Let us know on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)