How do you find someone to talk to?
March 18, 2009 6:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm not a social person, but I really need to build some relationships. How do people do this? This isn't taught in schools, or I must have skipped that day.

I'm dealing with some serious feelings of isolation, and also going through a number of issues in my personal life and need someone to talk to. (If it makes any difference, I'm a straight guy.)

I have a lot of "work friends" but no one I consider truly close. My SO and I have a pretty rocky relationship lately, and go through periods of detachment. (We don't live together, and occasionally go through periods of almost zero communication.) I've been getting the cold shoulder for days now and I'm about to go nuts.

How do you find someone to talk to, short of going to a shrink? I moved recently, and don't have any local friends. I work from home, and don't have much of an opportunity to meet people. Plus, it'd probably be best to not unload on someone a few days or hours after meeting them. But, it's not just about having a shoulder to whine on -- it'd be really helpful if I just had a solid friendly relationship with someone close to my own age. (Late 30s)

I'd consider writing about my issues, but I don't do journals and blogging is out because I don't want to be airing my issues publicly. (Not eager to pursue anonymous blogging. Yes, I see the irony...) Besides, I'd like some feedback.

It's affecting my sleep and my work. It's not a healthy situation, but I'm not sure how to change things. Any suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I don't want to sound like a broken record, but think you could really benefit from some therapy. It would give you a chance to air out your anxieties and the therapist could probably help you figure out how to foster closer relations with people. If it were just that you'd moved to a new town and needed some pointers, AskMe would be great, but you've brought up a bunch of interconnected issues here and you need a more tailored approach.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:05 AM on March 18, 2009

It sounds like you've got two issues here: 1.) You need someone to talk to who you can "unload" on. That usually requires a professional. Certainly the feelings you describe warrant talking to a shrink, but it doesn't sound so bad that you can't get by on your own. 2.) You need friends, legitimate ones, who you can bond with.

I've found that one of the best ways to make friends is to meet people who share common interests. Do you have any interests or hobbies? Are you interested in learning something new? There are lots of classes and groups out there you can join. Consider doing something outdoors that will get you out and moving...

I've also found that it's easy to make friends at bars... if you can find the right low key place where people actually talk to one another instead of just staring at flat screens.

Lastly, it sounds like you have a whole bag of problems with your SO. This person is obviously not there for you in this time of need. You should probably (not this instant, but soon) take a long hard look at the relationship and decide if it's worthwhile. There are lots of other people out there who would step in during a lonely time like this and help you through it...
posted by wfrgms at 7:08 AM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

I agree with bonothegreat, but if you can't bring yourself to go into therapy (which, again, I do think could really help), what about joining a club? It can seem intimidating at first, but can be a great way to meet people with similar interests. There are a lot of people out there looking to make friends, you just have to be open to opportunities and go in with the mindset that you have nothing to lose. Do you like games? Sports? Reading? It takes time to build friendships, but I bet even getting out a bit more and seeing new people would help in the short term. I've been through this myself, and sometimes if you're alone and in your head too much, the best thing you can do is get out for a while.
posted by odayoday at 7:12 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's tough to find people and turn them into real friends that you're close enough to that you can use them for support.

You can try to turn your casual acquaintances and work friends into real friends. I wrote a comment about various ways to do that here.

How do you find more acquaintances to turn into friends? There's a million Ask questions on making new friends when you move to a new city, and other people probably have better answers than me since the places I meet friends are probably not the same places you'd meet friends.

There's the age-old "join a club" advice, and you might consider joining a depression support group. Becoming a volunteer docent for a local museum would help you meet people, but I think you know that that's not the right place to air your grievances. "During his time painting murals abroad in the United States and Russia, Diego Rivera drew upon the influences of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and began experimenting with the cubist style, like the painting you see before you. Also, I am incredibly isolated and sometimes feel like I'm the only person in the world."

I think becoming a social person, which doesn't come naturally for many people, will help you conquer your feelings of loneliness. What keeps you apart from other people? Anxiety? Spending too much time in your house? Not feeling like you have anything to say? Not keeping up with acquaintances and friends and seeing if they'd like to meet? Figure out steps you can take simply to get out into the world and have human contact. By the time you find someone you're close enough to to unload on, you might have less to complain about.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:14 AM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

another vote for "join a club." I'm pretty introverted myself and have trouble opening up to people at first. I'm into photography and several years back I joined Flickr, then joined a local flickr group that was very active in the community. I now consider a few of them close friends (but it was very awkward at first when meeting people for the first time and it took years before I truly warmed up to some of them).

Common interests at least is a jumping point where you can start talking and feel out the other person for a possible friend.

Anytime I see someone new to engage conversation with, I take a deep breath and "jump off the diving board." Sometimes it goes great, other times it just sort of fizzles.
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:58 AM on March 18, 2009

There's lots of lonely people out there. You might consider posting or answering a friendship ad on craigslist or kijiji or some other forum like that. I assure you there are loads of people on there who, like you, don't know how else to go about making new friends. It's worth a try. Just a forewarning though, you'll likely have to filter through some BS and meet a few different people before you find some compatible friends. But I've had success with it, so can you.
posted by lizbunny at 8:01 AM on March 18, 2009

+100 for juliet banana's last paragraph
posted by mpls2 at 8:55 AM on March 18, 2009

what about those nightlines that advertise all over college campuses? i think the idea is that it's just a person who is there to listen to your problems, get you talking, give some advice.
posted by whitewall at 9:02 AM on March 18, 2009

Yes, you should follow all of the advice in other threads about how to make new friends. Do what you would do (or what others would advise you to do) if you had just moved to a new city and needed to start over.

But in addition to that, I think you should be more open-minded about solutions to your problems. Your question is basically, "I'm sad and need to vent, but I can't or won't to talk to a therapist, write in a journal, write an anonymous blog, write a non-anonymous blog, talk to my SO, or talk to strangers." Why don't you "do" journals? Why are you "not eager" to pursue anonymous blogging? Why are with with an SO you can't talk to? Why not try therapy?

It's clear that you need to change something, and yes, in the long term, making new friends and deepening your relationships with them will be good for you. But you may also want to be more open-minded about ways to work through your problems. Therapy and writing work for lots of people, even people who have initial reservations about them. You might feel better knowing that you have options.
posted by decathecting at 9:19 AM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

"During his time painting murals abroad in the United States and Russia, Diego Rivera drew upon the influences of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and began experimenting with the cubist style, like the painting you see before you. Also, I am incredibly isolated and sometimes feel like I'm the only person in the world."

I would really enjoy a tour of that museum.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2009

The Social Anxiety forum might be of interest and it seems like a good place to start developing a network.
posted by watercarrier at 10:05 AM on March 18, 2009

I'm an introvert. When I moved to a new city, I started volunteering a lot, doing things I like. I also took up kayaking by joining a local club. These helped me to gradually get to know people with similar interests.

It takes a good bit of time, but one can't really rush into a relationship (that includes friendship).
posted by QIbHom at 10:36 AM on March 18, 2009

Oh, and I would strongly advise against going down the self-help rabbit hole. What you need to do, most of all, is take action. Reading self-help material can be very addictive, and can make you feel like you're making progress in dealing with your issues, when you're actually sitting still.
posted by mpls2 at 11:00 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm probably not going to suggest anything that someone here hasn't already, but I will repeat the sentiment that being a social person is important when meeting new people. Sure, you can volunteer, join clubs, take a class, etc (all excellent ideas), but if you're not the type of person to chat up a stranger or get to a point where you can make more out of a relationship where you only see someone once a week, that's really going to be your issue.

I can completely understand wanting to vent to an actual person. Maybe in the meantime, before you get close enough to someone for this type of heavy conversation, therapy is a good option.

I'm not sure how big your new city is, but don't be afraid to do things alone like wine tastings or free art events. Even grabbing a beer at a local bar every now and again and chatting up the bartender or waitress can at least make you feel like you have contact with the outside world.
posted by patientpatient at 11:20 AM on March 18, 2009

Speaking as a Former Person Who Needed To Get Out Of The House, MeetUp has been a godsend to me.

No matter what weirdness I'm into, or what random thing I feel like exploring, there are others out there whose interests or curiosity matches up perfectly with mine.
I highly, highly recommend it.

Feel free to MeFi mail me if you have any questions or concerns.

- Bill
posted by willmize at 12:42 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Join a walk group, after 1 hour walking people with a bunch of people in the same direction , people start chatting to eachother.

It worked for me last weekend. now I may see some of them again and develop hopefully a friendship.


posted by zulo at 4:14 PM on March 18, 2009

Get a social second job.
posted by salvia at 7:30 PM on March 18, 2009

Short of a shrink or a family member, you need a good friend if you need someone to confide in and soundboard off of. Those don't just happen overnight. You can do it but have to give it some time. So if your need is really acute, that's not going to be your avenue. But no reason you can't start that anyway for future acute needs.

To get the ball rolling, I second Meetup due to its flexibility and broad coverage (depending on area). I knew nobody in my new (small) town except work people, who all had their own lives and SOs. And it was so small and demographically challenged that there really weren't good ways to mingle amongst my own kind and bump into people. I felt marooned. For a good while I found myself at home with absolutely nothing to do and nobody to be with. Moderate introversion kept me there for a good while further, talking to you tiny people inside my computer.

But at my very first Meetup function I discovered all sorts of fun people eager to have a good time and hang out, and more at the next one with a different group. None of them are people I would have a heart to heart with yet, but friendships start as friendly acquaintances and I see potential there. Gotta start somewhere, so you might give it a shot.

The good part about it is that everybody at a Meetup is kind of in the same position as you, at least at first. They're reaching out to connect. So there's no real need to feel awkward about it. Just go and expect that it'll take you a little while to click and sink in. Be easy, friendly, and open to anyone. Circulate, ask names, introduce yourself. It hasn't been so easy to make friends since the kindergarten playground when you'd say, "What's your name? Want to be friends?" Find any common element and use it as a starter. Don't be discouraged if your first few conversations don't spark into wildfire. Pop to the next cluster of people when it feels right. Just let it happen and don't stress if it takes a bit. Alcohol-laced meetups are always an accelerated start and easy chat zones.

Then keep going to future meetups if you like the group. Sooner or later you'll naturally gravitate to some of the people and start keeping contact outside the group. Be sure not to be the shrinking violet who waits to be asked. Do the asking, just casual-like. "Oh yeah, I heard about that movie - want to go see it?" or "The trails there are pretty crunchy - I'm riding them Saturday morning if anybody wants to come along." Bam, there you go: proto-friends. Now just nurture and let it unfold.

When it feels right, you'll have someone to confide in - and the extra bonus of having more friendships, which is one of the best and most important things in the human experience.

If not Meetup, you can try things like Habitat for Humanity - often people do that and then hit the pub together - or Hands On (Your City), or other volunteer things. Woody Allen once said, "Half of life is just showing up." So really that's all you've got to do - no pressure. Good luck, buddy!
posted by Askr at 7:32 PM on March 18, 2009

Oh, also, if there's not a Meetup in your area, or isn't one on a topic that interests you - start one. You can be that guy - I promise you others are wishing your group existed. And remember that you don't need a specific topic per se. You don't have to be the East Greensboro Moped Fixer Uppers group. You can just be the Eastside Happytime Fun Club and do whatever. People like drinks, usually, so that's always a safe bet.
posted by Askr at 7:40 PM on March 18, 2009

I don't know your religious background, but if possible, I say try church. Don't just go on Sunday, but go and join something. It's a place where you can share your vulnerability ie "I am lonely and need a support system" without people looking at you sideways. You have more of a chance there of being embraced and people will likely reach out to you and if not be the shoulder themselves, provide valuable contacts for you to extend your social network and opporunity to meet friends and confidants. Good luck Anonymous.
posted by GeniPalm at 8:04 PM on March 18, 2009

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