So, I'm not that shy. But I haven't made friends. What's the holdup here?
September 14, 2006 10:06 PM   Subscribe

Yet another "How To Make Friends" post. Because they never get old.

Here's my specific situation : I'm able to meet people in some situations - bars, coffeeshops - but I don't know how to help turn those situations into friendships. I have many conversations with strangers - sometimes deep and detailed conversations - but they are the equivalent of one night stands; zipless talks. I rarely see those people again, and when I do, it's at the same bar, it's another conversation, another goodbye.

If I'm talking with someone at a bar, and friends of that person show, I will ask to be invited to the table they're moving to; that has never worked. If I'm out at a coffeeshop and I get myself embroiled in a large group conversing (which was easy this summer, as people would go outside on a porch and fan themselves) I would simply stay longer than anyone else, and then remember people's names as they came back the next week. Since people leave abruptly, I've never had the chance to offer a possible time/area for hanging out; I'm still hoping for this. People seem receptive when I remember their names but nothing comes from it.

I'm actively looking for groups to join. This is Oklahoma City and most people that I know go to church two or three times a week, so I'll be heading to the local Unitarian chapter this Sunday, just to see what happens.

Does anyone else have any advice? I'm worried that I'll join a book club, join a church, join anything, and simply make acquaintances there, not friends. I'm worried that there's something in my attitude that isn't helping matters.

Oh, yeah, any good places to find conversations outside of a bar? I used to wait tables in New Orleans, and since I've been leading a bar-heavy existence lately - it's the only place I've found people my own age past seven o'clock - I'm drinking more now than I did then. I figure that's a bad thing. The humid air and permissive culture fosters a drinking community in New Orleans; Oklahoma City has neither and I'm tired of watching people inspect my face for signs of hedonism.
posted by suckerpunch to Human Relations (15 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Does anyone else have any advice? I'm worried that I'll join a book club, join a church, join anything, and simply make acquaintances there, not friends.

Those are fine ideas. As much as they are way outside what I would do here in the SF Bay, I think in OK City they are valid and common options. You may have to shop around a little for a book club that has people you like. But don't give up on all churches or book clubs if your first try doesn't work out. Remember that those are common social institutions out there, and probably cater to a lot of different people if you can find the one that's right for you.

I have no advice for making friends except to have some REASON for hanging out with them. For me, this has always been work or college, at least until we break the ice. If you are not in a position to meet people in either of those ways, I'd suggest you explore all options.

Even if you're not the churchy type, picture yourself hitting it off with the other non-churchy type who is there for his/her own weird reasons and looking for a buddy.

You never know...
posted by scarabic at 1:12 AM on September 15, 2006

It never hurts to invite an "acquaintance" out to dinner, drinks, etc. I have always found that other people are more willing that I am to take the risk of offering such an invite. And it always turns out well. Take a risk, for fuck's sake, if you are really in need of friends. Pick someone you like and offer them something you feel the can't refuse. Lunch. A drink after work. A morning jog around the lake on a Saturday. Whatever it might be. But have some confidence for fuck's sake and if they can't do your original invite, try a 2nd time. Don't just give up and make it "their move."
posted by scarabic at 1:15 AM on September 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

To make friends, you need to arrange one-on-one situations in which you could talk to an acquaintance and become friends. Walking (not anything strenuous) is the best way.

Walking -- hiking, if you're into really walking walking, but avoid climbing, save your breath for talking -- with another person gives you something to do together, a common goal and common obstacles, an excuse to be silent if you need to be silent, but plenty of time to talk if you want to talk. It means being outside in nice weather, so you'll be getting exercise instead of sitting on your ass and sucking down fattening drinks in a stinky bar, and walking is low impact, low stress, so anyone can do it and still carry on a conversation.

Think about walking with another person as your primary goal, and then start making up scenarios in which you and another person walk together. You and X go to the park, or walk your dogs, or go downtown to check out the somethings in the stores, or see what that old something is like, or go out to get something to bring back for lunch or to eat in the park, or see what a certain neighborhood is really like, or check out the architecture of a certain building or area, or hunt for a certain something you both like, etc. Think about people you work with or live near.

If you end up joining clubs or going to church, that's cool, but try to lure one of the other members out for a walk from church, to church, from the club, to the club, out to get stuff for the club activity, etc. Bricktown? Oklahoma City Trails? Martin Park Nature Center? The zoo? Parks? Other stuff? Wherever.

If you are fairly new to the city, you have a very good excuse for asking people to show you around, even if it's stuff they've already seen. "It's supposed to be nice Sunday and I was thinking of going to the zoo. Want to go with me? I could pick you up or we could meet there. We can eat lunch there or go somewhere after if you feel like it. I just need to get out and get some fresh air and do something different, and I like animals, so what the hell. Feel like it? Or is it going to be just me and the penguins?" Whatever it is, make it a one-to-one activity, walking at a conversational pace, side by side, low stress, no threat or pressure for the other person, safe neutral ground, with something else as the nominal excuse for being out together.

And unless you're looking for sex, don't turn it into some sort of play date. Make it interesting. Maybe there are some older people you know or in your club or church who would be good company on walks. Or younger folk, I suppose, but of course be careful that way; not too much younger or you'll get yourself funny looks these days, though maybe you could ask a parent or grandparent and the children or grandchildren. Or ask the homeliest person you know, or the shortest, or the tallest, or the fattest, or the skinniest. Ask someone of another race or nationality or religion (someone in one of the other clubs). You will have things in common -- we all do, of course -- and you will have interesting things to say to each other.
posted by pracowity at 2:36 AM on September 15, 2006

Join a bible study at your church that meets regularly. You will see the same 6-7 people every week, making it more likely that you will develop lasting relationships with these people.
posted by btkuhn at 2:52 AM on September 15, 2006

I find that it takes more than one or two encounters with a person to move them from acquaintance to friend. For me, it takes months of repeated exposure before moving from that acquaintance to friend level. Patience is a virtue.

I think your book club and church ideas are pretty good, as groups are a great way to repeatedly expose yourself to the same people over and over, so that you can get to know them in a non-pressured environment.

It's hard not having friends in a town. But you can't really brute-force accelerate the process, no matter how desperate you are to make friends. Your approach seems a bit heavy-handed to me, which is probably why it's not getting you good results.

If you feel the need to talk to people more than you do, try volunteering for a political campaign. You can go door-to-door or work the phone bank (preferably get-out-the-vote stuff and not fundraising). The political campaign has the added advantage of sucking up any and all time you decide to allot to it, and campaign offices are quite frequently open until 9 or 10.
posted by crazycanuck at 3:01 AM on September 15, 2006

Does anyone else have any advice? I'm worried that I'll join a book club, join a church, join anything, and simply make acquaintances there, not friends. I'm worried that there's something in my attitude that isn't helping matters.

An unwillingness to let people be your acquaintances for awhile before they become your friends is probably part of the problem. If you're talking to people in bars and then trying immediately to get them to see you in a one on one context, they're probably thinking they're being hit on (though perhaps less so if you're a woman). That's where joining stuff helps - yeah, these people are your acquaintances, not instant friends, possibly for a long time. But then you may get close to some of them - find out if any smaller groups go for coffee or breakfast after meetings, for example.

Another good option is - a lot of people join those groups looking for friendship (one of the ones I'm in is specifically about women looking for friends). It can be awkward to make the jump from 'seeing people at group events' to 'seeing that person outside group events' but it does sometimes work out.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:41 AM on September 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

I moved to Toronto and knew no one. I met my friends through Live Journal and a political message board.
posted by Melsky at 6:32 AM on September 15, 2006

It's easiest to make friends when you have to see people regularly anyway. Work, church, committees, sports teams, etc.
posted by callmejay at 6:49 AM on September 15, 2006

As crazycanuck said - how about any sort of volunteering? Great way to meet people AND make a reputation for yourself in an area where reputation may matter a great deal. I hear ya about the midwest defining a very different acceptable realm socially than the New Orleans party culture (being a So. CA native that was transplanted to Kansas City for a year for work, I feel your pain with the adjustment part). You may look online or in the (gasp) phone book for who does what in your city. You'll meet other volunteers as well as people in the community who need your time. Good Luck! :)
posted by Carnage Asada at 8:05 AM on September 15, 2006

I moved to a large city last year and have had success making new friends via craigslist and the activities section (I've posted that I was looking for other people to bike or walk with) - over time some of the walkers or cyclists have evolved into friends. Check it out it may be in your area - and you can post your own ad.

Also, just another idea (I don't know what your topic of conversation is in the coffee shop, etc) - but if you talk about a particular interest (for example, you really enjoy plays and have seen play blah blah and plan to see the new play blah blah2) - people may then invite you to a similar activity or suggest going to that new play blah blah. I've had a few friendships start that way too.
posted by Wolfster at 8:59 AM on September 15, 2006

opinion from real live life long oklahoman. church is a good idea, but you really have to get invested in it for it to work. lots of bigger churches have ministries specifically for certain age groups or demographics, say singles or divorced parents. those types of groups are your best ticket for forming a real relationship. if you like to travel and snow ski, there is generally a group from snow and ski warehouse that charters a bus every year and goes somewhere. that would be fun and you may meet people you like. join a civic group. rotary, lions club, kiwanis all do community service projects, plus meet for lunch. an easy way to meet people that you will see regularly. love the volunteering idea. just find a place to volunteer that is connected to something you are interested in - chances are the other volunteers will have some of the same interests as you. if you play sports, there are generally all sorts of leagues you can play in.

i don't live in the okc area, but will be moving there next year. in general oklahomans are really friendly, but waving at a stranger in a pickup and making a friend are not the same thing.
posted by domino at 9:04 AM on September 15, 2006

I'd say the bar is a bad place to try, unless you go to bars that tend to have very close-knit communities (and in a city, that's unlikely).

Work and college/school tend to be the best options for most people.. but you didn't mention work at all. Isn't it an option? Even if you're unemployed, taking a job merely for the sake of making some friends might be worth it.
posted by wackybrit at 9:37 AM on September 15, 2006

I just read study findings that found if you share gossip with an acquaintance - particularly if the gossip is mildly negative - it can help you develop a friendship. I don't know if that's your style, but it is something to keep in mind.

University of Oklahoma Study

I think the sharing of personal information helps with making new friends. It shows vulnerability and trust.
I find that I am usually politically correct and make a lot of boring small talk with most acquaintances. If I think an acquaintance is someone that I would like to know better, I will usually offer little tidbits into how I think or feel, or something personal about my life.
Forming new friendships takes effort and time. It seems you are doing a great job so far with putting yourself out there. Good luck.
posted by LoriFLA at 11:52 AM on September 15, 2006

Once you have some more acquaintances, what about starting a group that does some regular activity?

I'm thinking of what I did: when I was new in town some acquaintances and I started an informal vegetarian dinner group - we take turns cooking for each other. We meet once a month or so. A similar approach would be to help coordinating social events in your church, like planning the skip trip.

Also, my personal experience is that I become closer to people more quickly when I travel with them, and therefore we have to spend lots of time together and deal with conflict.
posted by betterton at 3:37 PM on September 15, 2006

Ooooh, it is hard to make genuine freinds once you have graduated college.

Suggestions? Volunteering / swing dancing / dragon boat / kite flying/ goat breeding/ whathaveyou is a good idea. Aristotle says that true friendship is based on a shared good (common purpose). What is your good? Find that, and you will find a friend or three.

Failing that, have some rather nice drugs to share.
posted by Wavelet at 10:51 PM on September 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

« Older Where can I process and digitally transfer my 8mm...   |   Take the marbles out, dear Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.