Finding Friends: Starting Over
“I discovered that a fresh start is a process. A fresh start is a journey—a journey that requires a plan.” —Vivian Jokotade
In our last lesson, we covered developing a vision for future friendships and evaluating yourself as a successful future friend. Today, we will discuss the specific challenges we face when finding friends during or after a major life change.
A Whole New World
Life has a lot of endings and beginnings. You graduate from kindergarten, elementary, middle school, and potentially up through a Ph.D. program. You move to a new house, a new town, or even a new country. We start jobs, quit jobs, and take new jobs. And of course, there are big life events that are more about personal change than a change of time and place: dating relationships, engagements, and marriages, having children, starting businesses, and changing careers.
All of these changes affect our relationships with others. While deeper relationships may face deeper challenges and changes, our peripheral relationships paradoxically face a more drastic change more frequently: coming to an end! Because friendships tend to be more peripheral, they can fall completely by the wayside at times of upheaval and transformation. This can easily leave people who are going through a big life change feeling lonely and isolated.
You’ve Done This Before. You Can Do It Again!
If you’re facing a new beginning, you may feel exhilarated—or you may feel alone and discouraged. That’s understandable.
Just remember, everyone has to start over sometimes. Know that you’ve done this before—and you can do it again!
While the process of creating a new social circle for yourself might seem daunting, it also presents a wonderful opportunity.
Because there are people you can meet and experiences you can have that would have been impossible before this transformation. A new beginning is an opportunity to discover new friends, new interests, and new possibilities within yourself.
Building (Or Rebuilding) Your Social Circle
You probably know at least one person, or have at least one friend-of-a-friend, in your new circumstances. That’s a great starting point for developing more connections!
Still feeling overwhelmed?
Consider this. While the ins and outs of getting to know people can be similar to a dance, the basic steps of building a group of friends and acquaintances are actually pretty simple:
1. As you interact with people in your day-to-day life, you begin to bond with some of them until you’ve developed your first friend or two. These friendships may be very casual at first, and may never progress to deeper levels. That’s okay! The great thing is that you’ve begun to get to know people that you appreciate and who appreciate you.
2. From there, you will likely branch out in several different directions socially. For instance, the new friends you have made will introduce you to their friends. Additionally, you may continually be meeting more new people as you pursue your job, studies, and personal life. Because of this, you may develop several overlapping social circles.
3. As your social circle grows, you can begin to shift from being a seeker to being a connector. As a connector, you will be in a position to help others meet new friends and develop their networks. That’s great! And not just for the people you help. It’s good for you, personally. It shows growth and success, two positive forces that will help strengthen and encourage you as you continue through life.
One final point to consider when building up your social circle is to take inventory of connections you already have that may simply need nurturing in order to grow. Don’t be afraid to reach back out to friends and acquaintances you know or have known. Although you may have grown apart, it’s very possible that, by reaching out, you may reconnect and find that it does not take much more than a few conversations (and, as always, a good listening ear!) to revamp an old friendship. This can be even more rewarding than establishing a new one!
Imagine your upcoming week. As you go from place to place, whether work or the grocery store, imagine yourself trying to get to know people (very casually at first). Think of a few conversation starters. They don’t need to be original. A simple remark about the weather, a question you’ve been meaning to ask about office procedures, or a request for a restaurant recommendation is just fine.
If talking to people you don’t know makes you anxious, you can practice a bit first. Here are some potential conversation starters:
1. Talk about the the weather
2. Inquiring about a recent show or book they have enjoyed
3. Workplace questions/observations
4. Requesting a recommendation for a good place to eat
5. Asking about hobbies and interests
Remember, if all you get in return is a one-word answer or other non-starter, don’t worry! You’re still making good progress by simply reaching out. You don’t need everyone to respond positively.
That wraps up lesson four! In our next lesson, we will move to our next big topic: deepening friendships.
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