MAKING friends as an adult is tricky, particularly if you’re in a new or unknown environment.
Take UK politician Matt Hancock, who arrived in Australia as one of the contestants on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!
Hancock, 44, might have felt nervous about appearing on the show - not least because of the creepy critters, challenges and public voting, but perhaps because of a tough few years of controversies and the pandemic.
Regardless of the situation, anyone going out of their comfort zone might be scared of being lonely, isolated or not making friends.
“Once school and university are behind you, you may realise your social circles have shrunk, says Hayley Quinn, relationships expert for Match (match.com).
“Getting out of your comfort zone and making new friends can feel a little bit like dating all over again, as you’re getting to know people who are vastly different to you - but who knows what you have in common?”
So how can adults make friends when we’re in a new situation?
You have more in common with people than you think
“It’s not that you don’t have anything in common with the people you meet, but the conversation may not get onto the subjects you can really connect on,” says Quinn.
“To help with this, be proactive in conversations about sharing your specific interests and passions. Even if it’s a love of World Of Warcraft or knitting, don’t judge what you like as ‘uncool’ - share it and see if the other person relates to you. Remember, your quirks are what make you, you.”
Relate on feelings, not things
“Even if someone doesn’t share exactly the same interests as you, they may well relate to the emotional experience you have,” Quinn explains. “For instance, you may find running stress-busting, whilst they may get the same feeling from yoga. You may not be into the same activities as each other, but you can connect on how they make you feel.”
Ditch the small talk
Small talk is our default when meeting new people, but Quinn says it “gets in the way of you forming connections,” adding: “If you get too stuck in the small talk, there’s not much opportunity for the other person to realise how unique and interesting you are. When you first meet someone, steer clear of the ‘who, what, where, when’ questions, and instead strive to speak openly and authentically.
“A good tip for this is to remember to never ask two questions in a row - that will end up feeling like an interview to the other person.
“Instead, once you’ve asked them a question, get into the habit of sharing a reciprocal piece of information about yourself - you may be surprised at how quickly the conversation starts to flow.”
Ask to stay in touch
“A simple, ‘Let me get your social media, in case we don’t bump into each other again,’ is suitably low-key, but allows you to build social contacts. If someone seems particularly warm and friendly, suggest grabbing a coffee or a drink together sometime soon - but remember, the sooner you can meet again, the better chance you stand of forming a friendship.”
Quinn warns against “coming off as though you want a new follower, rather than a friend”, saying: “People will see through this, so ensure you’re genuine about wanting to stay in touch.”
Throw yourself into hobbies
Hobbies ican help foster friendships, says Quinn.
“Whether it’s CrossFit or Latin dance, plenty of hobbies come with social events and readymade communities that you can tap into,” she says.
“These are often easier places to start making friends, as a lot of people might be there for the same purpose, and you have the activity itself to talk about if all else fails. If making new friends is a priority to you, make sure you keep a commitment to yourself to get out there and plan lots of events in your diary.”