After my big break up, I quickly realized that I needed to get out and meet some new people. While I did have a number of good friends who supported me and spent a lot of time with me in my time of crisis, most of them were constantly busy and had built lives of their own. This meant if I wanted to hang out and be social, I needed to branch out.
After a few months, I was absolutely befuddled by how fast my circle expanded. My schedule was suddenly full of socializing every day of the week, and the best part was they were all plans I looked forward to. None of it felt forced or draining, and every person on my itinerary was somebody I truly enjoyed spending time with.
All that being said, I realize that there were a few key things that really helped me meet so many good people. So here are a few tricks:
Create a weekly check-in
I wish I could remember the original article that suggested this to me, but it was gold. The idea was simple, once week go through your list of friends on Facebook and/or your phone. Pick a few you care about, and send a simple message saying “Hi”.
Initially many of your friends might be perplexed with you messaging them out of the blue, and think you want something. The easy solution to this is to just explain you’re trying to be more social by messaging people you care about and ask them what they’ve been up to. Most people will be flattered by this which works in your favor.
Upon messaging your friends, you might discover them to be oddly boring and uncommunicative. You might only get two or three messages from them saying things like “they’re good” and “nothing much” is happening. Know this is absolutely fine, the goal of this is not necessarily to have a conversation. In fact, I want you to throw the idea of having a conversation out of the window.
Instead of aiming for a conversation, I actually want you to aim for two things. The first is exposure. The more consistently message your friends, the more you will be in the front of their mind. This means they are more likely to both send and accept invitations to hangout and have fun. The second is to break your social rut. The more you consistently message people, the more you’ll feel like you’re being socially proactive, this can do wonders for your mindset.
For me, personally, using this idea was very powerful. Messaging people once a week seemed easy, and it forced me out of my hermit mindset without any real struggle. I was a lot more likely to go out, just because I already felt like I was being social.
Get around people
Notice that I did not say “talk to people” or “join a class/club”. A lot of the time when you’ve been in a social rut, joining something new or talking to strangers can seem rather big and unpleasant. So rather than aiming for something you might talk yourself out of, go for something simple.
By “get around people”, I literally mean just that. Go someplace that has people and visit it regularly. This can be a grocery store, a bookstore, a park, a bar, it really doesn’t matter.
For myself, I found a local coffee shop. Funniest part is not only do I not like coffee, but I’m stingy and hate spending money. Anytime I went, I bought a $2 hot cocoa which is probably the cheapest thing on their menu. I would go there maybe 3 times a week and hang out for however long I felt like. Sometimes it was 15 minutes, other times, when things seemed more fun, it was a few hours. After a week or two I already knew two of the baristas and several regulars.
The important part to remember with this goal, is that, starting out, you’re not going in to talk to people. If you want, you can ignore everybody around and just sit and read or play with your phone. Again, the goal here is less about actively socializing as it is about getting exposure. The more time you spend around people, the more likely you’ll eventually get to know somebody or discover somebody you like.
Make Random Commentary
Once you have gotten comfortable getting out on a regular basis, your next goal will be to create opportunities for conversation. Once again, notice I did not say “create conversation”; I said “create opportunities”. Conversation is easiest when it’s not something forced. Sometimes it will happen, other times it won’t. The less you try to make conversation happen and instead simply let it happen on its own, the easier things will be for you.
So, let’s talk about making opportunities. In my experience, the easiest way to do this is to just regularly comment on things. You can comment on yourself, such as “Wow, I’m really hungry right now. I hate when you never know what you want to eat.”; or you can comment on surroundings like “That’s a weird building” or “I wasn’t expecting it to be so cold today”; or you can comment on the people around you “You seem bored” or “I’ve never seen somebody wearing that shirt before”. What you say doesn’t matter a whole lot as long as you sound friendly saying it.
The objective of this is pretty simple. Every time you make a comment aloud, you allow others the chance to spark conversation with you. Most of the time you’ll only get a friendly smile or a one sentence response, and in a few cases you may just get ignored. This is totally fine, because over time it will add up. People will start to see you as friendly and approachable, and more opportunities will naturally appear for you to meet and befriend others.
The reason this is so powerful is it’s easy. If you comment on the weather and nobody responds, who cares? You don’t really have to put yourself out there to do it, and it reduces the anxiety of forcing a conversation to happen. Doing this has allowed me to feel a lot more outgoing. Many of my friends will be befuddled how I can wind up chatting up a bored stranger and entertaining them with a bunch of riddles for a half-hour, but all I’m honestly doing is just allowing conversation to unfold naturally.
Identify Opportunities for Your Commentary
There are tons of opportunities to spark conversation. My general rule is look for times when you’re not doing anything and happen to be around people. As long I’m not totally socially burnout or in full-on introvert mode, I always try to make an effort to comment on something. You’d be amazed how many people you’ll start chatting up as they wait for their coffee or you happen to be stuck in line.
Starting out, you’ll probably be very nervous about making commentary. To deal with this, focus on finding opportunities that feel more natural and effortless to do. For example if you just came out a heavy rainstorm, you already probably feel inclined to make a remark about the weather, in contrast actively commenting on somebody’s clothes might feel more forced. Focus on just finding the easy opportunities, and in time you’ll feel more comfortable making funnier and bolder remarks.
Quit Fretting and Just Do It
To put it simply, there are a lot of simple little habits you can do to start upping your social life. Many times we get so focused on the end goal that we don’t allow things to unfold naturally. If you go into every interaction with a mindset of “If I don’t have a good conversation, I’m a failure”, you’re probably not going to succeed and you’ll be miserable. As much as you can, just have fun with it. Focus on baby steps within your comfort zone and let unfold naturally. You’ve got this.