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Making friends as an adult can be tough. When we’re kids, making friends is a piece of cake. We have so many activities that bring us together. But as we get older, life gets busy with work, relationships and all the things. It’s harder to find time to get out there.

Along with that we get set in our ways and comfy in our routines, making us resistant to change.

Add the fact that there are fewer public gathering spots for adults to organically meet new people and it’s even harder to find ways to make friends.

But it’s so important for us to have friendships….

We are innately social creatures who crave connection and a sense of belonging. That’s why friendships are so crucial – they provide irreplaceable value. They offer emotional support when we’re stressed, sad or struggling.

Friendships make our lives infinitely richer and more joyful. Don’t sell yourself short by resigning to loneliness especially if you’re shy and find it hard to make friends.

I’ve struggled to put myself out there and meet new people. I’m quite introverted and very shy.

And it wasn’t until the past couple of years that I finally started to figure it out how to put myself out there and make friends as an adult.

So if you’re shy, introverted, and have trouble connecting – keep reading.

I’m going to walk you through the steps I took to slowly get more comfortable with putting myself out there.

I’ll share what worked, what didn’t, and how you can start making meaningful friendships.

Get real with yourself

I had to admit that my shyness was preventing me from having the social life I wanted. It was keeping me lonely and isolated. As tough as it was to accept, I knew I had to stop making excuses if I ever wanted things to change.

Our minds can be our own worst enemies when it comes to social interactions. I made a conscious effort to identify and challenge my negative thoughts about socialising. Instead of assuming people would judge me, I reminded myself that everyone has their own insecurities and that most people are much kinder and more understanding than I gave them credit for.

Most people are friendly and willing to talk if you make the first move. And momentary awkwardness really isn’t a huge deal – we’ve all been there!

I started small by setting a goal to have one real conversation with a stranger each week. This was really hard at first! And felt so overwhelming. But I pushed myself to smile, make eye contact, and exchange a few sentences with either the cashier at a store or the lady who does my eyebrows. And you know what? It got easier each time.

Be clear on why you want to make new friends

Beyond just being lonely, I realized I wanted more people to share experiences with. I wanted to feel supported and understood. Knowing my why gave me the motivation to start pushing past my comfort zone. Whats your why?

Maybe you want to expand your social circle, have more fun activities in your life, or learn from different perspectives. Whatever it may be, having a clear understanding of why you want to make new friends can help you stay committed and focused on your goal.

Start Conversations With a Light Compliment or Observation

Okay, so you’re feeling a bit braver about putting yourself out there. But once you’ve mustered the courage to actually approach someone, what do you say to kickstart a new connection?

No need to overthink it! Just start with a simple, friendly comment. If they have a nice dress on, say, “Hi, I love your dress. It’s gorgeous”. Or the weather is always a good conversation starter….comment how good or bad the weather has been. If you’re at an event, you can ask what brought them there.

Questions or compliments are great ways to get the other person chatting if they’re interested. If they don’t seem into it, no worries – just smile and move on.

Once a lite back-and-forth is flowing. Ask follow-up questions and share your own anecdotes or views to show genuine listening and interest. Try and look for common interests. Bond-building happens by finding common ground – mutual friends, shared hobbies, career crossovers, hometowns, anything! Follow those threads to explore new conversational avenues and foster intimacy.

For more inspiration on how to get a conversation going, check out the book “Great Chat: Seven Lessons for Better Conversations, Deeper Connections and Improved Wellbeing” by Josh Smith.

Lean Into Your Good Listening Skills

Shifting the focus from myself to others by practising active listening made a significant difference. I found that asking open-ended questions and genuinely paying attention to the responses made the conversation flow more naturally. It also took the pressure off me to constantly come up with things to say and allowed me to really connect with people.

Shy people tend to be excellent listeners. Use this to your advantage by asking people questions about themselves. Listen closely to what they share and ask thoughtful follow-ups. People will appreciate your genuine interest. And you’ll avoid the anxiety of talking about yourself too much by keeping the focus on them. Listening skills help lay the groundwork for real friendships.

Body Language Matters

It’s not just about what we say, but also how we say it. Our body language can often speak louder than our words. For example, crossing your arms or avoiding eye contact can make you seem closed off or uninterested. On the other hand, leaning in and making eye contact shows that you are engaged and interested in the conversation. So, pay attention to your body language and try to project openness and warmth to make the other person feel more comfortable and at ease.

Nurture the connections you make

When it comes to making friends as an adult, putting yourself out there is only half the battle. You also have to nurture the connections you make. Every time I’d go out, I’d reflect on who I really clicked with. Then I’d follow up to continue the friendship.

For instance, if I met someone fun at a networking event, I’d shoot them a quick email the next day. I’d reference something we laughed about and suggest meeting for lunch. Little things like that let people know I was interested in a friendship, not just idle chit-chat.

Nurturing friendships also means being a good friend yourself. I try to remember details and ask questions to show I’m genuinely interested in their life. When a friend is going through a hard time, I cook them a meal or send a card to show I care. Friendship is a two-way street, so I make sure to put in time and effort to strengthen bonds.

Don’t Take Rejection Personally

Putting yourself out there can lead to some rejection or fizzled connections. Try not to let it discourage you or take it too personally. Not everyone is going to be a perfect friend match. Keep trying new places and people until you find the right social circle. Just like dating, it’s a numbers game that requires persistence through the awkwardness.

Be Kind To Yourself

Pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone was incredibly challenging. But the personal growth and sense of belonging I feel today makes it all worthwhile. I still have to psych myself up to meet someone new. But now I have the confidence to know I can handle it, and eventually it will get easier.

So be kind to yourself through this process. Don’t beat yourself up or get discouraged if making new connections feels awkward. Remind yourself there are so many other shy people just like you longing for the same thing. If I can make lasting, meaningful friendships, I believe anyone can. It just takes bravery, persistence and patience.

Starting small will lead to big changes over time. With each conversation, you’ll amaze yourself with how strong and courageous you can be. And before long, you’ll look around to find your calendar full of coffee dates, dinner plans, and friends to call on a tough day. Don’t give up, take it step by step. Your people are out there waiting for you!

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