Austin is a dynamic city with a small-town feel. It's culture is fully reflected by the saying, "Keep Austin Weird." It's many green belts, warm weather, and focus on health and green living inspire people to live healthier lives. Austin draws around 150 new people per day and loses only 40 residents. This influx is partly due to the large tech industry and claim as the Live Music Capital of the World. There is a constant flow of newcomers, but this is especially true in the Spring and Summer. Each transplant is met with the same relationship-challenge, though some may already have friends in the area. This challenge is "how to make new friends?" Friendships are key to happiness and contentment. Without our friendships, we are less active, less willing to explore, and more negative about our surroundings.
People usually have friend-networks developed from their school years and from work. The majority of people haven't had to develop the skill of making new friends, because there's been no need. Most don't even know where to start. Below, I've included 5 tips for making new friends.
- Identify your interests and seek out locations (Town Lake hike and bike trail), groups (hobbies, athletics), venues (live music) that cater to that interest. Go to these places/activities alone. Don't wait on someone else to go with you, because you could wait a very long time. When you're engaged in something you find interesting you will be more willing to approach other like-minded folks and will also make you more approachable to them.
- Respectfully and casually date. Utilize Tinder, Match.com, and other social network dating sites to meet people. This is a good way to meet people through people. This will only work if you are up-front with your date and tell them that you are just interested in meeting new people. You also must maintain a friendly and respectful attitude toward them. If you lead them on, engage in sexual activities, or use them...you probably won't be very welcome in their social network. Instead of being in the friend-zone you will be in the no-go zone.
- Sign up for a race (running, biking, triathlon, duathlon, etc.) and join a training group or join a CrossFit gym. Austin is full of these opportunities. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and make a workout-buddy. This requires you to go regularly to your training group or gym plus talk to others. When you do, be sure to exchange contact information and try to plan a 1:1 meet up focused on the activity you're doing. If they are more skilled than you, ask them for some tips. If you are more skilled, do not impart unsolicited guidance as this will only annoy them.
- Once you've met potential friends, invite them to do something at their convenience. Remember, these people already have their own friend networks established. Be mindful that they will have more social engagements than you. Be flexible. If they invite you to socialize with their network, agree and be self-sufficient. Be ready to be friendly and talk to strangers. Don't expect them to hold your hand by staying around and talking to you all night. If you do, they probably won't be calling you later.
- Once you've made a potential friend you need to develop the relationship. That means you need to keep hanging out with them. If they ask you to do something, accept. Most people will only ask another to do something a couple times if it's continually declined. I would suggest not declining twice in a row and not declining in the first several months of knowing them. I would also suggest asking them to do something once every week or every other week that is interesting to both parties. This does not have to be a long duration activity. In fact, activities that take less time are more welcome in the beginning.
Just remember, you are not unlike others that move to Austin every day. It may feel anxiety provoking and lonely at first, but it can get better. There are a lot of people out there that are ready to be your friend. People generally don't just luck into a friend group. These friend groups need to be found, cultivated, and maintained. You can do it!
By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA