Loneliness: Six Reasons You Struggle To Make Friends and a Really Good Solution
We have focused so much on the pandemic of Covid-19, social injustice, the economy, etc. that we have really failed to address a hidden pandemic that is affecting millions of people across the world: Loneliness.
The average person (teen, adult, senior, single and even married/family) is reporting record highs in feeling lonely and disconnected from others. Our phones are in our pockets and hands but they don't cause connection; they actually promote disconnection. How many of you know that you can married, in a family, and/or enrolled in school and still feel lonely?
Let's be honest about it, who doesn't need a trusted friend who can be there the way you need them to be, especially in times like this?
Almost everyone...right? However, as a psychologist, I have found a lot of clients struggle with making friends despite really, really wanting more social support.
So, let's examine six common reasons people struggle to make adult friends (applies to teenagers too though) based on an article cited here "The Art of Making Adult Friends" in Psychology Today. The goal is for you to learn, pray and then adjust your style so that you can have the friends you certainly deserve. We are tribal by nature and thrive in community. So, let's find yours sooner rather than later.
Why It's Hard To Make Adult Friends
1) Introversion. You don't speak first and watch others versus initiating conversation. You watch others socialize when you should be part of the action.
2) Fear of Rejection. You tell yourself that others will reject you in your mind without measuring the accuracy of this statement. Therefore, you convince yourself not to reach out, socialize or connect because it will be a "bad experience" so why bother?
3) Practical Reasons. You have legitimate reasons that making friendships is difficult (live far away from friends, afraid of exposure to Covid-19, transportation, work hours, parents say they want you to socialize but often say "No" when the opportunity arises, lack of money, etc.).
4) Low Trust. You allow the trauma of the past failed friendships and experiences to jade the opportunity of new, good friends in the future. You feel others are out to "use you", "be fake/messy", "really don't care", "judge you", etc. So, you don't trust enough to even give people a chance to prove themselves.
5) Lack of Time. You work long hours and do more work after you are supposed to be off, so you mostly want to chill, sleep, clean up in your spare time. You desire friendship but there is no practical room for it in your schedule. You don't have capacity for friendship even though you desire it.
6) Pickiness. There is a critical nature about yourself (usually rooted in a bad habit of self-criticism) that causes you to critique new people to death and, thereby, eliminate any chance of developing a friendship before you really even get to know them.
What is the Solution?
1) Find Your Tribe. Place yourself in places where people you like are likely to hang out (e.g., if you like books- join a book club, sports- join a local sports club, church- join a wo/men's ministry, etc.) Why? It stacks the deck in your favor that your type of people will be there so the conversation is easier and the vibe matches.
2) Use Small Talk. This piece of advice will change your social life immediately! Instead of being a watcher, initiate friendship with small talk. This is the secret sauce of popular people. They believe in "starting the friendship action" versus reacting or watching. Think about "what goes around comes around," but in a positive way.
Here is the mindset. If you are friendly (outcoming) to others then they are often friendly back to you. Want more friends, be more friendly and outgoing. You can do this even as an introvert but you must initiate friendship- use your own style.
Here are some tips for using small talk:
a) Play Clue. Look for an item the person is wearing and find an opening
sentence. For example, if they are wearing a Michigan sweatshirt, ask them if they caught the game last night or attended the University or were raised there and follow up on their answers.
For example, "Oh, I have family outside of Detroit...how far is that from Ann Arbor? Once you begin to show interest and make the other person feel good then it is often reciprocated... "Where are you from?" or "How often do you get a chance to visit your parents?" Before you know it, you are creating a positive experience and building the foundation for a budding friendship. This is how people "who never met a stranger operate".
Some other common conversation starters:
"What brings you out tonight?"
"Have you attended this class/club/event before?"
"What type or work do you do and do you enjoy it?"
"What do you think of the food here?"
3) Be The Inviter. Now that you have a good conversation going, this is an excellent time to exchange social media contact, phone numbers, etc. From there, you continue the small talk and then invite him/her to an one-on-one experience. For instance, "Let's grab coffee after class" or "Do you want to walk and grab lunch today? or "Are you studying for the test this weekend...if so do you want to meet at Starbucks?", etc.
This is where the magic happens- one on one experiences are where friendships are born and it all happened because you decided to do steps 1 and 2! Congrats.
4) Be The Type of Friend You Long For. Lastly, be the kind of friend whom you wish for in advance. Check on your friend and support them with their goals, successes and stressors. Do random acts of kindness. Anticipate their needs and listen really well when they open up. However, make sure they are capable of the returning that same energy as well. This is usually already assessed though when you initiate small talk, talk on the phone and hang out for the first time.
Okay, there you have it. John 15:13 laid out in practical form. God wants His children to operate in community and feel connected. So, imagine that you are the friend your future best friend is looking for as well! God Bless!
John 15:13- Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.