We’ve all experienced it, that awkward feeling when you walk into a room and you know no one. You have no clue who to make eye contact with. Will you look odd if you go up to someone and just start a conversation? Will people wonder why you’re standing alone? Will your opening line seem forced?
There are lots of reasons one can experience the completely undeniably complicated feelings of being new and feeling alone in a room full of people.
Starting a new job, moving to a new city, graduating with a new degree, starting a new life phase…all of these can cause your world to seem so much bigger and you to feel so lonely.
Don’t worry. You’re really not alone. Many adults have experienced or are experiencing these exact same feelings! There are ways you can work to thrive during change. There are ways to make friends.
Here are some tips I’ve amassed from my own journey of starting new careers, moving to new cities, and really just facing adult changes…
- Smile at people. Smiles are such a welcoming way to face people, and they help put people at ease.
- Remember people’s names. This one is tough for me. But, people like hearing their names. And, it can help them feel connected because you know them (by name) so they may feel they should know you.
- Be appropriately inquisitive. People love talking about what they’re passionate about. So, if you can figure out what a person loves, he’ll talk for days. Then, when you see him later, you can ask how that passion is coming.
- Get involved. I know. It feels awkward. But, just force yourself to do it. Go to events. Join adult kickball leagues. Attend a workout class. Got to a meetup. VOLUNTEER (this is a big one that seems to build connections in a special way.) Get out there and do something.
- Use the internet. A perfect example of this is using the dating app BUMBLE, which has a section for making friends. So do it. Reach out. Find a friend. Hang out. I’m in now way endorsing Bumble. It was just an appropriate example of using the internet. As usual, use wisdom when meeting new people.
- Invite people to hang out. Normally it helps if you have a fun activity in mind. Dinner might be awkward if you’re just meeting, but seeing a movie, getting pedicures, playing basketball, shooting a round of pool, or playing tennis might be easy ways to chat with someone without feeling pressure to have an intimate conversation.
- Expand yourself. Don’t get stuck in only doing things you like. That limits your options. Try new things.
- Join leagues/groups/classes. Join the local adult kickball league, attend that meetup event, take that salsa dancing class. Find groups where people naturally come together and laugh or connect. Some are more welcoming of solo attendees and it might even be more expected for a person to come solo.
- Pay attention to social cues. If someone moves away when you’re talking it could be because you’re talking too close, or your breath stinks, or you talk too loud. Address anything that is a tendency but not your personality (because we don’t want to change who we are for the sake of people liking us but we do want to adjust things we aren’t attached to like bad breath for the sake of people feeling comfortable.) If you’re talking and a person looks away for an extended period of time, you may have spent too much time talking about yourself. Ask them a question. Conversation should be equal. If you’re not sure whether you get social cues, ask your trusted friends and family to be honest with you and discuss whether or not you do things that could be off-putting to others.
If you’re struggling to make friends, know you’re not alone. You can talk to an Atlanta counselor if you’re feeling down, need some support, or could use some helpful feedback on what you can do to become more engaged and connected in life.
Life adjustment isn’t always easy. It would be great if there was a magic wand that could make my closes friends appear whenever I want. Sadly, life has transitioned, and I can’t see them every day of my life. In fact, it’s difficult to even see one close friend a month sometimes. That’s why I had to work at building friendships. It’s a great skill to have, even as awkward as it is…