Every time we move to a new place, we’re confronted with the challenge of making new friends. Going out of your way to meet people, keeping up a conversation, all to come home to self-doubt that maybe you’ll never make lasting friendships.
We think it’s challenging to make friends as an adult. It requires a bit of strategy that we maybe didn’t anticipate, but once we have certain mindsets down … it becomes a little bit easier.
Whether you’re a people person or not, connecting with a community is integral to your sense of belonging. And this applies even in places that won’t be your forever home.
Even six months or three months, it’s a long time to be miserable, and we can do concrete things for ourselves to make ourselves happier.
Let’s break down how we should approach adult friendships – and ways you can be more intentional about making meaningful connections.
Get the word out
Get yourself out there, even before your move. Alert your network: Tell your friends, family and co-workers that you’re moving and looking to meet new people. Make sure to communicate what kind of connections you’re looking for, like someone to show you around town or another parent with school-aged kids.
It’s not likely that you’ll instantly hit it off and become best friends with everyone. But that’s OK! You’re just trying to get to know people and your new home.
You can also use this time to do research. If you have certain comfort places, like your go-to bookstore or coffee shop, look up if they have other branches or sister locations in your new neighborhood. There’s also a good chance you’ll find similar community groups like volunteer organizations or sports clubs that could offer a sense of familiarity. When you go and you already have a place to plug in to, that feels like a natural flow or extension of your hometown.
Reconnect with old friends
Maybe you’re moving to a place where you know some people — like old friends, neighbors or co-workers. We tend to think that it’s going to be so awkward to reach out, but the average person is happy to hear from you. They’re happy to be reconnected. You just have to own it.
Say you’re planning coffee with a friend from your hometown. You’re freaking out, overthinking what to do and what relatable things to talk about. Don’t fret! Here are two tips for rekindling friendships:
- First acknowledge that gap in time and that you haven’t been the best at keeping in touch. Something like, “Hey, so sorry it’s been over a year since we last talked.” Get that out first.
- Then make specific plans for catching up and include the duration because it lets people know how long to charge their social battery for.
Once you’ve met up in person, it’s just as important to follow up. Keep that momentum going by bringing up whatever topics that came up in your chat. Maybe you send an article on the best hiking spots in town, or share that TikTok you mentioned but couldn’t find on the spot.
Incorporate more routine into your day
Setting time aside for activities, communities or places you love can help you feel more at home. Do you go on a run every morning? Try running at the same park for a week. Or go back to that restaurant around the block at least once a month. Soon you might start noticing people in your neighborhood, who Bayard Jackson calls “familiar strangers.”
With routine, you’re seeing the same faces and it becomes less intimidating to ask a question because you see them all the time. And it will ultimately help you develop a sense of “at-homeness.
This could also look like finding a “third place” for yourself that isn’t home or work – like a bar where the bartender knows your order, or a library with a book selection you like. Research suggests these casual social ties, however small, play an important part in our well-being.
Scope out interest groups
Group settings like interest or identity-based communities are also helpful for meeting new people. Nowadays, you can find most of them online — for food, sports, pets, parenting or religion, just to name a few.
You could also use your move as an opportunity to try things that you’ve been meaning to get around to for years. That way, you can associate the city with the good memory of you excitedly being curious about trying something new.
If you’re looking for a safe bet for having easier but meaningful conversations, I recommend book clubs, where everyone reads the same book. Plus, they have recurring meetings, so you can avoid the awkward ask for a follow-up hangout.
You may be tempted to bail after your first meeting, but for recurring interest groups, it’s crucial to commit to showing up more than once, because it changes the way you engage with new people, like “you’re almost auditioning them.
So I often challenge my clients to go three times to an event before they make up their mind, because this allows you to say, ‘Oh, you mentioned that your dog was sick last month. How are things going with that?’ And it gives us a chance to build a relationship.
Focus on the connection, not the friendship
To help yourself be present and to not put so much pressure on things, try to focus on being connected in the moment as opposed to maybe obsessing about what this might turn into.
Especially when you’re new in town, you may feel shy or even intimidated to share your true self, like your favorite music, cuisine or weekend activities. But being open and honest is key to adult friendships.
You’ll find your people more quickly if you lean into the things that make you different or that you think are quirky interests. Laying that up, as you allow yourself to be the new kid, is one way to really attract people.
From there, you might plan your next hangout to do something you both enjoy or get names of other people you could reach out to. If you don’t feel comfortable sending cold messages. Lean on the “super connectors”; the people who know everyone and want to introduce you to those people.
“Superconnectors” are especially helpful for anyone who identifies as an introvert, and if that’s you, here are two more tips:
- Only say yes to the invites that you know will bring you joy. Go to the art museum with your work friend to check out that exhibit you’ve been meaning to see anyway. Or if you know a few people who are going to a potluck, it might be nice to tag along.
- Focus your energy on one-on-one interactions. It’s not about how many people you interact with; it’s about finding the one you connect with.
Introverts will go to a party and sit on the couch and talk to the same person for 45 minutes, but maybe leave feeling more connected than the extrovert who made it their mission to work the room.
Friendships are often out of our control, especially when new to a place. But sometimes, we’re met with magical moments where we find connections that grow over time. So feel it out and be open.
It may take a second, but before you know it, you’ll find your comfort places in town, run into familiar strangers, and invite new friends to join anywhere you are.