10 Fun, Practically Free Ways to Make New Friends

by Anna Newell Jones on 28 September 2012 1 comment
Photo: gregor_y

Want to meet new people? The easiest and most important element is to just be “out there.” Be active and be open! Don’t be picky, and be willing to hang out with everyone. A good rule to follow is to say “yes” to every invite (well, except the sketchy ones).

Need some more specific ideas? Try these 10 ways to help meet new people. (See also: Why Cultivating Relationships Is Good for You)

1. Walk Your Dog (or Someone Else’s Dog)

People love dogs, and they are a great conversation starter. Have a puppy? That’s even better!

2. Hang Out With Your Kids (or Babysit Someone Else’s Kid)

Like dogs and puppies, kids are great conversation starters. Join a parent group to meet other people who are in the same phase of life as you.

3. Get Tattoos (or Hang Out With Someone Who Has a Lot of Them)

My husband has a lot of tattoos on his arms and legs, so when he wears lots of tank tops and shorts during the summer, he gets asked about his tattoos pretty much non-stop. After puppies and kids, tattoos are one of the best conversation starters. Everyone wants to know what the tattoos are all about, what they mean, who did them, etc. Since I’m hanging out with my husband when people are asking him about his tattoos, I get to meet a ton of people too.

4. Be the Photographer

Volunteer to be the photographer at an event. Having a camera in your hand helps to keep nervous fidgeting to a minimum, plus it gives you something to do and an obvious reason to talk to people. Asking “can I take your picture?” is a great way to start talking to someone. Give the person your business card, and tell them they can contact you to see the images from the event so you have a reason to connect after the event.

5. Put a Bowl of Candy at Your Desk

Have a job in a brand-new city, or have you moved to a new position within the same company? Whether you’ve been at a company for a long or short amount of time, placing a bowl of candy out at your desk is a great way to meet new people. To meet even more people, set out chocolate. Most people will feel weird to just take candy and run, so they’ll make small talk, and you’ll get to connect with people you might not normally have met. Moral of the story — chocolate is people bait.

6. Have a Stand-Out Look

Do you own bright red sunglasses, a huge scarf, or quirky shoes? Do you have a huge beard, curly mustache, or glistening bald head? Do you wear hot pink lipstick? Anything that makes you stand out from the bunch will be a great conversation starter and will help to make you memorable.

7. Host a Potluck

Have your friends bring not only something to eat or drink, but a new person too.

8. Talk to the Person Who Is Alone

This one gets you major karma points and maybe a new friend in the process. Maybe the person standing by themselves feels even more awkward than you, and maybe they would like a new friend too. Everyone appreciates it when someone else strikes up the conversation first.

9. Get on the Bus

Commiserate about your mutual disdain for public transportation, or ask them about the book they’re reading or where they are headed. You’re stuck in a small amount of space for at least a few blocks, so pass the time with some small talk and maybe make a new friend in the process.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

10. Through Social Media

While social media is called “social media,” how many people have you actually met through this medium? It just might be time to start making the most of all those online hours. Strike up conversations with people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr. Utilize sites like Meetup and make use of apps like FourSquare and Highlight to meet people nearby.

So now that you know where to meet all these new people, how do you become a good friend to keep these new people around? Remember these things:

  • Smile, and don’t cross your arms in front of yourself. These two things will make you look approachable and friendly.
     
  • Laugh easily, and let your guard down enough to be silly. People who take themselves too seriously can be a drag. Don’t be a drag. 
     
  • If someone acts like they like you, they probably do! Initiate hang-outs by saying, “Hey, if you ever want to get together let me know. Here’s my number.”
     
  • Don’t bring up controversial topics right away. Or go for it, and you just might become friends because you both hate the same things — it’s possible!
     
  • Be thoughtful. Remember what people say and refer back to it. People like knowing they were listened to, and this brings us to the next tip on the list... 
     
  • Really listen to people and ask them about themselves. Talk more about the other person than about yourself. This is a tried-and-true technique! Ask open-ended questions; ones that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer. But don’t be a pest. If the other person is giving you the “I don’t want to talk to you” vibe, then don’t be a Pushy Sue just because you want a new friend.
     
  • Have the goal of making people feel better about themselves after they talk to you than they did before. Be careful to not be a suck-up or brown-noser, though, because that would be obvious and weird. There is a fine line, so be aware of it.
     
  • Read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. This is a solid and classic book that is completely stuffed with great tips on how to make and keep friends. 

How do you make friends, and where do you meet new people?

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Rez

I like going to sporting events. In my area, I prefer to go to soccer matches and I found that joining a supporters group not only introduces you to new people, but you right away like the same thing(s).