How to make friends (and not get hashtagged #Targetstalker)

Have you seen this yet? Ball Pit Turns Strangers Into Friends

No? Go ahead and click on it. It’s only a few minutes and sooo worth the watch. I’ll wait.

……….. *this is me waiting*………….

Back? Great! What did you think? Amazing huh? Don’t you think we need more ball pits in the world?

I mean making friends when you’re a kid is SO easy. Whether it be a ball pit, playground, sandbox, or lunchroom table at school, making friends as a child pretty much consisted of 3 actions:

1. Make eye contact.

2. Laugh at something together, OR share something with each other, OR like something the other person has/is wearing/etc.

3. BFFs.

Of course there are those special exceptions, like when an adult forces you to be friends aka like how I met my dear friend Meghan way back in once upon a time time (6th grade). Our teacher asked us if we would befriend this poor child who was just a social outcast in our class. I guess she pegged us as the “nice girls” and within moments we were game-planning how we would befriend the girl. Flash forward to 2013 and Meghan and I are still great friends.

Unfortunately, when the school and college days are over, and you’re faced with jobs, relationships, responsibilities and babies, making friends becomes a thousand times more complicated. And I don’t think it’s for lack of trying. It just becomes more of an awkward ordeal than when we were kids. I mean just try going up to that friendly looking individual walking around Target, gripping the same Starbucks drink as you are, and try to drum up a conversation about that stylish lamp in her shopping cart.

Suddenly you’ll be on her Instagram with a hashtag #Targetstalker.

Right now I’m very fortunate to have an awesome group of girlfriends whom I have met over the past few years (yes, as an adult!) that completely have my back, and can laugh with through all of our life adventures. Some of them I met through mutual friends; some through teaching; some I met through blogging; others through Meetups and events; and some through social media & websites! I was lucky enough to never have to follow someone around a grocery store. Yet. ;)

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I’ve seen a lot of talk lately on social media about adult friendships. When the ball pit video was making the rounds, I knew something was definitely up. Maybe it’s more noticeable when you’re in your mid-30′s that making new friends IS quite the feat. Maybe it’s because by the time we’re in our 30′s we’ve lost friends, been hurt, etc. and we know how it could pan out, so we avoid it altogether? Maybe we feel like we just don’t have the time in our busy lives to get to know someone new.

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However, when you realize that good friends are a necessity, you put the work into finding them, and keeping them. Sometimes there’s an instant connection and no work is needed at all. Sometimes you feel the need to give a person an application. (I’ve never done this. Just for the record). ;)

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Here are my tips for meeting new people, and making life long friends. I’m no friendship expert (I’ve had my share of disasters!), but maybe you’ll be able to take something from this post and get out there and mingle!

*Avoid befriending co-workers outside of the job (unless you change companies, then by all means, go for it!). Seriously. All you’ll do is talk shop, and even though you’re in your 30′s, you may still do or say something you don’t want the entire office knowing about. Skip it and talk about how Clint Eastwood’s son makes you sweaty outside of the workplace.

*Join a Meetup group, club, volunteer organization or sports league. Finding others with common interests is the best way to drum up conversations and make connections that will lead to potential long-lasting friendships. Oh, and make sure you talk to people and don’t just stand there like a statue. Smile, make eye contact, crack a joke or two. Otherwise you’ll end up on Instagram, yet again. Hashtag #weirdstatueperson

*Strike up a conversation with someone. I mean, ok, you could totally compliment Target lady about her lamp choice without potentially ending up on Instagram. But it’s necessary to learn how to feel people out. If she says “thanks” and walks away quickly, don’t follow her. If she says “thanks- I think it will go great with the color I just painted my living room”, feel free to proceed with step 2 and ask her about the color. Look for those natural opportunities to extend conversations.

*Use social media to your advantage. Branching out from groups, clubs and Meetups by making connections with your newfound acquaintances on SM platforms. Make sure it’s mutual. For example: after a volunteer day, you might talk about another opportunity you know about and suggest to potential friends that you connect through email or Facebook to talk about the details. If they agree, then they might be open to getting to know you better and participating in more projects with you in the future!

*Keep things no pressure. Friendships should progress naturally. Don’t expect to be BFF’s in a day.

*As relationships evolve from acquaintances to friends, always remember to be reliable, honest, loyal, trustworthy, a good listener and a good friend. What does it mean to be a good friend? It means you have something to bring to the table. Dumping all of your “woe to me’s” onto a person day in and day out is exhausting, and it will push people away. Friendships need a good balance of give and take. Make sure you recognize your own strengths and know what you can contribute.

*Choose your friends wisely. Don’t befriend someone just because. If a friendship becomes unhealthy, stressful or demanding, move on. There is no time for negativity and unhealthy relationships at our age!

*Introduce new friends to your current friends. That’s the easiest (and best) way to build a network of awesome people to surround yourself with!

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Do you find you have trouble making friends as an adult? What are some things that have worked for you? :)

Steph

13 thoughts on “How to make friends (and not get hashtagged #Targetstalker)

  1. Ok.. the ball pit made me cry… what can I say I’m emotional this week.. (don’t ask me why, I have no clue) but, reading what you posted here made me cry even harder.. I’m so very grateful to be among your circle of friends, I appreciate each one of you. You are all special in your own way and I count myself very lucky that I found them late in life and you Steph are the connecting “pit ball” for all of us.

  2. So I did find it hard two years ago moving to a new state and job and definitely only had one or two coworker friends … But then we are military and moved to base and I feel I could write a novel about “friend making”. A few insta friends that are amazing . Lots of support and help when you need it ones…then yeah the drama. Experiencing both ways I will say military life is much different. In a good way no one would call you a stalker for being nice and striking a random convo. ;-)

  3. Is it harder for women, ya think? Some women are so competitive they can’t just be nice and share the love. My daughters are learning that in high school. And meanwhile we’re looking for a deeper connection than just someone to share a beer with. Bromance = easier?

  4. I agree that making friends as an adult is harder. I’ve found a couple of good friends through my church. Though, my best friend lives in Minneapolis. I try to see her at least once a year. We’ve been friends since high school. Social media has really helped too. Sometimes I’ll just post an event I want to attend on Facebook and I’ll end up going with someone who I never really hung out with before. It’s funny that you wrote this post, because it seems so obvious, but clearly it’s a common struggle. I actually just shared this post with a friend of mine who’s in her 30s, single and on the autism spectrum. She was just sharing this very struggle with me on Thursday. I struggle with this too, because I don’t work outside of my home, but I joined a local moms group and started a family book club. I’m hoping to find some last friendships this way. Thanks for putting this post together.

  5. It was so hard to make friends when I moved to Denver. As a telecommuter, I didn’t even get the chance to meet people in the office. When you are younger, you really overlook a lot of differences you may have with people. Getting older, I just don’t compromise on as much as I used to. Meeting people during an interest/activity you have in common is a great idea.

  6. I’m totally the #targetstalker. No shame. My boyfriend thinks it’s weird that I compliment random women on their clothing choices–he says it’s like I’m a 6-year-old. I’ve even made friends on the metro on the way to work. I do agree that some people think it’s odd when a total stranger just randomly starts chatting with them, but I’ve found that being friendly and happy to everyone is a great way to make friends with all different types of people. The other day at work, I saw this woman who seemed to be my “type” of friend walking into the office next to mine. I texted my boyfriend that I’d found a new ‘almost-friend’ and I’m just waiting for the opportunity to compliment her on her sweater in the women’s restroom. Creepy, maybe, but it works every time! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest-let’s be friends!!

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