Making New Friends… as a Grown Up
First, an admission. People scare me. Seriously. I grew up painfully shy, and I’m still ultra-intimidated by the idea of making new friends or talking to new people. But… it’s part of my job, and with the travel that goes along with my lifestyle plus a desire to actually make friends, I’ve had to get over it, as best I could. But the biggest block I’ve run into is the art of making friends now that I’m officially well beyond my college years. Especially moving place to place so frequently!
But lately, I’ve been trying to make friends outside of my normal circle of people. It’s been… tough. But the results have been fantastic—and I fully admit that having an ultra-active lifestyle really helps in this case. It’s way easier to meet like-minded people when you have a specific hobby that you regularly indulge in. So, from one shy person to another, here’s how it’s happening.
One of my closest friends is someone who knew someone who knew someone who I knew. She was visiting the US to race a few years ago, and a friend asked if I could host her for a few race weekends. Since I had taken advantage of host housing in the past, it seemed like good karma, but I was still nervous that we wouldn’t have anything in common and we’d be in for an awkward few weeks. The minute I picked her up at the airport, though, we realized we had more in common than we had imagined (and it turns out she was just as nervous about living with me!). We spent the rest of the season traveling together, and despite the fact that I don’t see her nearly enough now, she’s a close friend.
This has actually been my biggest goal for 2016—in life, in work, in everything! Basically, it seems terrifying being the person who puts herself out there and says hi, or asks someone to coffee, but someone has to do it. And the worst case scenario isn’t really bad… you just don’t get a coffee. I’ve never had someone come back with, “I’m not looking for new friends right now.” Case in point: it’s a minor one, but a few days ago, I was at the pool and after my swim, as I was tying my shoes, I asked the woman next to me a question about the pool. Turns out, she’s also new to town, and we chatted for a while about cool run and ride spots. Now, I have someone to chat to at the pool… And someone to try to keep up with. If the idea of asking someone to hang out is too scary (I get that), opt for that tactic instead: just ask a question.
Ladies Night bike rides have been hugely influential on my friendships as an adult. Thank goodness for cycling! Finding a local ride group—especially one that’s a little niche—is one of the fastest ways to make a few friends, or find new riding buddies. Personally, I like the smaller groups because they force you to interact more, versus a massive group ride where you can easily hide in the pack and avoid conversation. Plus, my MTB skills always improve! (If you don’t know of any riding groups, ask at your local bike shop. Even if there aren’t official ones, a good shop can usually point you towards a few people to try to ride with.)
A side note: there are other groups. Book clubs are another favorite for me!
I admit, this is probably the easiest for me. Between writing for Bicycling mag, writing books, and working on our Consummate Athlete podcast, I have a fairly easy time asking people for informal meet-ups to talk work stuff, especially if it’s around an article. But I think that can work in most fields (even if it’s asking a co-worker you’ve never spent time with to meet over coffee to talk about a new work idea). It’s a relatively low-stress way to test the friendship waters without really putting yourself out there, and if the friendship vibe isn’t there, you’ve still gotten some work benefits out of it. If it is a great meeting, you can then make plans for a non-work hang out.
This one has been the hardest for me, but I think it’s led to the most success for actually developing friendships. As adults, it’s sort of weird to ask if someone wants to hang out. (As kids, “Wanna play?” is much easier. “Want to sleepover?” is much different as an adult…) So, in an attempt to do what scares me, I recently messaged a rad woman I met in a strength training class (we somewhat knew each other but never hung out). It was simple: I asked if she ever wanted company hiking/running/coffee-ing, and two days later, we were sweating our way up a mountain. And—as we got to talking—I found out she was just as nervous about a new hangout as I was.
Instagram ≠ Friendship
I admit, I actually had a hard time finding photos for this piece. And at first, that bummed me out: have I not really been making as many attempts at friendship as I thought? (Pics or it didn’t happen, right…) But then, I realized: just because I didn’t reach for my camera at coffee or on a hike or on a ride doesn’t mean we weren’t having fun. It simply means I didn’t take a picture. Phew.
How do you make friends as a grown-up?