Making new friends is not an easy thing, especially as adults.
It is amazing how when we were kids it was simple as finding a new kid on the playground and asking them if they wanted to be friends with you, and poof, you made one. This was how I met my best friend from childhood. We met, and just decided that we were going to be friends and we were basically inseparable after that.
But as adults the world is not as simple. It becomes harder to make friends. Some of these reasons are obvious such as relocation, new jobs, getting married, having kids (personally I’m seeing friends start to fade out because of those last 2 reasons in particular).
So how do we adjust?
First we have to accept that a social circle is a dynamic group, not static. It will constantly be changing and evolving. People will come and go from the group for a variety of reasons. But there are certain key activities that we should look to master if we want to create the ever-growing, dynamic social group of high quality people that we desire.
I have found five crucial skills to practice to achieve this goal.
1) Recruiting New Members
As an entrepreneur one of my number one goals is to always to keep my sales pipeline full of potential clients. There will be plenty of people who appear to be a good fit for me who end up fizzling out and nothing happens. But the key to having multiple sales/successes is to always keep the sales pipeline flowing. You find the quality out of quantity.
The same can be said for your ability to generate awesome people to join your social circle.
We need to always be looking for new members, because a successfully dynamic social circle is will always be changing. Life will make people come and go (leave the state for new jobs, girlfriends/wives who hate you etc.) So we always need to be looking for new people you like to spend time with.
We can never get stagnant. A static social group means that you are not giving yourself the chance to meet new people and that you are stunting your own personal growth. So be sure to always give yourself chances to meet new people. It does not have to be a daily occurrence, but attend some events you would like to go to, as just doing it once in a while can have surprising results.
2. Following-Up With Potential Members
Most people think that follow-up is not a skill. But I disagree. The art of the follow up is where most friendships are built. But far too many people do not use this skill when trying to make new friends.
This is a critical mistake that many of us make. Even just reaching out one time after an event is problematic. Think of it like sales, when most success comes after the FIFTH connection, you will miss out on many opportunities by not contacting these people after meeting them.
(NOTE: I am not advocating texting/calling/messaging/emailing someone 37 times…respect their personal space).
Meeting awesome people is great. But the key to getting them into your social circle is more than just meeting them, it’s about staying in touch with them after that initial encounter and developing that connection. It also provides a point of contact to be able to invite them out to future events.
The good news is it has never been easier to stay in touch with people. Vehicles like social media (particularly Facebook) or texting allow you to have almost instantaneous contact with them.
After meeting them, and if you decide they are a potential candidate for your social circle, get their contact information so you can reach out to them later.
Then keep it simple, try inviting them out to meet you for a beer after work so you can get to know them, it can also help to bring someone from a prospective member to a full-fledged member of your circle. Sometimes this won’t even be necessary as after some events (especially adult sports leagues) going out to grab a beer is basically considered to be a part of the event itself.
3. Strong Conversational Skills & Storytelling
Think about when you hang out with your friends.
Most of the time what do you remember when discussion things with friends?
It is unlikely to be the random facts and tidbits, but rather the amazing stories that you share with each other. It could be as silly to the time your college roommate stripped down to his boxers in the middle of downtown on a cold February night, to as serious as a crushing business failure that made your friend question his entire existence (I’ve witnessed both of these). Either way, those stories are what really stood out to you, and the best part is that it works the same for most other people as well.
Having those stories makes people remember you and other members of the group. It gives them chances to relate to you and have a chance to add more to the conversation, or even share their own story, creating some awesome “shared experience” moments. This is a powerful psychological tool that will make you appear to be more charismatic to the person of your shared experiences.
Practice your storytelling, see how they work with friends. Try changing the delivery, or giving more or less information. Storytelling is a skill, it can be learned and practiced, so perfect your craft and notice how people react.
4. Active Listening
You want to know how to really separate yourself from everyone else?
I mean really listen to what someone is saying.
For most people, “listening” is just downtime for them to think about what they are going to say next. This is a waste of time as you cannot develop a strong conversational “flow” while ignoring what the other person is saying.
Instead, focus on actually being present in the conversation, listening to what they have to say and being able to give something back that related to what they said. A story, a shared experience, or maybe just more questions because they’re talking about something you’ve never done before and you are curious to know more.
By showing you’re listening you make them feel important and respected. Things that will make them WANT to be a part of your social circle.
But active listening is more than simply paying attention. It is asking questions, making them feel like they are the most interesting person. I recommend using what my friend Felicia Spahr calls the “child-like wonder” technique.
That means more than a simple nod of your head or a “yep” or “mhmm.” If they’re talking about something important to them you’re asking “why?” multiples times to really dig down into it. You’re not bouncing around to different topics, you really hone in and get deep into what they are talking about. They become interesting because you are legitimately interested.
What if the person is telling a story?
Then you can still use the technique. Think about how a child acts when you tell them a story. They never sit there passively. They are always asking “What happened next?” or they’re reacting to the big points in the story. When you tell them a story they are locked into you and are dying to hear the ending.
How do you think someone would react to that if you were that excited about the story that they are obviously excited to tell you (or they wouldn’t be sharing it!)?
5. Continuous Self-Improvement
Remember always be generating new prospects from #1?
You should also always be learning.
Read new books, take new courses, and try new things. This will help you for two reasons.
First, by implements what you are reading, you will grow and become a better person. This will make you a more attractive person for them to have in their social group.
Second, you will be a much more interesting person. Having new skills or experiences to share are exciting and you will continue to have new things to talk about.
How do you do this?
a) Turn your car into a rolling classroom.
Most of us spend hours each week making the drive to and from work. While it can be fun to listen to music or a morning talk show, that time would be better spent listening to audio books or podcasts. Even a half hour commute can get you five hours of listening per week, that can be a book per week just on your commute.
b) Book specific time to learn something new
Whether it’s an in-person class, an online course or just setting aside some time to read before bed, schedule in some time each day for personal development. Just 20 minutes per day would give you another two hours per week. If you combined that with your new rolling classroom, you have just built in seven hours of development in only 20 minutes of usable time per day.
c) Join a class
There are always local classes being taught that can teach you new things. From painting to cooking are an abundance of options. Try just one new class once a month. First, you will learn something interesting that you can share with others. Second, you are likely to be able to find new friends (skill #1) in the class.
Having a world class social circle is not something that is going to fall out of the sky, but it also does not require doing anything difficult. By using these skills, you will give yourself a significant advantage over the average person. You will become more attractive to those people you are looking to meet and also give yourself a chance to improve your relationship with your current friends.
What I want you to do, is to try and improve in just ONE of these areas at a time. It could be as simple as starting to read one book a month (or one more than you are already reading). But just start improving in one area before moving on to the next one, and then another one. Before you know it you will have made progress in all five areas and will be seeing results because of it.