html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: How to make friends.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

How to make friends.

This has come up in a couple different contexts recently, so I’m going to write up my thoughts. I feel strange about parsing something so basic, but also sure that I can make and keep friends. I’m writing this specifically for you, introverted bright person on the internets. You can do this, and it will lead to making real friends that you do things with in person. I’ve already told you how to sleep with them once you get to that point.

First, pre-filter the group from which you’ll be making friends. Look, I’m an extrovert who is delighted by what people do, but even I don’t think that I’ll be friends with all sorts of people. In groups of people from another class or worldview, I get awkward and eventually clam up and feel miserable or bored. But, like people cluster; finding a good cluster will serve you in two ways. As a rule, Ultimate players are educated and good-natured and make exercise a priority. Hey! Me too. It is very rare that I do not like an Ultimate player. By using Ultimate as a screen, I have found a rich vein of people who are likely to be friends, but more importantly, I approach players already inclined to like them. People can tell that I like them from the get-go; things are off to a good start.

My current filters are Ultimate and this blog (I’ve yet to meet a reader I didn’t like; new acquaintances from the blog get all the benefit of your fellow readers’ coolness.). I suspect that I would also like rowers, but haven’t tried. If you’re in college, the college itself is a filter, although maybe not a sufficiently fine one. Maybe bluegrass affiliation is a good one, or gardening. Bike people can go either way, as can martial artists. There must be one for you. Find and trust that filter.

Second, you will have to do things in the presence of other people. I know, internets people. I know. But I mean both parts of that. Doing things is very important, because it takes the pressure off your direct interactions and gives you information about each other. I met Ali at beginners’ clinic. Throwing to each other meant we didn’t have to stammer through small talk; her every move showed that she is game to try stuff and enthusiastic and fun. It doesn’t have to be sports. Cooking, gaming, stuffing envelopes, anything. Doing opens the door to talking.

I also believe that even you, internet shut-in, want physical friends. I know as well as any of you the affection you can develop for pixilated representations of people, but do not fuck around with that indefinitely. Meet those people, watch and attend and interact with them. Do it a few times; enjoy the richness of voice and mannerisms and expressions and quick exchange. I truly understand how you can get just enough through a monitor to keep you almost satisfied. It is just enough to put off paying the upfront costs of meeting real people. But it is not enough to feed your need for physical friends. I now believe that socializing predominately through the internets is a slow starvation.

Third, you have to offer something of yourself to people you meet. Yes, of course, attentive listening to other people, be interested in who they are, you don’t want to give offense. But honestly, small talk is like sliding down a cliff of sheetglass, desperately reaching for a crag or niche to grab. Give the other person some purchase, an opinion to disagree with, a piece of gossip, some critical thought to evaluate, an emotion to share. Offer something genuine, with some heft. (Coalminer is spectacular at finding conversation and putting people at ease; she told me that she has learned to swear and drink early on, says it relaxes people. She is also fearless about dropping hard truths. I couldn’t pull it off as well as she does.) Listen for and respond to their offerings.

I so hope this is useless advice for you; that you have people you call and meet for fun. But if you have been wanting friends, this is how you make them. Find your filter, so you are meeting people you are predisposed to like. Do things, in the presence of people. Offer something real to them. You can do this. I know you can.

41 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What brought this on?

Anyway, rock climbing is the most social sport I've ever participated in. I meet tons of people really fast. It's so easy, you spend at least half your time just standing on the ground, and people like to help and offer advice.

Unlike say, basketball which is pretty much non-stop action, not a lot of chance for getting to know anyone. I meet people skiing, but that's usually just for the lift ride, even if you're skiing the same area, I rarely ever met anyone I ended up knowing for more than the day. I never found biking to be very social, or running, or any of the other millions of things I've been involved in.

I've heard team in training is a great way to meet people, but I've never tried it. College was definitely a great place to meet people, you'll never have that many people so much like you concentrated in 1 small area again.

Whatever
Justin

1:50 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Other people telling me that they need friends, but that it is different for me because I'm an extrovert. Then I googled "How to make friends" and found mostly vague instructions about listening and being nice, which is also good advice.

I like your suggestions for filters.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll agree with board gaming as a good way to meet people and relieve small talk. If you're picking that path, here's some advice:
a) Pick games that play out quickly-- an hour normally, no more than an hour and a half including teaching time. Two short games is much better than one long one.
b) Party games are excellent; you can give and get a strong sense of personality/ humor/ simpatico if your answers tickle other people. Usually your choices are constrained, so you can pretend that your risque offerings were just what you had in hand.
c) Games should offer interesting choices and constraints-- roll a die and move X squares is not a good board game. Still, having elements of luck give good deniability for both victory and defeat.
d) Settlers of Catan almost always works (for 3-4 people). Apples to Apples is good for a larger setting (4+ people); San Juan works well for 2-4 players.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a predisposition to consultants. And ex-engineers. I am both.

Other like-me filters fail though. Anything based on ethnicity leaves me feeling awkwardly out of touch. Other 1st generation Americans seem to bond together in a way I don't understand. I feel like my university might serve as a negative filter. Other libertarians strike me as occasionally ruthless and often out of touch. PhD students often have no idea where I am coming from as an older student.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are gender-related differences too; in my experience it seems as if women have a much easier time than men when it comes to making strong lasting friendships.

Peter

I'm posting from a PDA and it's too much trouble to link to my blog

4:47 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Bob V.:
I've always used activities that reflect the choices of the participants (playing ultimate, reading the blog); I don't think I could name a group that would be a reliable enough filter to favorably dispose me to all new members.

5:01 PM  
Blogger jens said...

Excellent non-board party game for small groups:

Guesser (either blindfolded or at least with no clear view behind) bends over chair.

Other participants take turns swatting guesser's butt...they must be otherwise silent. For each swat, guesser tries to identify spanker.

First spanker to be correctly identified gets to be next guesser.

No fair for the guesser to try to draw things out by naming people not actually present!

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan,
Sorta OT, but is there some reason why you call it Ultimate rather than Ultimate Frisbee? I always thought the latter was the correct name.

Peter

6:57 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Peter,

Frisbee is a registered trademark for a specific brand of flying disc that is often not the one used. Back when I played a lot of DISC golf, if one were to use the term frisbee golf, one was gently corrected.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Ultimate organizations actually asked the company for permission to use the word "frisbee" and got refused. That was a poor decision on someone's part, 'cause we're still sulking. I usually say disc, although Whammo has gotten a Frisbee officially authorized by the Ultimate Player's Association, so I suppose frisbee is accurate again.

Discraft discs have a softer rim and slightly more rounded crown; anyone who's played for any time at all would detect the difference in shape and flight within a second of catching a Whammo.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It also helps to live in a city where there isn't a great demographic hole where you're at. For the last two years I've lived in small towns where there isn't a ton of twenty-somethings around to socialize with.

Anyway, rock climbing is the most social sport I've ever participated in. I meet tons of people really fast. It's so easy, you spend at least half your time just standing on the ground, and people like to help and offer advice.

Eh. For me, climbing is about spending half your time on some airy
belay ledge admiring the view.

Steven

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well your idea about friendship is pretty interesting ....i feel love , trust and affection are the foundation of the sweetest relationship round the world...to share some more views do drop by My Friendship blog sometime...and let me know what u think...!!!

3:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jock.

4:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does this make me sound like Dorothy questioning the Mighty Oz?:)

Sorry Megan, couldn't stop laughing at your latest "how to.."

Reminded me of the lines in Gaddis: "..Books on how to be happy, how to obtain peace of mind, how to win friends and influence people, how to breathe, how to achieve cheap sentimental humanism at other people's expense, how to become a Chinaman like Lin Yutang and make a lot of money, how to be a Baha'i or breed chickens all sell in the millions. "

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing that's absolute true is the fact that college is an absolutely superb opportunity for making lasting friendships. You're mixed in with people of similar age and many common interests. Nothing else comes remotely close. College friendships can - should - last a lifetime and in some cases may end up helping you in your career.

I would imagine that most readers of this blog are past their college years, but if anyone is still in college I'll offer this advice: do not blow the opportunity to make quality friendships. If you fail, you will regret it until they nail your coffin shut.

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

7:17 AM  
Anonymous bill said...

Agree about climbing. Belayers at popular cliffs/gyms are often looking to chat.
Tennis/ladder sports can be good too, although I tend to clam up when I'm playing singles. Doubles can be very social.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*sigh*

I guess I'm going to have to speak up for your (presumably) intended audience and explain how condescending this post sounds.

For some people (like me, who scored in the 30's on this test), social occasions are hard, unpleasant work. After a couple hours of trying to remember all of the little rules I'm supposed to follow, I'm exhausted.

And it's not like you can just do a handful of events, make some friends, and you're done. Maintaining friendships is work, too. If, on any given day, you would rather be doing something alone than with a group, that kind of investment is hard to make.

So to have someone tell me how *easy* it is if I'd just follow these simple rules -- the combination of how convinced you are that your advice is correct, and how deeply you've misunderstood the group you're addressing is breathtaking.

-dex

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some people (like me, who scored in the 30's on this test), social occasions are hard, unpleasant work. After a couple hours of trying to remember all of the little rules I'm supposed to follow, I'm exhausted.

I've seen that test before. It actually seems more sensible and useful than most of these pop psychology tests you find in magazines and on the web. One drawback is that it's generally pretty obvious what answers will give you high or low scores on the autism scale, therefore creating an opportunity for manipulation - unless the idea is that people who really are autistic wouldn't be able to manipulate their scores.

By the way, I scored a 20, which is close to normal. I generally get along well at social occasions, it's getting invited to such occasions that's the hard part!

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

8:59 AM  
Anonymous fasolamatt said...

Most of the activities described here in comment world are athletic endeavors, and I agree with a lot of the points made (esp. the first comment about basketball). Physical activities are good; but if your physical activity of choice (mine is climbing stairs) doesn't lend itself to socializing, here are a couple of suggestions:

Community singing. I sing with my local Sacred Harp community. No rehearsals, no performances, just a bunch of people who get together to sing. Sacred Harp is especially good since it's so loud, no one cares how off-key you are.

Community activism. Join your local community council, or show up at the local school board (or water authority!) meeting.

Have kids. Then hang out at the playground.

cheers! fasolamatt

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to agree with Dex. Googling to find "how to make friends" is hilarious.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Whammo frisbees suck. And it's true that I can tell if I have one in my hand within seconds of catching it.
2) I am an introvert. I used to be severely shy and I had trouble calling people if I needed something (as in picking up the phone and ordering pizza) or asking people questions in department stores (where do you find the socks?).
At any rate, I had very few friends and I did hang out a lot chatting on the internet. And I agree with Megan that it is a slow starvation. I finally got away and LEARNED how to be social and make friends (I remember saying to myself that if I couldn't stop being this shy, then I would be limiting myself in the future). It doesn't mean I am not exhausted at the end of a social gathering, but it means I enjoy it more. This is how I did it: Practice practice practice!
Put yourself in the social situation that makes you uncomfortable! Keep doing it! Eventually, it will get better. You'll meet more people, you'll get more comfortable with these people, and voila! You've got a group you can hang out with and be comfortable and other situations with STRANGERS aren't nearly as scary.
My two cents,
Mel

9:56 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

But Dex...

I don't think those are fair characterizations of my post, or at least my attitude behind the post. I'm going to defend it, which I really hate doing, because what I wrote should be sufficient, then I'm gonna go write up another tangent you reminded me of.

1. I know it sounded condescending, and I said up front that I felt awkward writing it. But I've also had several conversations with people who say that making friends is mystifying.

Social occasions are hard, unpleasant work for me too, when I'm not with my people. I bomb miserably in lots of situations. But I meant for the approach I outlined to be free of little rules. Find your people, do things so that interacting is easier, be genuine. Since people wear you out, pace yourself. I do believe though, that most people want physical friends in some quantity, and I've been talking to people who want more than they have.

Maintaining friendships is work, and I'll save that for my tangent.

Dex, honest. I never said anything about *easy*, although believe 1. the way I outlined is easier than other approaches (approaching strangers with little background information? memorizing opening lines? hard) and 2. it works. It is what most people default to without realizing. I was only making explicit what people with friends do, for the benefit of people who tell me they don't understand.

Billo:
Be compassionate. You would be shocked at the queries that bring people here. Lots of people just type their pain into a search engine and it isn't hilarious. It is heartbreaking.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Mel:
I love the people who catch one, then instantly drop it in disgust. WTF is that?

Aw sugar, you've come so far. You teach Ultimate clinics to strangers, and jump on the bed at parties, and tell us the monk joke, and give the best hugs ever. I would never have guessed you were once too shy to ask clerks for help.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan, I have nothing but compassion for the people who suffer and who are lonely and/or find it difficult making friends.
The joke -the tragic joke as you rightly point out-is the belief that things can be solved so easily, that someone can read a book about how to make friends and then do so .


Perhaps we just differ in approaches. I feel extremely lucky that I have, and have had, some great friends and do not think it has much to do with me or what I "do" or whether I'm an "extrovert" or not.


There was certainly no intention to make fun of anyone -except you, of course :)

Keep well.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Community activism. Join your local community council, or show up at the local school board (or water authority!) meeting.

In my somewhat limited experience, a good percentage of the people who are involved in community activism have axes to grind or their own agendas to push, and may not be the sort of people with whom you'd want to socialize.

As for group sports activities, I am compelled to mention (as I have already done elsewhere) that finding any such activities is like finding a needle in a haystack. I live in a densely populated suburban area that is absolutely chock-full of organized sports activities for children but offers almost nothing for adults. In the very few adult basketball or baseball leagues that exist, "adult" really means "a couple of years out of high school." If you're over age 30, especially if you're a man, your entire scope of "athletic" activity is expected to involve changing channels on the TV remote and an occasional round of God-damned cartball :(((

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, Peter, climbing. It's non-competitive. I'm 29, I climb with people from say about 16 years old, all the way up to somewhere in their 60s.

I climb with people of all skill levels, from very first day at the gym, to people who can lead 5.13a, which is much better than me.

I talk to everyone in the bouldering room. I offer advice to people I'm better than, and the people better than me help me out from time to time.

I'm sure there's a gym near you in New York. I know there's outdoor climbing around there as well.

And, to be clear, I was saying basketball is NOT a good sport for socializing. You never talk to the people you're playing with, you just go from game to game, then when you're done everyone wants to go home. It's a very antisocial sport, I find. Neither is skiing, or biking, or most anything else I've ever participated in. I might end up with friends for that activity, but not people I hang out with outside of the activity, like has happened with climbing.

The people I climb with want to go do other things, bars, clubs, shows, camping, hiking, skiing, etc etc etc....

Anyway
Justin

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, to be clear, I was saying basketball is NOT a good sport for socializing. You never talk to the people you're playing with, you just go from game to game, then when you're done everyone wants to go home. It's a very antisocial sport, I find.

I suppose that makes sense.

One interesting thing I've noticed at the gym where I go is that people are much more social and talkative in the boxing area than in the weights area. It's funny because for the most part they're the same people, there seems to be an unwritten rule that you speak little if at all to other people (except for those you know well) when you're doing weights, but can chatter away all you want with the very same people when you're working on the speed bags and heavy bags. I can't begin to explain why.

As for climbing, there's a climbing center about ten minutes away from me, I'll have to check it out sometime. The nearest outdoor climbing is at least a couple hours away.

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

1:32 PM  
Blogger jens said...

Neither is skiing?

For goodness sakes, you are not going to talk much while jumping the moguls, but have you ever shared a 10 minute skilift ride with another person?

I've had some pretty deep conversations while skiing.

(For reference, I scored a 16 on the Dex test...exactly average)

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Community activism. Join your local community council, or show up at the local school board (or water authority!) meeting.

If your target is people 50+, and pissed off about something, I guess this might be a good idea. And as far as entertainment potential, government meetings are on par with regrouting the tub at 3 a.m.

The most important factor to making friends is finding other people who are also looking for friends. If they're not, no shared interest is going to help.

And someone's got to say it, so I'll be blunt: Sports (like Ultimate) are just about the only "general admission" activity that still selects for youth, sociability, and a basic fitness level. The activities Megan does sound like they're affiliated in some way with grad school or at least post-grad-educated people, so there's another screener. It's not just about loving Ultimate. Activities that do not select for those things (like volunteering and cooking classes) you'll see a much, much wider variation in participants, and possibly no Ultimate-type people at all. (OK, I lied, that's not very blunt, I'm bending over backward to be tactful.) Lots of retirees, for example.

I've found that volunteer activities that are social are also often cliquish. People join up with a group of people they're already friends with, and can be kind of cold to outsiders. It's a mistake to assume that anything charitable is full of nice people. In fact, some of the worst people I know work for, or are heavily involved with, non-profits.

And as Justin pointed out, a lot of physical activities really don't lend themselves to socializing outside the activity. Competitive team sports are the main exception, and they're not for everyone.

I agree that the Internet is not the best place to socialize. It's the best place to fight though.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(P.S. For reference, 17 on dex's autism test, just about average. So if I've got a problem that's not it.)

2:35 PM  
Blogger Pandax said...

How the heck do you all find time to post during work hours?;)

I always thought people were just being lazy in calling it "Ultimate" because it was such a mouthful. I learned something today.

College (undergrad and grad) is definitely a key place to make friends. Alas, I figure that out about two years after I graduated.

I have to put in my vote for "Apples to Apples." That game can be quite entertaining, especially if a minority of the people play with a skewed or contra view of things.

Two things to remember about making friends, especially as we get older: it takes time and effort. Be patient and go participate with the same group a couple times. If you find someone with a similar interest, see if they'll join you next time. I met a gal at a party and we both were looking for golf buddies and like to hike. We're pretty good friends now.

I still need to get better about following up with people I meet. I won't always happen, but I know it can.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been skiing for over 20 years now. For awhile I was going almost every day in the winter.

Skiing just doesn't turn out to be social, in fact, it turns out to be very anti social, even if you go with friends, often you end up seperating.

And, yes, you can meet, and talk to people on the lift. But, like I said, even if you tend to be skiing the same area, and even if you end up on the same lift a couple of times, it's kind of an awkward conversation, generally about the conditions, and where you're from, and that kind of stuff. But, it's been very rare that I've really gotten to know any of the people I met skiing. Just people I recognize from time to time.

Justin

3:39 PM  
Blogger jens said...

You are right, Justin, about skiing being lousy for meeting people...never met anybody on a lift I have met again.

I was saying it was not antisocial in that it is a fun thing to do with people at your level whom you've already met. Or meeting a friend of a friend, in which case you probably share the lift only AFTER you've already shared the drive to the mountain.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay for the monk joke! Megan, you're probably the only person who has heard it more than once and STILL LIKES IT (except for me of course, but I have the advantage of being the teller and being able to observe others reactions!)! I think we should create some sort of patience/intelligence scale based on Monk Joke tolerance (Excel charts, here we come!). ;)
-Mel

1:52 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Mel, sugar:
I TELL the Monk Joke. Yes I do. Your telling is funnier, because you are braver, but I love the Monk Joke.

10:27 PM  
Blogger jens said...

If you were telling this "Monk joke" to a REAL monk, would you have to modify it slightly for it still to work?

If so, I think I know the joke you mean....

8:30 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Jens:
Yeah. I actually have a friend who is a real monk, and I've already thought through the modification, and am just waiting to tell it to him.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make me so proud Grasshopper! :)

-Mel

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan-

I apologize for being...less tactful and polite than I could have been. Your post just came off the wrong way to me, and I have a hard time explaining that when I'm upset.

A very (The most?) frustrating thing about being introverted is the common presumption by extroverts that there must something wrong with me. Your original post had elements of that in in, even though you were writing with the best of intentions.

-dex

3:54 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

Anonamous Justin:

The corollary to Megn's no.3 is that you have to demand good conversation of other people. Instead of asking an easy followup question about conditions, ask a personal question. The reason out of college meetings are harder is that you don't have endless swaths of time living together to eventually start having less trite conversations. you have to activly have them, even if it involves temporary awk at the breaking of social conventions (like, 'don't be friendly with people' or 'don't say anything meaningful' or 'don't, god forbid, become friends'.)

still, i'd probably try to meet people in the chalet when i'm having weiners and brews than the 10 minute chair lift.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I scored a 44 on that test. While I may not be any nearer to making friends with anyone, I think I'd still like to know what the monk joke is.

I got here by googling 'how to make friends if you have autism.' It never occurred to me that it was funny or tragic. Why can't I learn how to do it by reading about it? I've learned lots of things by reading about them.

9:45 PM  

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