How To Make Friends Without Being Annoying Or Awkward

Photo: DAmiano Buffo/Shutterstock
group of friends smiling for a selfie

Let me start with a personal story. Back in 2013, I made a conscious decision to deprioritize the majority of my friendships and focus primarily on creating value for my readers. I also left my country, which had an immediate isolating effect.

I would go months without seeing certain friends. When I did socialize with select people, I would be distracted because I would feel guilty for not working. I rarely extended to my friends and often made them reach out to me before we would hang out.

After utilizing this strategy for several years, I had a readership of over a million monthly readers and only a small handful of good friends. As this trend continued, I eventually felt extremely isolated and alone.

And the worst part was I knew that it had been my choices that had gotten me there. I had constructed an ivory tower of isolation. I had a successful business, but it felt empty because I had no close confidantes to share my successes with.

I reached a breaking point with my aloneness in 2016 and made it my primary focus to invest in friendships and community. Now, I can honestly say that I currently have the most fulfilling sense of community around me that I’ve ever had.

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I wake up every day with offers to do multiple things, and I know that there are at least a dozen people who have my back and know and see the beauty of my heart. And I return these same sentiments for them. The interconnectedness between my tribe and me keeps me afloat during challenging times, and they give joy and a sense of buoyancy to my daily life.

But getting to this place didn’t happen overnight.

Social ties are the primary predictor of happiness.

As a society, we are getting increasingly lonely. In a 1985 study, the average person stated that they had three close confidantes (people that they felt knew their lives intimately). The same study was done again in 2004, and the most common response to the same question was zero. So if you’re feeling lonely, you aren’t alone in your feelings of aloneness.

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These days, we are more connected in a superficial way, but we are lacking in deeper connections. And it’s primarily these deeper connections where we get the health and happiness benefits that come from our social ties.

I get a question every week along the lines of “I’m XX years old... and I don’t have any friends. How do I go about making friends as an adult?” If you’ve struggled with this problem in the past, or you’re struggling with it today, the following seven tips could add years to your life.

One study showed that an absence of friends is, to your health, akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social connections are the highest predictor of our overall happiness (70 percent) and levels of financial success.

It used to be so easy to make friends when you were still in school and your social circle was pre-built around you. But if you’re older now and you don’t particularly love your co-workers, how do you go about it?

How to make friends without being annoying or awkward

1. Reconnect, or go deeper, with your existing friendships.

Chances are you have some friends that you used to be closer with, who still live in the same city as you. Re-engage these friendships by extending them to a few of your favorite people. Phone them up and tell them that you miss them. Ask them out for a walk or a meal. Do whatever you used to do together, and allow your relationship to flourish again.

Only do this if you enjoyed their company and not just to have any sense of social connection. If your old friends used to drag you down, then there’s no shame in allowing your relationships to be what they were and looking elsewhere for new social ties.

2. Fill your life with play.

One of the fastest ways to learn how to make friends as an adult is to make a conscious choice to fill your life with play. The more you prioritize play in your life, the happier you’ll be, the more opportunities you’ll have to meet new people, and the more attractive you’ll be as a friend to people you meet as you start meeting them.

As a quick example, let’s say you find chess, badminton, dancing, and painting fun. Now, let’s imagine that you join a chess group, a rackets club, and a two-month progressive dance workshop, and you start attending a weekly art night. Would it be safe to reason that the number of opportunities for you to meet new friends will go up significantly? Of course, it would.

Will it require courage to get out of your comfort zone to get out of the house and do these fun things? Again, yes. But you’ll be having fun along the way. The worst-case scenario is you go out, have a lot of fun, and don’t meet anyone you connect with. The best-case scenario is you have a ton of fun and meet several people who will become lifelong friends, even if you're awkward around new people.

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3. Be interested in others.

When you begin meeting new potential friends, ensure you’re leading with a sense of interest in them. Everyone has the built-in need to want to feel seen and heard (including you). But if you lead your interactions by wanting other people to show an interest in you, you’ll have a harder time making friends.

Be interested first, then be interested. And even better than being interesting is being vulnerable. So start off by asking people about themselves. Learn what their world looks like. Discover what they’re passionate about. Lean into hearing about their fears, joys, and concerns.

And then respond with your version of reality. Tell them what matters to you. Allow yourself to be unpolished and raw. Let yourself be seen where you truly are. This is what bonds people together to build durable foundations of friendship.

4. When you meet someone you like, name your intentions directly.

When you do meet a seemingly rare person that you sense a connection with, name your intentions directly with them. Human beings are not mind-readers. And directness is an attractive character trait. Like what you see in them? Name it. Appreciate something about someone? State it directly. Want to be friends with this person? Tell them so.

It can be as unfiltered and truthful as telling someone, “I’ve enjoyed this conversation. I feel drawn to you and find you interesting. I’m looking for a few new friends in my life, and I’d like you to be one of them. Want to grab lunch later this week? My treat.”

Chances are good that they will feel flattered by the gesture and take you up on it. And if they don’t, that’s fine too. There are plenty of people for you to meet and befriend. There’s no need to rush or force these things. The right people will make their way into your life when you align and are honest with yourself.

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5. Join groups.

This ties back to the intention of filling your life with play. If all of the things you tend to fill your time with are overly isolating, then it will be good for you to make a concerted effort to join a few social groups. Book clubs, sports clubs, cooking classes, fan clubs — the list of options is endless.

Go to your local community center, bulletin boards, or and find a few things that appeal to you, and then put them in your calendar and make them non-negotiable. Remember, your health and longevity depend on it.

6. Start a group.

If you have been in research mode for weeks and aren’t finding anything that appeals to you, then it might be the time that you start your own group. Start your own book club or special interest group. Start your own ultimate frisbee team. Start your own weekly men’s/women’s group. Start it. Let people know about it (again, through your local community center, nearby bulletin boards, or, and fill a room with the kind of people you want to meet, support, and befriend.

Presently, I’m a part of a weekly men’s group, a weekly book club, a weekly dance class, and a weekly dinner gathering. While I personally didn’t start any of these, I attend these things every week because people who became good friends of mine did take the initiative to start them. You just have to start. That’s all it takes.

7. Host group gatherings with your new friends

Between your life being jam-packed with play and the various groups you’re a member of, you’ll start to have more friends than you know what to do with.

If managing 10-20 good friends is too much for you to juggle, then another option is to start hosting dinner parties (or other group gatherings) with your newly robust social circle. Your friends will benefit from meeting each other, and you will get the added bonus of being seen as the connector who brings your like-minded friends more value in their lives.

RELATED: How To Avoid Forced Friendships And Let Things Develop Naturally

Jordan Gray is a five-time Amazon best-selling author, public speaker, and relationship coach with more than a decade of practice behind him. His work has been featured in The New York Times, BBC, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more.

This article was originally published at Jordan Gray Consulting. Reprinted with permission from the author.