By Christine Murray, PhD, LPC, LMFT, Director of the Healthy Relationships Initiative

Our Healthy Relationships Initiative (HRI) team is excited to partner with Triad Moms on Main on this blog series. In this series, we offer general guidance to relationship or family questions submitted by TMoM community members. If you’ve got a question to ask, please share it anonymously on the form here.

Reader Question: I’ve been living here for four years and have yet to meet a close group of friends! Help! Any advice? I promise I’m a nice person. ~ Needs Friends in Winston-Salem

Dear Needs Friends,

I’m sorry to hear it’s been such a challenge to meet new friends since moving to the area. Making new friends in a new town can be very tricky indeed, especially if you’re a busy parent. If you didn’t quickly meet new friends in your neighborhood or through your children’s school or your work, you may have started to wonder if you’d ever connect with anyone in your new hometown. Now that some time has passed, it’s a good time to re-evaluate to see if there are other steps you could take to begin building new friendships. I promise, it’s not too late!

Two things about your question stand out to me, and I wonder if they’re part of what has been standing in your way of connecting with new friends. First, you mentioned wanting to connect with a “close group” of friends. You may be longing for a tight-knit circle of friends like you had in college or high school, when friends tended to hang out in groups. While it’s certainly possible to form circles of friendships like this in adulthood, it might help you now as an adult to focus on building one-on-one friendships. At some point, individual friendships may come together into a group, but there’s no rule that says you can’t have close friends who don’t even know one another! In fact, you may even feel more emotionally fulfilled with one or two very close friends than if you have a larger number of less-close friendships.

The second part that stands out about your question was how you said that you’re a nice person. I believe you when you say this, and of course most people do want to associate with friends who are nice. However, it takes more than being nice to make new friends. (Look at how many not-so-nice people have friends for proof of this!)

Some of the keys to making new friends – beyond being nice – include getting involved in your community to make new connections with others, being a good friend to others, and living your own best life so you’ll be appealing as a new friend.

First, in terms of getting involved in your community, consider new ways to meet other people who share similar interests, such as through volunteer work, a religious community, or a favorite hobby or activity. Find ways to get involved with organizations and groups who share those interests, and take extra steps to up your involvement. So, instead of just attending a service at a religious organization, consider signing up to be a member or leader of a small group. If you’re serious about making friends, then you may need to step a bit outside of your comfort zone and take on new roles that would offer opportunities to get to know others on a more personal level.

Second, whether you meet a new prospective friend or already have someone in your life that you’d like to build a stronger friendship with, focus on doing your part to be a good friend to them. The best way to make and grow friendships is by being a good friend to others. Make sure you’re investing the time, energy, and interest that’s required of building a close friendship. Simple actions like inviting someone for a lunch date, sending an encouraging note or text message, or sharing a news story of interest to the other person can go a long way toward growing friendships.

And finally, always keep growing personally and working toward living your best life. Even if you don’t have your ideal quality or quantity of friendships in your life right now, don’t let that hold you back from taking on fun new adventures and working toward personal goals. We bring our selves into any relationships we enter—friendships and otherwise—so the better person you can work toward becoming on your own, the better you’ll be positioned for happy, healthy friendships when the right people come along!

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