How to Make Friends Even If You’re Scared of People

I’ve known a lot of people over the years.

At one point my childhood friends were my whole world. Then when I got to high school I hung out with people from the track team and the marching band (Don’t laugh.)

In college, I spent time with people that were in fraternity/sorority scene. And once I got into the “real world” I ended up forming friendships with whoever was around me.

I was somewhat close to all of these people – after all, I considered them to be my friends – but I couldn’t tell you what they’re doing right now because it’s been years since I talked to a lot of them.

Friendship by Proximity

Think about it – little kids are friends with the other little kids that live nearby.

High school students wind up hanging out with other high school students because they’re all locked up in that same building together for 6 or 7 hours every weekday.

Friendships are formed at work usually start by becoming lunch partners because we all have to earn a paycheck, and we all had to eat.

I’m sure you have a lot in common with your friends. But usually these people are your friends for one reason: you’re all forced to be in the same place at the same time: like the playground, school, military, or work.

Once you’re no longer in a similar environment you lose that common bond. And as you probably know, usually you’ll drift apart and lose touch from a lot of the friendships you’ve made.

The Importance of Making Friends

It’s just as important to have friends as an adult as it was as a young person. No one wants to become that old lady with 27 cats who ends on an episode of ‘Hoarders.’

Bad joke, I know, but I feel it’s really is important to have a social circle.

You might be thinking, “My husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/life partner is always there for me!”

That’s great – I’m sure they are.

But you need to have other people in your life in addition to your own family. These individuals don’t have to become your best buddies, but meeting as many people as possible will probably benefit you one day down the road.

You Need to Be Around Other People

I’m not saying that you need to throw parties at your place every other Friday, or go out for drinks three nights a week. But in order to succeed and have a fulfilling life, we need to be around other people.

We need emotional support from someone we can lean on when the going gets tough. We need someone to help us celebrate when things go right. We need someone to bounce ideas off of to help us change our mind before we do something ridiculously stupid.

For most of us, it’s a little harder to make new friends than it used to be back in school. Unless you’re extremely outgoing, you’d feel pretty awkward going up to someone on the street and introducing yourself. That person you tried to say hello to might feel pretty weird too. That’s OK. There are plenty of ways to meet people without randomly going up to total strangers.

How to Make Friends — Even If You’re Scared to Talk to People

I know…it’s pretty scary to walk up to a stranger and try to strike up a friendship. Personally, I would be a little nervous if someone approached me and said, “Can you be my friend?” I would probably think this person was off their meds.

The good news is there are number of ways to make friends in a natural, normal manner. Here are a few ideas to help you expand your social circle:

Volunteer. If you sign up to help paint houses for the elderly once a month, you’re most likely going to meet other empathetic people who don’t mind hard work. I’ve found that there’s a special bond formed between the people who like to help others. When you volunteer you’ll meet some incredibly giving individuals.

Start talking. Start talking to strangers that don’t really feel like strangers – the cashier at the supermarket, the receptionist at the dentist’s office, the guy who you always see at you at your son’s basketball game, an across-the-street neighbor as they’re getting their mail. You’d be surprised at how often a casual conversation turns into a lasting friendship.

Join a group. The internet is a great place to learn about and join different groups. There are plenty of websites for people with common interests to sign up for “meetings” or “outings” that are held in public places.

Just go to Meetup and you’ll find a ton of different activity groups…The possibilities here are endless!

You’ll have to use your common sense, obviously – don’t sign up for a book club that meets in some ex-con’s bedroom at 10 PM. (You’ll definitely form a ‘friendship’ here…but probably not the kind you want.)

Social Media. Facebook and Twitter are household words these days, and they’re a great way to reconnect with old friends or make new ones. Again, use your common sense, since technically you’re meeting someone off the internet, even if you once knew them back in the fourth grade.

These are just four simple samples of ways to meet some new people, and I’ve tried them myself. I’ve wound up making some new acquaintances that have helped me over the last few years.

Expanding You Comfort Zone

Meeting new people involves getting out of your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is nothing more than an imaginary boundary that you set for yourself. You can cross that boundary! If I can do it, so can you. (Sorry, not trying to get too preachy here, but it’s true.)

Now if you’re having trouble with making friends then I recommend forcing yourself to do it as part of a 30 day habit exercise. With this concept, you spend every day for one whole month focusing on forming friendships with strangers. Perhaps you create a daily goal of approaching 5 strangers each day. That’s 150 potential friendships you could form in one month.

You might feel silly trying to meet new people as an adult, but hey – they probably feel just as silly. Things do get easier over time.

After you introduce yourself to one or two people, talking to the third and fourth person will feel really easy.

Take Action. Get Results.

15 thoughts on “How to Make Friends Even If You’re Scared of People”

  1. Steve,

    I’m following you blog from The Infopreneur blog, that was a great post by the way. This post is equally a great post with a realistic look at the friends we make and lose through our lives.

    On reflection you probably wonder how we can call them friends, true friends, if we drop them off (or they drop us off) so easily. It begs the question what is a friend?

    Thanks for sharing this.



  2. Thanks Paul. Yes, there are a few friends that I’ve had over the years who I still stay in contact—specifically the guys I knew in the military. But like a lot of things it takes work to stay in touch with all that goes on in life.

    Definitely agree that sometimes a “friend” is more like a casual friendship out of convenience.

  3. Hi! Have you ever asked the old woman with 27 cats if she’s happy? We shouldn’t judge other people’s happiness on our own set of values.

  4. Ralph, I used to feel the same way as you, I love my own company, which is just as well as I’m with myself 24/7! 🙂 But now, I have no friends, except the people I am getting to know Like James, Lee and others in that little blogging community. Sometimes I don’t mind, but I do find it difficult to make a first move and I’ve very picky about who I talk to.

    Steve, any good names for a cat? 🙂

  5. @bigblue- It was supposed to be an attempt at humor. But let’s say you are a woman with 27 cats…. Couldn’t join a cat enthusiast club? Then you would have a close-group of friends to share your passions. Seriously, I feel that every person needs some sort of human connection. It’s one of our basic needs.

    @Maria/James- To be honest, I’m also WAY to individualistic. 90% of the time I prefer my own company. But I’ve found that I almost always happy when I choose to spend time with the people in my life.

    @Maria- A good cat name? Hmmm… You could use something George Carlin once recommend. Name it “Stay” So when you say: “Come here Stay” it’ll really mess with its head.

    • It’s definitely a cool site for finding people of common interests. Also I’m going to use it during my travels and see if I can find some interesting ways to see a unique aspect of the area I’m in.

  6. Wow how did I miss this post b4. Just came via twitter link and I think it’s one of my favorite articles of yours now Steve.

    I worked in Grocery for yrs. and I met so many gr8 ppl. It brought me outta my shell so to speak. I was always the last or least to say anything to anyone for fear of rejection but working in a public setting like that doesn’t allow it for very long. I thought it was rewarding to have ole ladies bring me homebaked goods from home, have customers wait in my line even with open lanes just to say hi and chat for a few seconds. I musta been a friendly bloke back then huh?
    .-= Lees Shizzle´s last blog ..Quite Puzzling it is | Amazing Wiz Kids Thinking Outside the Box =-.

    • Thanks Lee! Sounds like this was a pretty good job. Wish my experiences were like this. I’m actually starting to use many of these techniques, while I’m traveling…seems to be working.

  7. Steve,

    We are social animals. As much as we try to pretend we are not like our cousins the chimps, we are much like them. People who are alone end up going a bit nutty. It takes a lot to swallow your fear, but it is so worth it.

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