This article contains several tips on how to get a social life. I’ve made sure that this advice is actionable even if you have few or no friends today, if you are an introvert, if you have social anxiety, or just don’t like socializing.
This article focuses on where to find new friends. For advice on how to be better at socializing, read our main guide on how to be more social.
As an adult, it’s harder to socialize than back in school. Therefore, I share several tips from my own life in my 20s and 30s that have helped me build a social circle and get a fulfilling social life.
The good news is that you have more options than you might imagine. Here’s how to design your life to be more social.
Make a list of your interests and join nearby groups
List your top three interests and look up nearby groups on meetup.com. Even if you don’t have passions or interests that you identify with, you probably have things that you enjoy doing or learning about. The advantage of meetups is that you’ll have something in common with everyone else in the room, so starting a conversation is easier than with people you meet in day to day life.
If you’re at a photography meetup, a conversation opener doesn’t have to be harder than “Hi, nice to meet you! What camera do you have there?”
If you can’t find a meetup that appeals to you, you can consider starting your own.
As the leader, you have no choice but to turn up to every meeting. This can create positive accountability by giving you a push even at times you aren’t in the mood. Managing a group is also a valuable opportunity to practice advanced social skills, such as leadership and delegation.
If you live in a small town, meetup.com might not have many events listed. Check out the local newspaper, library, and community center bulletin boards for events.
Join a local sports team
Amateur sports teams give you a chance to bond with people because you’re pursuing a common goal: to win a game or match. Sports teams often socialize outside of practice sessions, so you’ll have lots of opportunities to befriend your teammates. You’ll also meet people on rival teams and, if you play in a friendly league, regular opponents could become new friends off the pitch.
Research shows that many people take part in sports because they enjoy the sense of community, so you can expect to meet people who are actively looking for new friends.
Look for opportunities to talk to people as you go about your daily routine
Become a regular friendly face at your favorite coffee shop, corner store, library, café, or laundromat. Stop for a chat when you see your neighbors. If you use your car to drive to work, switch to public transport instead. While you’re unlikely to befriend fellow commuters, it can create a sense of connection to society. You’ll soon start recognizing the same people every day. In academic circles, these are called “familiar strangers.”
Reach out to relatives you would like to know
Do you have any likable family members that you don’t know very well? For example, perhaps you met a second cousin a few years ago at a family reunion and added them on social media, but never built a relationship. They could be potential friends, especially if they live nearby.
You could write them a message and say something like “I enjoyed talking to you last time, and have been thinking about writing to you for a while now. Would you like to catch up over a coffee? I’d love to hear how your home remodeling project went”
Check out the courses at your local community college
Some colleges offer noncredit classes that are open to everyone. These are sometimes called “personal enrichment” courses. Pick a class that’s based around an activity, such as pottery or learning a new language, rather than lectures. This will give you more opportunities to have conversations with your classmates. If you meet someone you like, ask them whether they’d be interested in meeting up before or after your next class.
You can search Google for “Personal enrichment courses near me”. Google will then show classes close to where you are.
Join a community theater company
Community theater companies attract a diverse range of people that meet on a regular basis, so it’s a great way to make friends whilst contributing to a larger project. If you don’t need to enjoy acting, you can still become a valuable member of the company. For example, you could make costumes, paint scenery, or help manage the props.
Like with the courses in the step above, you can google “Community theater near me”.
Join a support group
If you’re going through a tough time in your life, support groups can be a safe, understanding place to find friends. AA and other 12-step groups are thought to work because they offer social support and connection to role models.
Give everyone a chance
When we see someone’s face for the first time, it takes our brains less than a second to judge their social status, attractiveness, and trustworthiness. However, although they can be hard to shake off, these first impressions aren’t always correct. Keep an open mind. Don’t assume that you won’t be compatible with someone on the basis of their age, sex, or other superficial characteristics. You can make it a habit to, when you meet new people, say to yourself “I’m going to talk to this person for 15 minutes before I make up my mind”.
Get in touch with old friends and colleagues
If you have a college or high school reunion coming up, reach out to a few old friends in advance. Start by asking them if they’re attending the reunion, and take the opportunity to ask about their families, jobs, and hobbies. If you enjoy yourselves at the event, tell them that you’d love to meet up soon and ask them when they are free.
Volunteering for a charity can improve mental health because it gives you a sense of belonging. Try to find a role that requires a lot of social interaction with both your fellow volunteers and service users. For example, sorting and distributing donations for a food bank would meet both these criteria, as would working as a cashier at a thrift store. If you have time, consider putting yourself forward as a trustee or board member.
You can google “volunteer events near me”.
Start going to a gym, exercise class, or boot camp
If you go at the same time of day or week, you’ll start running into the same people. If someone seems friendly, you can try making small talk with them. If you continue to run into each other regularly, it can be natural to eventually ask if they’d want to meet up for a coffee after class.
Here’s how to know if someone wants to talk to you.
If you have a dog, meet other owners
Dogs are great ice-breakers, and they bring people together; research shows they might even be a key factor in developing healthy neighborhoods. Go to a popular dog park and strike up casual conversations with other owners. If you’ve met someone a few times and they seem to enjoy your company, suggest meeting up another time to walk your dogs together. If you don’t have a dog, ask a friend if you can walk theirs. If you’re in the UK, you can sign up for the “dog borrowing” app BorrowMyDoggy.
If you have children, befriend other moms and dads
Find out where the other parents in your local area congregate. Is there a soft play center or park nearby? Start taking your son or daughter on a regular basis; you could both start making new friends.
When you drop your child off at school or pick them up, arrive a few minutes early. Make small talk with any other moms or dads who are waiting with you. They will probably be happy to talk about their children and what they like (or dislike) about the school, and you can bond over your shared experiences of being a parent.
Find opportunities to meet people at work and avoid negative topics
Coworkers who share the same levels of wellbeing, including job satisfaction and positivity, tend to socialize together. This is why it can be so hard to make new friends for someone who tends to bring up negative topics. Even when life is difficult, try to find what’s positive and focus on that when making conversation. It’s a virtuous circle; you’ll attract people who are fun to be around, which will make your job more enjoyable, which in turn will help you stay positive.
When a new employee joins your workplace, make them feel welcome. Introduce yourself, ask them a few simple questions about themselves, and encourage them to ask you any questions they have.
Go to professional networking events
Conferences and training courses are other good places to meet people in your field. Because you share the same profession, you’ll have plenty of things to talk about. At the end of the day, ask other attendees if they would like to get a meal or a drink. You can then move the conversation from work to other topics and get to know them better.
Do you run your own business? Your town or city may have a chamber of commerce you can join. They usually hold regular meetings and social events where you can meet potential business associates, clients, and friends.
Invite others to join you in your solo hobbies
For example, reading is a solo hobby, but taking a trip to the bookstore and getting a coffee afterward is a social activity. This is a particularly good strategy if you are an introvert who gets overwhelmed in group situations. It’s also an effective approach if you want to make friends with someone who appears shy or socially anxious because they are more likely to accept an invitation to socialize with one or two people than as part of a group.
Ask your family to introduce you to potential friends
If you’re close to your family, let them know that you’re trying to expand your social circle. They may be able to make some introductions. For example, if your mother’s best friend’s son has recently moved to the area, she could pass on your contact details so that the two of you can get together for a drink.
Set yourself social goals
Building a social life takes time and effort. Not everyone will want to be your friend, and even those who seem friendly at first may disappear. It’s easy to get discouraged, but setting goals can keep you on track.
Here are some examples:
- Challenge yourself to attend one new meetup every week in your local area.
- Ask someone you usually just say hi to how their weekend was or what they are up to.
- Sincerely compliment someone on an achievement they’ve made.
Meet people with similar spiritual values
If you follow an organized religion but haven’t attended service for a long time, consider becoming a regular at your nearest place of worship. Most hold groups, such as Bible study or prayer groups, along with services. Some have proactive outreach programs that benefit the broader community. These are often run by volunteers, so ask the leader if they need any help.
Meet people via dating and friendship apps
Online dating is now the most common way for straight couples to meet, and it is also very popular in the LGB community. Tinder, Bumble, and Plenty of Fish (POF) are the leading apps in the US. They are all free to use, with the option to upgrade for extra features.
You may have to meet a lot of people before finding a partner, but there’s an upside: every date has the potential to become a new friend. If you’d rather use an app designed for friendship, try Bumble BFF, Patook, or Couchsurfing.
Here are our reviews of apps for making friends.
Introduce your new friends to one another
If you think that two or more of your friends would get along well, introduce them. Give them both some background information in advance to help kickstart the conversation. You could also introduce them virtually via social media or WhatsApp before they meet in person. If you’re lucky, you will all have a great time together and become a close-knit group.
“Jordan, Kim, I know that you’re both into history so I thought we could all meet up one day and be history nerds over drinks”
When someone needs an activity partner, put yourself forward
For example, if you’re talking to someone and they say, “Oh, I want to go to the fair next week, but none of my family want to come with me” you could say, “Well, if you want company, just let me know!” Make it clear that you’re interested in joining them, but don’t pressure them to say “Yes” or “No” immediately.
Join a group trip as a solo traveler
If you love to explore new places and don’t want to travel alone, why not book a vacation with a company that specializes in group tours? Contiki, Flash Pack, and G Adventures organize trips that will give you the chance to not only see somewhere new and exciting but make new friends at the same time. You might meet a travel buddy who’d be happy to accompany you on future trips.
Make “Yes” your default answer
You need to spend around 50 hours with someone to form a friendship. Therefore, if you want to turn a new acquaintance into a friend, it’s a good idea to accept as many social invitations as you can. You won’t always have a wonderful time, but every minute you spend socializing helps you practice your social skills and slowly build up a fulfilling social life.
If you currently have no social life at all, see our guide “I have no social life“.