“I feel like I have no social life at all. Most of my friends from college don’t live near me, and I have not built a new social circle yet. I know I need to develop new friendships, but I have poor social skills and find it hard to make small talk with people. How can I start a new social life and make friends as an adult?”
While it might seem like everyone else around you has a huge friend circle and a bustling social life, this probably is not the case. In fact, large studies from 2020 found that almost half of adults in America feel lonely, isolated, misunderstood, or like they don’t have enough close, meaningful relationships. Because social connections are such an essential part of life, not having a social life can have a major impact on your health and happiness.
This article will provide practical steps you can take to get a social life (if you don’t have one) or improve your social life (if it’s not where you want it to be).
If you feel like you have no social life, it’s important to understand why that is, and what’s getting in the way of making friends or spending time with the friends you have. Once you understand what’s keeping you from socializing, you can make a plan to overcome these obstacles and develop a better social life.
Here are some of the most common barriers to a healthy social life:
- Social anxiety or a fear of rejection: As many as 90% of people experience some social anxiety in their lives, which involves feeling nervous, awkward, or uncomfortable with certain social interactions and being overly worried about rejection and criticism. These fears can keep people from socializing, causing them to avoid making plans or interacting with people, restricting their social life.
- Busy schedule or a lack of time: Finding time for friends can be tough when you’re in class or working most of the time or if you have other obligations that keep you busy. Friendships take time to develop, but they also need to be maintained through regular contact, so busy schedules can be a major barrier to a healthy social life.
- Poor social skills or awkward interactions: People who feel uncomfortable making small talk or are socially awkward may avoid interactions because they worry about saying or doing the wrong thing. Poor social skills can also make social interactions less enjoyable, making them feel more like a chore than a fun or enjoyable activity.
- Not having a friend group: It’s hard to have a good social life without a close group of friends, so this can also get in the way. The problem might be that you grew apart from friends or lost touch with them after college or that you’ve struggled to make new friends as an adult. Without a social circle, it can be hard to organize social activities and events.
- Limited opportunities to socialize: If you work from home or in a small office or live alone or in a small town, your options for socializing may be limited. Many people are feeling more isolated during the pandemic due to social distancing guidelines, with fewer settings where they can meet people, start conversations, or make new friends.
No matter what is getting in the way of socializing, it is almost always possible to improve your social life. Depending on your circumstances, this may mean making changes to your lifestyle or routine, or it could mean improving your communication or social skills. Below are 10 steps you can take to improve your social life.
If you want to improve your social life, the most obvious and most important first step is to make your social life more of a priority. This means recognizing it as something important and being willing to devote time, effort, and energy to improving it. This step is important for everyone who wants to improve their social life, no matter which barriers are getting in the way.
Attending events, reaching out to people, and making and keeping plans with friends might have been something that fell to the bottom of your to-do list, but this might be a big part of why you’re unhappy with your social life.
Here are some ways you can work to make social activities and interactions more of a priority:
- Make friends with your calendar and plan ahead to make time for weekly social activities, events, or time with friends
- Set a social goal and write it down (e.g., call a friend at least once a week, attend a meetup, or ask a friend to lunch)
- Sign up for group classes, activities, or clubs that meet on a regular basis and make it a point to attend
2. Get out and explore your interests
You can’t have a good social life if you are always alone in your home, so getting out of the house more is another important step to improve your social life. This is especially important for those who have a normal routine that doesn’t involve a lot of social interaction or activities, and also for those who need to develop a circle of friends.
Getting out and doing more activities provides you with more opportunities to meet people, make friends, and develop relationships. Spending time regularly with the same people can also help you grow your circle, as research shows that friendships develop naturally when people spend a lot of time together.
Here are some ideas of social activities to add to your calendar:
- Join a club or attend meetings in your community
- Attend meetups for activities that interest you
- Sign up for a class to learn a skill or hobby you are interested in
- Join a gym, yoga studio, or exercise class
- Look at event calendars in your community (often linked to the news or independent news site or paper)
3. Start more conversations
While getting out of the house gives you the opportunity to meet people and make friends, you won’t have much success unless you talk to people. Make a point to start conversations with people you meet, even just to make small talk or to have a short, polite conversation.
The more you practice social interactions and starting conversations, the more natural and comfortable it will become, making this important for people who feel socially awkward or need to improve their social skills. Also, research shows that even casual interactions with strangers can help to boost your mood and decrease feelings of loneliness, so don’t be afraid to talk to strangers.
Here are some conversation starters to help you find things to talk about with people you see:
- Ask a cashier how their day is going or if the store has been busy today
- Stop by a coworkers office or cubicle just to say hello or ask how they are
- Stop to compliment your neighbor’s garden or yard or to talk about something that happened in the neighborhood
4. Become more approachable
By being friendly and welcoming to other people, you make it easier for people to approach you to start conversations and make plans. This takes some of the pressure off you so that you aren’t always the one to initiate. Having others approach you also can help if you struggle with a fear of rejection.
- Smile and make eye contact with people you see or talk to
- Wave to people you recognize at groups, parties, or events to invite them to talk to you
- Get people talking more about themselves and show interest in what they say
- Offer compliments and praise generously
- Be easy to talk to and avoid controversial topics, conflicts, and confrontations
5. Reconnect with old friends
Reconnecting with old friends is sometimes easier than finding new ones, especially as an adult. If there are friends you’ve lost touch with or grown apart from, reaching out to reconnect can be easier than meeting new people, especially if social anxiety or awkwardness is what’s holding you back.
Calling on the phone, texting, emailing, or even sending a message on social media are all great ways to reconnect with an old friend. Once you’ve reconnected, make sure to maintain contact and stay in touch to avoid growing apart again. Calling or texting to check in, making plans to see each other regularly, and doing fun activities together are all great ways to maintain your closest friendships.
6. Be authentic to turn acquaintances into friends
Being more open, genuine, and authentic can help you turn casual relationships with acquaintances into close friendships. Unknowingly, you may have developed a habit of being overly private, reserved, or guarded around people you don’t know well in order to guard against rejection.
Unfortunately, the same walls that ‘protect’ you from rejection can also prevent you from feeling accepted. Being open and genuine with people is one of the only ways to foster feelings of closeness and connection with someone, even when it feels risky.
If you aren’t sure how to be yourself around other people, try these simple steps to get started:
- Filter less of what you say and do around other people
- Loosen up and allow your personality and sense of humor to show more
- Share more personal information about yourself and your life with others
- Be willing to voice your opinion, even if you’re not sure people agree
7. Find your tribe(s)
It’s easier to form close bonds with people when you have things in common, so trying to find like-minded people can help you develop a more robust social life. Research shows that people are more likely to become close friends with people they have a lot in common with, so finding people who share your interests, hobbies, or values can help you make friends more easily.
If you are unsure about where to begin your search, consider one of the following options:
- Volunteer your time for a charity or cause you care about
- Look for clubs or meetups for singles, young professionals, or other target groups you identify with
- Sign up for a sport or activity you really like or find interesting
- Become a more active part of your work, in college, or your neighborhood by joining committees or boards
- Join a support group to meet people struggling with a similar issue or problem (e.g., groups for social anxiety, Aspergers, or new moms)
8. Improve your social skills
If you find it difficult, awkward, or uncomfortable to talk to people, you might benefit from working on your social skills. Self-help books and online courses are great places to begin this process, but real-life practice is the best way to get better at socializing.
Social skills include a broad range of skills you need to be a good communicator, including:
- The ability to pick up on and read social cues
- Listening skills that help you process and remember what is said
- Expressions to show interest, enthusiasm, and emotion
- Non-verbal communication including eye contact, voice tone, and body language/posture (e.g., have an open posture, smile at people, make eye contact)
- Communication skills, including the ability to speak clearly
- Conflict resolution skills to find ways out of difficult or emotional conversations
- Be sure to mind your manners and be a good guest when attending an event (e.g., don’t leave a mess, offer to help the host, say thank you and goodbye before leaving, etc.)
And know that you can make friends even if you are socially awkward.
It’s important to say yes to invitations when you are working on improving your social life, but don’t just sit around waiting for people to ask you out. Instead, take the initiative by reaching out to friends and acquaintances to make plans or suggest activities you think would be fun or interesting.
You could also consider hosting a dinner party, holiday celebration, or just inviting friends to your house for a game or movie night. Even if they say no or can’t attend, most people will feel flattered by the invitation and may be more likely to reach out to make plans with you another time.
While playing it cool might seem like the right way to get people to like you, the opposite is more likely to be true. According to many experts, showing interest, enthusiasm, and demonstrating that you care about a person and what they have to say is the best way to get them to like and trust you.
- Asking them open-ended questions and getting them talking about themselves
- Listen and show interest in what they have to say by making eye contact, using expressions, and asking follow-up questions
- Remembering small details, including a person’s name or personal details or stories they’ve shared with you
- Offering to help a person who looks like they are stressed out or struggling to do something
If you want to build or improve your social life, there are many simple steps you can take to get started. To start, be willing to put the time and effort into socializing, meeting people, making friends, and maintaining relationships. Try new things, attend events, talk to more people, and don’t give up until you’re satisfied with your social life.
Improving your social life in high school is easier for students who are involved in extracurricular activities. Trying out for a sport, joining a club, or even volunteering at school can be great ways to spend quality time and begin building friendships with other students.
Not having any friends doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you (many normal people are in the same boat), but making friends should still be a priority for everyone. Research shows that friendships are one of the key ingredients to a fulfilling and satisfying life.
There is no standard formula or a set number of social activities needed to have a “good” social life. Everyone’s different in terms of how much socialization they need to be happy and how much is too much, so pay attention and make adjustments as needed until you find the right balance for you.