Making friends can be hard, especially when you are trying to find your way into an existing friend group. When it feels like everyone in a group has a strong bond and tons of shared memories and inside jokes, you might feel excluded. Some groups of friends are too tight or closed off to get into, but many welcome new members.
This article will teach you how to approach a group of people and ways you can go from an outsider to an insider in an existing group of friends.
Know the basics of making friends
Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to make friends? While fears of rejection play a big role in this struggle, part of the problem may be in your mind. Most people think making friends is a lot more complicated than it really is.
In reality, there are some simple, basic rules that can help anyone make friends. Whether you want to know how to find a best friend or how to get into a large circle of friends, these steps are the secret to reaching your goal.
Five simple, proven strategies to make friends include:[1, 2, 3]
- Show interest: People tend to respond well to those who show genuine interest in them. Being a good listener, asking follow-up questions, and delving into people’s interests is a great way to form a friendship.
- Be friendly: The best way to make a good impression is to smile and be kind to people you want to be friends with. This is one way to be more approachable, meaning you will need to do less of the work to start a conversation.
- Make other people feel good: People will not always remember what you say, but they usually remember how you make them feel. The best way to make a good impression and get people to like you is to have feel-good conversations. Use humor, pay them a compliment, or talk about things they enjoy discussing.
- Find common ground: Most friendships are formed on similar interests, hobbies, and traits. When you feel nervous, you might focus more on differences between you and other people, but working to find common ground is more likely to form the basis of a friendship.
- Be there when it counts: The best way to make good friends is to be a good friend to others. Being supportive, following through, and offering to help are all great ways to form a friendship with people.
Once you find a clique you want to join, you will need to learn how to approach them, start a conversation, and deepen your relationship with them. Use the tips and strategies below to help you find your way into a group of friends, feel more included, and move from an outsider to an insider.
1. Have an approach mindset
It’s hard to be a newcomer in an established group of friends, and it’s common to feel nervous or insecure in these moments. The problem is that these emotions can cause you to create negative thoughts and expectations in your mind, making you more afraid to approach people and start a conversation.
When you reverse your mindset to expect more positive outcomes (that people like you and want you to be there), you are more likely to approach people rather than avoid them.
You can build an approach mindset by:
- Tuning out negative thoughts like “no one likes me” or “I don’t fit in”
- Not rehearsing worst-case social scenarios (e.g., imagining saying something dumb)
- Imagining positive, warm interactions (e.g., people smiling, welcoming you)
- Pretending you’re already friends (e.g., talking as if you are friends)
2. Make regular contact with the group
The next step to joining a group conversation is to take a seat at their table. This advice is both literal and metaphorical. If you want to make friends with people at work, school, in college, or at a meetup, you need to take the first step in approaching them. Instead of taking a seat in the back of the room, sit down at the same table as the group you want to become friends with.
By putting yourself in close proximity to the group on a regular basis, you are signaling your interest in being a part of the group. You are also more likely to be included in group conversations and plans. Because relationships develop over time and with regular contact, the more you involve and include yourself with the group, the more likely it is you will develop a friendship with them.
3. Look for inroads to join their conversation
If you don’t know how to talk to a group of friends, you can begin with a kind greeting (e.g., “Hey guys!”) and then wait for a pause or chance to speak up. Waiting to catch yourself up to speed on what they are talking about can help you find a natural way into the conversation.
Most of the time, it’s easier to join and build on a current topic rather than starting an entirely new conversation.
Here are other examples of easy in-roads to join a group conversation:
- Make eye contact with the person speaking when you have something to add
- Smile, nod, and find points of agreement with the speaker
- Share an example or story to illustrate what someone just said
- Ask a question to a specific person or the larger group
4. Find the friendliest members
In a group of people, there are usually one or two people who seem more open, friendly, and eager to include you. These people are sending you clear welcome signs and are the people in the group most likely to work on making you feel included. If you have a chance, sitting by them or striking up a side conversation with them can help you feel more comfortable.
When you are looking for the friendliest members, look for these “welcome signs:”
- The person who is the first to greet you
- Someone who shows the most interest when you speak
- A person who smiles and laughs a lot
- Someone who seems eager to include you in the conversation
5. Single out people for 1:1 time
If you are unsure of how to get into a friend group, sometimes the best and easiest way is to get close to specific members of the group. People who are introverted often feel more comfortable talking with people individually rather than in large groups. Because it can feel easier to know how to join a group of friends when one of your friends is a part of it, building individual friendships can be a great ‘in’ to an existing friend group.
If you feel unsure about how to ask someone to hang out, the trick is to keep it simple, casual, and provide a few different options. For example, you could suggest grabbing lunch one day this week and let them choose the restaurant, or you could ask them if they are interested in seeing a movie or going to the dog park over the weekend.
Even if they aren’t available, making the first move can break the ice, making it more likely they will approach you in the future to make plans with you.
6. Take the lead in making plans
Sometimes, one of the reasons you don’t know how to join a group of friends is because you are too shy about taking the lead, inviting people out, and making plans. As a newcomer to the group, you don’t have to wait to be invited or included. In fact, research shows that being more proactive in reaching out, making plans, and building relationships can help you find your place and feel more like an insider.
Here are some examples of ways to suggest and make plans with a group of friends:
- Gauge interest in attending a specific event or activity by sending a group text
- Suggest a game night and offer to host once or twice a month
- Invite members of the group to join you for a hike, yoga class, or another event
- Organize a baby shower, birthday party, or other celebration for someone in the group
7. Work on overcoming your shyness
When you feel like everyone already has friends and you are the outsider, it can cause you to stay quiet and just blend in with the group, but this can make you invisible. Research shows that people who are shy tend to have fewer social interactions, fewer friends, and less meaningful connections.
While it might feel like being shy is part of your personality, it might actually be more of a nervous habit that you can change. More conversations lead to more opportunities to make friends, so shyness can hold you back. By making an effort to speak up more, approach people, and start more conversations, you can outgrow your shyness and become more of a people person.
8. Go with the flow
When you are trying to find out how to join a group of friends, it’s important to be open, flexible, and to go with the flow. If you come in too strong with your own agenda or opinions, you can scare people away or make them wary of you. Openness is a trait that makes you more approachable and also is a key trait that people look for in a friend.
When you are new to a group, take time to observe people, their dynamics, and what they enjoy doing and discussing. This way, you will have more information about whether you want to be a part of this group and, if so, how to find your way in. By reading social cues and following other people’s interests, you are more likely to interact with people in ways they enjoy.[1, 2]
9. Rally support for group members in need
Taking the lead to rally support for someone in the group is multi-purpose, helping you get closer to specific people in the group while also showing yourself as a good friend. Good friends are ones who are there to support each other during times of need, instead of fair-weather friends who disappear when things get rocky.
For example, if one of the friends in the group just experienced a break-up or the death of a loved one, you can organize a meal train or get everyone to pitch in for flowers. If someone is moving into a new home, you could send a group text to see who is willing to help pack, move boxes, or pain. Even small efforts like getting everyone to sign a card can go a long way towards building friendships and strengthening bonds with your group of friends.
10. Recruit new members to the group
Since you know it can be really hard to know how to ask someone to join their group, it can also help to pay it forward. When you feel like you have become a part of an existing group of friends, you can also recruit new members of the group and help them find their way in.
For example, consider asking your friends if it is ok to invite a new coworker or classmate to join the group for trivia night, a party, or your weekly outing. By recruiting new members to your friend group, you will be helping someone else who may also struggle with making friends while also creating an opportunity to build a close personal friendship with them.
Final thoughts about joining a group of friends
It’s important to remember that friendships are built over time. When you are a newcomer, you may have some early experiences that leave you feeling like an outsider. As you spend more time with the group, this will happen less often. You can often speed up this process by speaking up more, getting close to specific members of the group, and working to take an active role in making plans with people.
It’s important to understand that not all groups are welcoming to outsiders. Looking for cues that people want to become friends with you will help you focus your time, effort, and energy on relationships that have the most potential to turn into friendships. By using these strategies, you can develop a friend group, even finding your way inside existing friend groups.