How to Make Friends Outside Work

“I don’t have any friends outside work. I’m afraid that if I leave my current job, these friendships won’t continue, and I won’t have anyone left. How can I start a social life from scratch?”

Making friends as an adult can feel very challenging. There aren’t many people you see on a recurrent basis other than at work. If you work from home, or your workplace isn’t very social, or you just plain don’t have much in common with your coworkers, it can be hard to find new friendships.

Another challenge is that even if you have friends from high school or college, these friendships may end or change as you get older. Some friends move to a new city or become distant for other reasons. They may become very busy with work or children, or perhaps you grew apart as time went by.

In high school and college, making friends can seem more straightforward, as you see the same people regularly and have a lot of free time to hang out. When you’re working full-time, it can be hard to find opportunities to meet new people, especially if you are working from home. As an adult, you have to be more intentional about making new friends.

1. Meet new people through shared activities

Connecting to people through a shared activity can give you something to talk about and bond over. Activities such as book clubs, game nights, volunteering, and classes are great ways to get to know people.

The key here is to find an event you’ll be able to attend regularly. Once we start seeing the same people repeatedly, they become familiar to us, and we tend to like them more. Proximity is an essential ingredient for any kind of relationship.[1]

Try to meet new people through hobbies or social activities. If you’re unsure where to start, ask yourself what you feel is missing most in your life (other than friendships). Are you struggling to exercise consistently? You may enjoy an exercise class or group sports.

Do you currently have meaning in your life? If not, perhaps volunteering is for you. If you’re looking for a creative outlet, consider a drawing class. If you want to challenge yourself intellectually, look up language courses or general courses at a local university.

2. Get to know new people

The next step is to talk to the people you meet and try to get to know them. You can start talking based on your shared activity and slowly get to know each other more. Broaden your mind when it comes to picking new friends. Having friends of different ages and backgrounds can enrich your life.

When getting to know people, it can be difficult to know when to open up and how much.

We have a guide to connecting with people with practical examples and another article that walks you through the “making friends” process. If you find that it’s hard for you to trust people, read our article on building trust in friendships and dealing with trust issues.

3. Create opportunities for continued interaction

Say you started to attend a woodworking class. You begin to feel comfortable around the other people attending the course and have a sense of those you like more. You say hi to each other and chat a bit before or after the class. Now you know you have some things in common and want to get to know them further.

At this point, you can start to create opportunities and invitations to meet each other outside your shared activity.

  • “I’m going to get something to eat—would you like to join me?”
  • “I’d love to hear more about that—let’s meet up sometime.”
  • “Are you into board games? I have a new one I would like to try, and I’m looking for players.”

Invitations like these let the people around you know you’re looking to get to know each other on a deeper level. Try not to get too discouraged if you don’t get an immediate positive response. It’s probably not personal—people may be busy.

These are the basic steps in starting a social life. We also have a more in-depth guide on how to build a social life.

4. Turn your solo hobbies into social ones

If you work from home and then relax by doing solo activities, like watching movies, you won’t have many opportunities to meet new people. You don’t have to change your hobbies completely, though. If you enjoy reading, look for a book club you can join (or start one).

Challenge yourself to go out at least two times a week. The important thing is to try to go to recurring events or events with the same people. If you have no idea where to start, try our list of 25 social hobbies.

5. Get active

If you’re sitting down all day, making sure you get regular exercise can be of great benefit to you. Joining a gym or an exercise class can be a great way to meet people, too. Group hikes can give you the chance to talk to people while getting in shape. Keep your mind open and try new things.

6. Work from a regular cafe or coworking spot

Making new friends can feel impossible when you work from home. But working remotely doesn’t mean you never have to leave the house. Today, many people work remotely, and they often go to coworking offices or cafes to be around people as they work. You’ll start to see the same faces, and you can chat during breaks.

Coworking spaces often offer events that cater to people who work remotely. Whether it’s yoga or workshops to help you scale your business, you’ll be able to meet people with shared interests and goals.

7. Make time for activities over the weekend

Sometimes, we get so tired from the working week that we just want to “do nothing” when we get time off. We end up spending the time scrolling through social media, watching videos, and telling ourselves we “should” get to our long to-do list.

Sadly, these activities rarely leave us feeling well-rested and fulfilled. Set aside time over the weekend to have lunch with a friend or try a new activity. Make an effort to go to at least one event every weekend.

8. Run errands together

Once you’ve followed the rest of our tips and started the process of making friends, you may still struggle to find time to do things together. Your friends may be in the same boat.

Let them know you want to spend time together but are struggling to find the time. “I really want to meet up—but I have to take my cat to the vet. Do you want to come with me?” It may not sound like an ideal activity, but doing things together can help you bond.

Your friends may have similar items on their to-do list. Doing them together can help you feel more productive and allow you to connect over shared activities.

9. Join online discussion groups

The internet provides opportunities to make friends without leaving the house. But just like in “real life,” you have to be an active participant online if you want to make friends. If you spend most of your online time reading people’s posts or watching videos, it’s going to be challenging to make real connections.

Instead, try to join groups where people talk to each other and are also looking to meet new people. These groups can be groups for your local area, centered around hobbies, or specifically for people who want to meet new friends.

Be an active participant instead of just “liking” other people’s posts. If you’re in a group for your area, consider starting a post looking for new friends or walking buddies. There are always other people who are looking to meet new people, too.

We have a review article on apps and websites to meet new friends.

10. Make people feel validated

Whether you’re talking to people face-to-face or online, practice making them feel appreciated and understood. This can build trust and rapport.

  • When someone shares something they’re going through, try validating their emotions instead of offering advice. Saying, “that sounds difficult” can often make people feel better than “Have you tried…” or “Why don’t you…”
  • Remember that often, people just want someone to hear them out. When you give them time to talk and listen carefully, they might find you more likable.
  • When you’re talking to people online, try to give positive responses. Refrain from commenting only for the point of arguing. Use connecting phrases like, “Well said,” “I relate,” and “I agree.”

It may help to read more on getting along with others and how to bond with people.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages SocialSelf’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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