June 15th, 2020
“It’s the friends we meet along the way that help us appreciate the journey.” - Anonymous
Humans are social creatures. What this means is that we, as humans, are not meant to spend the majority of our time alone. Instead of spending time in isolation, we are meant to be with others, socializing and interacting.
Having a family is the first initiation into socializing with others and brings us to a level of comfortability with others. Typically, we spend our normative years forming new relationships and getting to know others that are outside our family. This continues as we age and grow up, and eventually we branch off into the world making new friends and creating a new family of our own.
However, this socialization process can become difficult at different points in our lives. One situation in which making friends can become challenging is when we need to make new friends in a new place.
To begin, it is important to understand why making new friends in new places can be a challenge. It is helpful, first, to realize that this is a common difficulty and that if you are experiencing trouble making new friends in a new place that you are not alone.
In fact, this is quite common. There are several reasons why making new friends in a new place can be difficult. One reason could be that it starts with change. A new place and new people is different than what we are used to. This is a change from the norm, which can be hard for individuals. Most of the time, humans desire to be comfortable. Change disrupts that comfortability. When meeting new people, we can be uncomfortable, which can cause us to be anxious.
We also may experience anxiety when meeting new people because we are afraid of how people are going to view us. The fear of being judged and evaluated by others is a real fear that can cause further discomfort and anxiety. This fear, discomfort, and anxiety can prohibit an individual from performing up to one’s capabilities in a social situation which may cause someone to say or do something they did not mean to say or do.
Making a mistake may cause further anxiety and discomfort, which in turn can lead to more errors. This can become a negative loop that keeps playing out and causing one to not want to even attempt to make new friends in new places.
Now that we have discussed why it can be difficult to make new friends in new places, and established the fact that it is completely normal to have difficulty with making new friends, it is time to turn our attention to how to overcome this difficulty and make new friends…
One way to make new friends in new places is to simply put yourself out there. It is hard (if not impossible) to make new friends in new places without trying. While putting yourself out there can come with anxiety (see previous section above), it is not without reward. Often times, the other individual may be experiencing some unease or anxiety as well (remember most people experience some difficulty or anxiety when meeting new people and trying to make new friends).
This brings us to our second point, accept your feelings. It is perfectly okay to be nervous or to feel uneasy. Remembering that other people may feel the exact same way as you in the situation can help bring a normalness to the situation. Giving yourself compassion, understanding, and love can go a long way in calming your nerves and allow you the ability to be yourself when meeting new people. It can also help give you the confidence to get out there and meet others.
Another helpful point when meeting new people is to remember to simply be friendly. A smile can go a long way when meeting someone. It is easy to get caught up in worrying about things like what you are going to say or how to respond to someone and forget the basics, such as smiling and being warm and welcoming with both your verbal and non-verbal language. It is also important to remember to listen to what the other person is saying. People appreciate being listened to and not just heard.
Remember, it is normal to have difficulty and experience a range of emotions when you are in a new place meeting new people. Putting yourself at ease before meeting others can go a long way in presenting your true self to other people and avoiding further anxiety and discomfort. If anxiety and discomfort are experienced remember that the other individuals, you meet may be experiencing the same thing.
Try your best to smile, listen, and be yourself. And, remember the phrase “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” You may not make friends your first attempt, but there are plenty of people out there, if you keep putting yourself out there when you are in a new place, eventually you will make new friends.
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