Jump-start Your Social Life

This Month’s Problem

You’ve drifted apart from close pals. Here’s how to create a new network.

The Challenge

To expand your social circle. It’s natural to lose touch with close friends over time—major life changes like moves, marriages, babies and new jobs often pull people in different directions. The result can leave you feeling lonely, disconnected and even depressed.

The Solutions

  • Find group activities that reflect your interests. “First, do some soul searching and make a list of the kinds of activities you like to share with friends,” advises Gail McMeekin, M.S.W., author of The Power of Positive Choices: Adding and Subtracting Your Way to a Great Life (Conari Press, 2001). “For instance, you might want to meet people who cook, hike or do yoga. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a group for it out there.” Cast a wide net — consider social, educational, professional, religious, political, sports-oriented and other type of groups — and then focus on one or two. Meeting regularly helps build rapport. “Repeated exposure to the same people can lead to friendships,” adds Marla Paul, author of The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore (Rodale, 2004).
  • Connect online. Sites such as friendster.com, meetup.com and craigslist.org make it easy to post notices seeking everyone from fellow moviegoers to like-minded gourmets, crafters or gym buddies. Meetup.com has a “New in Town” area and hosts monthly social events for recent transplants in 612 cities worldwide. Newcomersclub.com allows you to track down the local Welcome Wagon and is another good site to visit if you’ve just moved. “People in these groups are often more open than others to new friends because they’re in the same boat,” Paul says.
  • Don’t wait for people to come to you—at work or elsewhere. “When you’re new, you have to be proactive,” Paul says. You’ll typically need to make the first move—and make it more than once. But if two or three overtures to a person are rejected, move on. “It’s not about you,” Paul explains. “Many people don’t have time or room for new people in their lives. Don’t let it get you down.”

The Payoff

“By getting yourself out there, you’ll be busy and less stressed out,” McMeekin says. Also, when you push yourself—and you will need to push—to fill your calendar with activities you like, you’ll meet new friends with similar interests. Taking this approach can also help alleviate some of the pressure that comes with forging a new network because you’ll be doing something you enjoy.

Another benefit of having new friends is that they may prod you into taking worthwhile risks and discovering new things about yourself. “In my own life,” Paul says, “I have a new friend who’s a cyclist, and she took me on a 20-mile ride. I never would have done that on my own!”

1-minute shapeovers

Before After
You sit by yourself at lunch You go up to a table of people and ask if you can join them.
You spend most of your free time watching TV alone and waiting for
people to call you.
You sign up for activities that get you out of the house on a regular basis, such as taking a wine-tasting class or volunteering for a political campaign.
At the gym you never say more than “hello” to anyone. You join a golf or tennis club, where you get paired up with someone else who needs a partner.