It’s a lonely world out there and it’s hard to get noticed: people dart their eyes the other way as you pass by, store tellers obviously wish you were dead, little old ladies give you the stink eye when you try and help’em with their groceries.
When living in the heart of Los Angeles, it would totally upset my applecart when a passerby would glowingly greet my adorable dog and then…I would say “Hi” and they would ignore me like I was a turd caught in the dog’s dragging leash.
To our delight, we’ve had great luck making new friends in New Orleans. Now, given, this is a friendly city. Most relationships here start with the common greeting “What’ll ya have?” But nonetheless, some strategies we’ve employed here might just work anywhere and I’m willing to share How I Make Friends.
1. Just Say “Hi!”
“If you don’t ask, you’ll never know” is a popular phrase of people I envy and often despise. They have no fear asking you for your last bite of so-and-so or if they can borrow your brand new car to work tomorrow. The reason these people get more of what they want is because they’re not afraid to put it out there. Saying Hi is kind of like asking someone if they have a minute to chat without having to commit yourself with an actual question.
2. Ask Stupid Questions
I think being smart is a major deterrent to meeting people — just ask anyone who got a 1600 on their SATs. Smart people are more self-reliant and thus don’t share moments with others easily. If you want to meet somebody, don’t be afraid to ask them a “stupid” question that you already know the answer to. “Excuse me, what time does the train leave?” then follow up with a real whammy like “Does it often arrive here on time.” and finally a disclosure, “We’re going to Boscoville to pick-up some groceries|stamps|garden gnomes.”If this doesn’t work, you can move on without a damaged ego.
3. Tell People You’re New, Apologize for it even
Man, people sure take an interest in you when they know that you’re a visitor or a newbie. Especially if the place you’re visiting has a lot of pride in itself then you will find locals feeling a deep sense of responsibility to be kind and helpful to you. If you’re apologetic about your newness, they are also less likely to interpret you as obnoxious and ignorant.
4. Hand out your Card
It’s a good idea to hand out your business card after meeting someone. It’s a no-pressure approach to leaving open a line of communication and once in a while you’ll find that the person was interested in you and wants to learn more about you or what you do. Don’t have a business card? You should. I’ve seen plenty of cards that just have the person’s name, cell phone number and Gmail address. Why not order cards from Vista Print?
5. Give Free Compliments
It’s great to walk around and tell people what you like. When you dish out compliments, there isn’t a need for the person to respond but you know you are a harbinger of goodwill and whatever you’re putting out there will start coming back. Also, sometimes, you hit the jackpot and compliment something someone did very intentionally or is very passionate about and it will make them stop and engage.
6. Get Out of the House
Going to events and bars works wonderfully! Industry events, food events, classes and visiting lectures by Ira Glass. Any event that encourages talking and mingling is a great place to meet people. Get out of the house as much as possible, even if you miss your favorite TV show. It’s worth it.
7. Be a Wallflower
This may seem counter intuitive but if you’re feeling shy at an event, just go with it. Grab your plate of complimentary appetizers and huddle up in the corner with the other wallflowers. And talk to them! I’ve met amazing “wallflowers” time after time…after time. Plus you’ll probably get the skinny on the scene from these quite perceptive lone wolves, which will help when you get the courage to employ #8.
8. Put Yourself in the Center of it All
This can seem difficult, but it’s possible and it works. Walk into an event and stand in the dead center of the room, seek out the most popular people and introduce yourself: “Hi I’m so and so and I’m brand new. You seem like the right person to meet first.” Try to talk to several different people; it helps if you smoothly exit a conversation. Now if you’ll please excuse me as I jump to #9…
9. Meet Friends-of-Friends and Long-Lost Relatives
If you tell friends where you’re headed, you’ll often be regaled with stories of distant uncles and college buddies who have settled in the area. Do follow-up on these offers to connect you with your cousin’s roommate’s childhood babysitter and other remote affiliations. These strangers can end up being friends for life. Even if they don’t become lifelong friends, they can subdue a case of the “lonelies” or lead to other relationships (read: “I hated her guts, but the friend she brought along was awesome!”)
Of course you won’t necessarily meet your new BFF every time you try. But the more you try, the more you’ll succeed. Now get out there and make some friends!