One of the biggest challenges of my life were the times when I moved to new cities. Big cities where I didn’t know a single soul within a hundred miles of where I was.
This made it difficult to make friends, as nothing is more helpful when meeting new people than a common connection or referral.
I’m not talking about acquaintances who you give a head nod to in the hallway at work and almost never speak beyond that, but those true friends that when you call at 2am you know they’re going to pick up and help you out of a jam (and vice versa).
The good news is it’s still possible to find those types of people, even when starting from square one like I have multiple times (I still have friends like that from every stop in my life).
The bad news is there is still a minefield of social faux pas that you must ignore if you want to meet new people and turn those acquaintances into friendships.
1) Being Needy
Just as it is with women, nothing repels potential friends more than being needy.
Now the term needy is somewhat ambiguous. A good way to think about it is when one person’s demand for attention is greater than what another person is willing or able to supply them with.
Obviously that leaves us with a lot of subjectivity. Sometimes it will say more about the other person than you, but the real key is for you to be able to pick up on their cues to avoid those awkward situations.
Some of the most common mistakes that look “needy” are:
- Clinging to a person at a gathering, event, conference etc.
People hate this. Give yourself time to interact with them, but also give them their space. Besides, you should be out talking to other people as well. Use this time to see if there are others at the event you might want to connect with. No one wants someone following them like a shadow. Not only does it look needy, but it puts you in a lower status position.
- Getting ahead of themselves about where the relationship is headed
The problem here is that when you do this, and the person does not reciprocate, you begin to question the entire friendship (as opposed to the depth). It puts your relationship at risk because you have imposed unrealistic expectations on someone.
- Trying too hard to impress others
Most people don’t like those who take themselves too seriously. By trying too hard you are likely bragging or trying to make yourself the center of attention. Instead, you should be focusing on building a connection with the other person. You should be trying to see if they are worthy of your time, not trying to prove you are worthy of theirs.
2) Trying too Hard to be Witty or Clever
When we are conversing with new people, we can try to make ourselves look better by trying to be “on” and constantly make jokes, or forced witty/clever comments that we may not normally make during conversation with our current friends.
When you are actively trying to be clever or witty it seems forced and unauthentic. It does not allow you to be present in the moment because you are too busy worrying what they think will be funny rather than just enjoying the conversation.
3) Not Listening to Other People
Most people’s version of listening is really just waiting for it to be their turn to talk again. They are not truly hearing what the person is saying. Sure they might get parts of it, but their focus is on themselves.
Do NOT do this.
Instead, stay present and focus on the other person. Listen to what they are saying, and actually SHOW that you are listening to what they are saying. A head nod is a mediocre way to do it, but won’t hurt if you do it once in a while. But if you want to play in the big leagues you need to master the “child like wonder” technique I’ve talked about previously.
How can one do that? Think about how a child would react when you told them a story. They would do things like:
- Ask questions
- Show the emotions that the speaker is clearly trying to elicit
- Give the storyteller their undivided attention
Practice these techniques and you will be amazed at the difference in your conversations. A little bit of work for disproportionate results.
4) Listening Too Much
You might be confused after reading the previous section. How could someone listen too much?
By just letting the other person do ALL the talking and never really contributing anything to the conversation.
Yes, people want to talk about themselves (their favorite subject!) but they also want to get to know you! They are curious if you are a good fit for them, just as you should be doing with them. Both of you want to see if there is a potential match, and if you are not contributing to the conversation then the other person never gets that chance.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you interrupt them when they are telling a story. But if they say something that you can relate to, you can obviously respond to it, make an observation, or ask a question to get back to them.
By doing this you are both contributing to the conversation and still putting the focus on them.
5) Not Going to Places That Suit You
I’m still amazed how many people do this. Why stand around in bars when you actually hate going to bars?
Why would we do this to ourselves?
Because society says that’s where you have to go to be social?
If you hate bars and that’s where you’re primarily hanging out, socializing will be a chore for you and it’ll show.
Instead, maximize your chances by going to places that you actually enjoy.
If you need help you can check out this article for ideas on where you can start.
6) Gossiping/Sharing Too Much
This one is pretty simple. It’s a hard no.
The old Eleanor Roosevelt quote that “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” has never been more true.
Gossiping is one of the lowest forms of communication, it generally is meant to bring someone else down, and no one receives any real value from it.
Plus, there are clear drawbacks:
- People will think that if you are so willing to gossip about your friend behind their back to them, you are likely gossiping about them to someone else; and
- It will almost certainly get back to the person you were talking about.
Gossiping is bad enough, but what is far worse is breaking confidence.
If someone tells you something in confidence, they are trusting you with something that they deem immensely private. By sharing that information with others you are showing two things:
1) You cannot be trusted
2) You do not respect that person
These are immediate hindrances to creating incredible friendships that you want to be a part of. So while hearing the juiciest gossip could make you think that it gives you social cache when you share with others, think about the trade off you are making.
Is that worth throwing away a friendship over?
Now I want to hear from you.
In the comments below, what’s one thing on this list (or maybe something I missed) that you think could ruin a potentially good friendship? What bad habit have you kicked?