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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 20 June, 2018
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Dear Fifi: How do I make friends?

Tuesday’s child is full of grace, much like myself.

dearfifiheader

I think it’s really interesting how people hear music differently – it blows my mind, for example, how some people don’t find lyrics as important in a song as I tend to do. With that in mind, I’m not sharing an interesting article I came across this week but instead a song with beautiful lyrics.

Send me songs, phonetically spelled melodies to Riverdance, confessions and your problems anonymously right here

dearfifibar

I’m in my mid thirties and have no friends. I’ve tried all the usual things people are told to do when they say this online. I just never seem to be able to connect with anyone. Any tips on how to make a connection with people?

I’m gonna break this in two. First up, how to actually meet people. Secondly, what might be stopping you in your mind from making friends already.

Create the opportunities

You say you’ve seen unhelpful advice online on this subject before, so what I’m saying here is more than just a box-ticking exercise. I’m not going to say “oh, use meetup.com, take up a hobby or join a club” – because that’s what everyone always says. Either that hasn’t worked for you or you haven’t felt those suggestions were compelling enough to even bother trying.

So, let’s look at that practical advice with a slightly different lens. In order to make a connection with people, you’ve got to set yourself up with the right tools to meet them, right? Find a scene that makes sense for you, whatever it is.

Pick something that involves genuine and immediate interaction with other people, like an acting course or Toastmasters. Many people will be there just to improve their confidence and it’ll involve a lot of fun bonding that a yoga class or whatnot won’t. Being out of your comfort zone is pretty much a requirement for these things, so you won’t be alone.

Pick a social sport – something like tag rugby that has a big culture of going for tournaments and all the #banter that involves. You may not drink, but it’ll also involve socialising afterwards too, which is an opportunity to strike up chats and get to know people.

Have a proper think about where like-minded people you want to hang out with might be going to have the craic – that could be anywhere from activism in your local community housing group, volunteering with a social club, swing dancing to ukulele lessons in town. Try things out. Don’t expect the first thing you do to be an instant hit. Manage your own expectations a bit. Also: give it time. It takes a while to bond with people. Don’t be discouraged by that.

Once you do start going to stuff, don’t forget that people love talking about themselves, so ask them plenty about their life – and be genuinely interested in the answers. Don’t be afraid to strike up conversation.

While it’s not the exact same thing, online communities can be a great place to meet people who like the same things as you, without the initial pressure of having to show up and do face-to-face straight away. The line between online and real life is increasingly blurred, so don’t be afraid to take the leap into asking to hang out IRL if you get on famously with someone on Insta, for example. The worst they can say is no.

Take stock – and work on it

Practical considerations aside, it might be time to ask yourself some (potentially quite difficult) questions. Here’s the first: why do you think it is that you’ve come to this stage in life without any friends?

Look, it may not be through any particular action (or lack thereof) on your part. We’re not all lucky enough to meet people we get along well with in school or work. We may drift easily from others or find it hard to take it to the next stage. That’s understandable. Plenty of people feel like this, I promise you that.

It may seem like everyone else has a school or college gang that you lack – but that isn’t the case at all. These are just the most highly ‘visible’ types of friend groups. In reality, we all engage and make connections with people in various diverse ways and are more likely to end up with a patchwork of friendships from different pockets of our life with different levels of intimacy. Plus as we age our circles change too.

You may have more friends than you realise, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t see it like that. Is there anyone you can reconnect with? Has there been a pattern to trying to connect that you could look at working on? Do you struggle to meet people you find interesting, or is it moreso than you struggle to get chatting to them? Or continue it past the initial chat? Look at these pain points and figure out which one is the stumbling block, then address it.

What I’m saying is that going to a didgeridoo lesson to make friends may be putting the cart before the horse if there’s something else going on behind the surface stopping you from pursuing friendships. That could be anything: shyness, consuming long-term relationships, career commitment, location, a feeling of inadequacy or a difficulty with intimacy. I don’t know what is going on with you, but it’s worth doing some soul-searching to see what might be holding you back and then tackling that part first.

Good luck.

(Plus, you just made a connection with me, so now it’s on to the next one! <3)

dearfifibar

Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

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