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Christina
10 Feb 2020 | 6 min read

The Art of Making Friends

Remember how easy it was as a kid to make friends? You ran up to a group playing on the playground and said hi. Suddenly you were “it” chasing the others in a game of tag. 

 

Once you leave school and enter the workforce, making friends doesn’t seem so simple. In fact, it feels a lot more complicated. 

 

There are many reasons why friend-making seems so much harder in the adult world. Whether you’re coming off a big move, going through a career change, or just interested in expanding your network, what seemed simple as a child might feel like a daunting task as a grown-up. 

 

But making friends is just as important as an adult as it was those days back on the playground. Not only can it expand your perspective, be good for your physical health, and help you boost your happiness and reduce stress. But it’s a great way to develop your career bank. Remember, even casual connections can benefit you in the future. You never know when that introduction from five years ago will come in handy. And it’s not always about what new friends can do for you; research shows that being a friend to others can lead to prosocial behaviors (actions intended to help other people), loyalty, and self-esteem.

 

Here is a timeline for the Art of Making Friends. 

 

WHAT TO DO IN THE FIRST 5 MINUTES

 

MEMORIZE THEIR NAME

When you first meet someone, memorize their name. It sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised how often people leave a conversation, not remembering the other person’s name. It is something so easy and yet so impactful. 

 

People love the sound of their own name. Science proves that something triggers in our brains when we hear someone say our name. Imagine how good you can make someone feel, just by using their name when you interact with them. 

 

Here are a few easy ways to remember a name if you’re like a majority of the population and say memorizing names is hard for you. 

 

  • Repeat the name as soon as it’s said. Then repeat it frequently aloud during your conversation. 
  • Connect the person to someone else with that name (hopefully someone you like and not a bad association!). 
  • Comment on the name. Say how pretty, unusual, or cool it is. 
 

Don’t feel bad if you still blank on a name or two. Keep practicing. Eventually, you will get better at remembering names and faces. 

 

FOCUS ON WHAT ISN’T SAID

The other important thing you want to do in the first five minutes of meeting someone is to be aware of body language. Most importantly, your body language. What message are you sending with your stance and movements? 

 

Make eye contact. There’s nothing more deflating than talking with someone who seems to be looking all around the room. Even if they don’t mean it, it feels like they are looking for a better opportunity to come along. Making direct eye contact and nodding or throwing in an occasional “uh-huh” shows that you are actively listening and not just talking to them until someone cooler sees you. For some people, it can be difficult to stare into a stranger’s eyes. One of the easiest ways to practice making direct eye contact is to look long enough to memorize eye color. It takes about 5 seconds to study someone’s eye color, and it helps distract your brain from the awkward feeling of looking into someone’s eyes. 

 

Put your hands up, chief! In her book CaptivatingVanessa Van Edwards talks about the importance of showing your hands when you speak. It might seem simplistic, but the action of moving your hands not only generates interest and captures your audience’s attention, but it helps build trust. 

 

Finally, don’t forget to smile. Studies have found that smiling indicates altruism and cooperation. 

 

WHAT TO DO IN THE FIRST 15 MINUTES

 

ASK QUESTIONS

The awkward pause is the killer of budding relationships. Don’t stress out when one comes around as you chat with a new acquaintance. Instead, use it as a way to redirect the conversation and take control. Ask questions. Asking questions is the easiest way to refocus the attention on the other person and give you a chance to learn more about their interests. But please don’t just use the old standard, “So, what do you do?” If coming up with thought-provoking questions on the fly is scary for you, here’s a list of 8 great questions to stimulate conversation from the Harvard Business Review

 

GET INTERESTED

Dale Carnegie once said, “The royal road to a man’s heart is to talk to him about the things he treasures most.” As you ask questions, get interested in their answers. Research shows if you happen to have a similar interest with someone, they will be more likely to like you, be influenced by you, and want to connect with you. If you don’t know about the subject, let them explain. People love to talk, they just need someone interested in listening.  

 

WHAT TO DO IN THE FIRST WEEK

 

FOLLOW UP

Keep in touch. Drop a quick email. Leave a voicemail. Comment on their social media page. Show that you valued the time you spent talking with them. Quick caveat: Always be respectful. It’s important to keep professional relationships professional. Set healthy boundaries with people. And don’t force friendships or push communication. When interacting with the opposite sex, make sure to establish standards. People will respect your thoughtfulness and personal limits. 

 

CONNECT THE DOTS

Remember links. Did you meet someone earlier this year who is a freelance website designer? Offer to connect them with the Small Business owner you just met who is redoing their brand. People who connect others are valuable. If you are known for introducing people, you will be remembered as someone who gets the job done. It doesn’t have to benefit you. Connect people anyway. 

 

WHAT TO DO IN SIX MONTHS

 

TOUCH BASE 

Set a reminder. Put it on your calendar. Make a note about some of the topics you discussed and wanted to follow-up on with them. Then shoot out a quick email or text. It doesn’t have to be long, and there shouldn’t be any pressure attached to it for them to even respond. Let them know you still think of them and are interested in how they are doing. 

 

Looking for more ways to connect with people? Read this article on the six habits of people who make friends easily. 

 

 


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Here at Volunteer U, we’re passionate about helping volunteer teams thrive. Your organization is doing important work. You deserve to have an incredible crew behind you to get the job done. Christina has a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with a focus in Global Consulting. Email the author christina@volunteeru.org.