I have moved eight times as a military spouse in the last fifteen years. I have become skilled at being a Navy wife. I know how to purge, pack, and research new areas. I have all the school enrollment paperwork organized, can find a church home within the first month, and have ways to discover all the best restaurants. I have made friends in every single location, and I cry every time we have to move away. But, even with all of that, it is scary. It is stressful. Every time we move, I experience all the toddler tantrum feelings of “But I don’t want to!”
I get it. Meeting people is intimidating. Plus, it’s hard. Our schedules are full, our walls are up, and we are all just so tired. Maybe you are new to an area or have lived there for years. Either way, if you are looking to make friends, I have learned a few things with all the opportunities I have had to make new friends. Take a deep breath. Some of this might make you cringe with nervousness and yell, “But I don’t want to!” I know; I’ve been there. But like we tell those toddlers throwing tantrums- sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. Sometimes the best things in life are really hard. Sometimes, those hard things are completely worth it.
The absolute best thing I think you can do to make friends is to go first. People are lonely and want to connect, but most of us are too nervous to take the first step. It’s like there are rooms full of people who want to make friends, but everyone is too intimidated to make the first move, so we all remain in this loneliness. Be the one to put yourself out there and maybe look like a fool. Other people will be so, so thankful that you did. You will be so, so thankful that you did. Smile, introduce yourself, and start asking questions. We all love to talk about ourselves, and listening is the best way to get to know someone, so ask questions and be genuinely interested in the answers. I cannot tell you how many friends I have made by being willing to approach someone to say ‘hello.’ It is super hard, but also really quite easy.
I admit, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, though. I have had my fair share of strikeouts. Some people don’t want to connect or clash with my personality. That can hurt or be embarrassing. That’s when we take a deep breath, remind ourselves we are children of the one true God, and accept that while we didn’t get a friend out of the interaction, we did get a story. In my experience, the interactions will be positive most of the time.
Take your air pods out of your ears and put away your phone. Stop scrolling social media when potential friends surround you. When we are open to connection, we are more likely to connect. A fantastic place to make friends is at your kids’ events. Other parents are also looking for friends, and if you are both in the same place, that means there is some shared interest or at least a shared schedule. Talk to other parents while you sit at practices. Host a cookout for the team. Don’t have kids involved in activities? No worries! I bet you have your own times when you could unplug and connect with others. Maybe chat with someone you always see at the gym instead of listening to music. Perhaps sit with a coworker for lunch rather than listen to a podcast. Look at the times you are closing yourself to others by focusing on technology and making adjustments. Others will likely follow your lead and put away their devices when they realize the human connection is available because that’s what we crave.
Follow your interests! Search online for groups you might like. Many areas have groups for different stages of life, like motherhood or retired groups, or gatherings based on interests like running, geocaching, or knitting. You will likely find helpful groups for specific situations like grief or adoption support. While having a similar interest does not guarantee a friendship, it does offer a good starting place. Surrounding yourself with a large number of people, you are bound to find someone you connect with. Going into your first meeting with a new group will likely be intimidating, but jumping in is sometimes the only way to get involved. You can do hard things, friend! Remember, everyone has been new to the group at some point. And once you are settled in the group, be on the lookout for new people! Remember what it was like to show up that first time, Making people feel welcome is another great way to meet new friends.
Can’t find a group that fits your needs? Start your own! Use word of mouth or social media to spread the message. When I was homeschooling my children, our town did not have a regular playdate for homeschoolers. There were plenty of field trips and the occasional park day, but I needed a regularly scheduled event to plan our schooling around. So, I talked to the staff at my church and posted on the local homeschool page that we would have a weekly playdate in the church’s children’s room. We brought out toys from the classrooms and let the kids play while the moms chatted. Almost every week, someone new came in slightly intimidated, and returned week after week. Some people even started going to church there! I made friends, my kids made friends, and other moms made friends, too. If you don’t have children or just sitting around talking doesn’t interest you, come up with your own ideas. Maybe you form a group that picks up trash at local parks or a book club or meets weekly at the pickleball courts. Whatever you are into, invite others along!
Volunteering is a great way to connect with like-minded people. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer at either church or in the community. When you regularly give back, not only will you be making a difference and feel good, but you will also have the chance to meet new people. Many volunteer opportunities involve lots of talking, so you can really get to know someone when you serve alongside them. You can hold babies in the nursery on Sunday mornings, sort clothes at donation centers, serve lunch at the local soup kitchen, play with animals at a shelter, or take a mission trip with your church. Think about how you would be interested in serving and find a way to get involved in that area. There is a good chance you will make friends who care about that thing, too!
Photo Credit :©iStock/Getty Images Plus/SeventyFour
Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.
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