In this article we will talk about how to make friends and improve your relationships.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our social landscape has changed immensely. From the way we interact with each other to how we meet new people, in order to follow the rules, we have had to learn to socialize in a different way.
However, we can enter into 2021 with a positive attitude and still have meaningful social interactions.
What follows are some easy tips on how to make friends and improve your relationships in 2021.
Meet New Friends Online
The days of meeting friends online being creepy are long gone. Since I became a writer, I have worked from home and been a stay at home mom and this made meeting new people difficult—until I opened my mind to the idea of making friends online.
Over the past year, I have made at least 10 close friends online through Facebook groups for writers. None of my new friends are creepy or weird, they are open books online so we talk about our families, careers, and share photos of our pets.
These online friends have been better friends to me than some of my friends in real life. Also, I always have someone to chat with, regardless of the time of day since they are all in different time zones!
We video chat and talk on the phone. I am proud to say, I now have friends from all over the world. In fact, this is how Sira and I became good friends and I am thankful for her every day.
How Do You Know Your New Friend Is “for Real” Online?
- Their Facebook profile has at least 100 friends. Bonus points if you have mutual friends who enjoy this person as well. If you don’t have mutual friends, take a look at who they are friends with, this could give you more insight into what kind of person they are.
- They have many photos of family and friends, pets, and are transparent about their “real life”.
- They have an actual photo of themselves as a profile pic or share selfies on the regular (not an avatar or stock photo).
- If you get a weird feeling, discontinue your communication. Always listen to your gut instinct.
- If they ask you for anything, like money or favors, I would be wary of this and discontinue your communication. If you met them through a group, report this activity to the admin.
- The best way to know if someone is “for real” online, is to ask them to video chat with you. Not only is this fun, but it will also put any fears to rest if you are new to online friendships.
Reconnect With Old Friends
Now that you’re most likely stuck at home, this is a great time to rekindle old friendships. Call that high school friend that you lost touch with, message your former work friend who has moved onto a new job and ask them how life is, and reconnect with any family you may have lost touch with.
Adulthood is strange, we want to have friends but there seems like there’s not enough time in the day to sustain meaningful interactions. But now is the time.
How should you approach an old friend or colleague?
Send them a quick message on Facebook or via text message. “Hey, I have been thinking about you, how have you been?”. If they answer back, and they seem to be open to reconnecting, keep the conversation going!
Often times, when a friendship is true, it can be months or even years since you talked and it feels like “old times” when you reconnect. It’s a great feeling to talk with an old friend and realize that nothing has changed!
Make New Friends at Work
If you are asking yourself how to make friends, keep in mind that you can always build great relationships at work.
First of all, if you are an essential worker, bless you. Thank you for everything you are doing to ensure the public gets what they need. Mad respect.
Granted, this must be a difficult time for you, and social interaction will be important for you. Friendships with coworkers will help you wade through the stress of being an essential person during a global pandemic, and it’s nice to have someone to talk to.
If you are introverted and struggle to make friends, keep it simple. When you notice someone at work that you want to be friends with, compliment them. Make sure you mean it, of course, and remember that compliments are one of the best ways to strike up a conversation.
You can compliment your coworkers on their clothing choice, or even say their lunch smells good and ask for the recipe. The conversation will flow from there, just be yourself.
If you want to pique a new friend’s interest, check out this article Sira wrote about how to be interesting to anyone.
Before I became a writer, I worked in healthcare for many years and having just one friend at work, made a world of difference for me. I looked forward to seeing this person and we could vent to each other if we were experiencing a stressful day.
Sustain the Connections You Have
Making new friends is not the only thing we should aim for. Knowing how to improve our relationships is essential for our wellbeing as well.
This last year has really taken a lot out of us, and from us. Most of us feel lucky to have made it through by the skin of our teeth. But self-care is really important and one of the most important aspects of self-care is maintaining the relationships we have in our lives.
When we are stressed, many of us retreat into ourselves. We stop calling and messaging friends and just live our day-to-day lives.
While this is an easier approach, it’s not the best way to deal with stress. We all need to have a friend and if we push the people in our lives away, we may end up without anyone to talk to.
Don’t become too busy for the people who matter most to you, remember the good times you had with them, and know that just because you can’t get together with them right now, doesn’t mean that you can’t sustain the relationship.
A simple trick I’ve learned from Forbes is to make a “ToWho™ List”. A ToWho list is a list of personal and professional contacts that you need to maintain contact with. You can write the names down, and set a time each day, week, or month that you want to be interacting with this person.
The excuse “I’m too busy” is no longer valid. In my belief, technology has made maintaining friendships as easy as sending a “What’s up?” text. I have seen friendships end and ended them myself because someone seemed “too busy” to do this. Social media and texting have somehow shown us who our true friends really are.
So if you are neglecting your personal relationships, stop it. And make a ToWho list today.
Be There for Your Friends
This past year has been so hard on everyone. Some people have experienced a mental illness diagnosis or relapse, lost friends or relatives to COVID and were not able to say goodbye, or suffered due to a lack of social interaction.
Obviously, we cannot help everyone in the world, but we can help the people in our lives deal with these “strangest of days”. If you know someone in your life is struggling, add them to your “ToWho™ List” and make them a priority.
If a friend or family member is not feeling well, drop them a message and ask them if they want something delivered or offer to video chat with a friend who is having a hard day. And if you are doing well yourself, help others through this difficult time. Good karma always comes back around.
Don’t pour from an empty cup, of course. If you are having a hard time, let the people in your life know. Don’t just “ghost” your friends and family. These people are in your life for a reason, and they can help you weather this storm. That’s the beauty of friendship.
Don’t Forget About Your Homesick Family Member or Friend
As we all know, traveling is severely restricted right now and as result, many people haven’t seen their families in a long time. If you have a family member or friend who lives away from you, don’t forget about them!
If you’re going to be getting together with your friend or family group, ask this person if they would like you to video chat with them while you’re all together (Always ask first, some people may get more homesick seeing everyone together without them).
During the holidays, call them and see how they are. You can even send care packages with items that are only available in your state or province for a touch of home.
I have deep compassion for people who are away from everyone they love right now, as my cousin and best friend is in this situation and I see it has taken a toll on her. So don’t forget about them, they need you now, more than ever!
Maintain Meaningful Connections
To maintain a healthy friendship or relationship, both parties should be emotionally involved. If you are continuously the one who is reaching out, this is not an equal exchange of energy and eventually, it will deplete you emotionally.
If you notice this is a typical thing with one of your relationships, you may be a part of a one-sided friendship. We would suggest ceasing communication for the time being. When your friend reaches out, you can reciprocate. But if you notice you are doing all of the work to maintain the friendship, I advise reevaluating where this person should stand in your life.
Ending a friendship doesn’t need to be a big dramatic scene. You can simply “be busy” and since you’re the only one doing the work, the friendship will likely fade away. You can, of course, have a conversation about their behavior with them but it’s not necessary. Remember that this isn’t a reflection on you or your friend, friendships ending is a normal part of life.
This is a difficult time and the less you stress out, the better. 2021 should be all about good energy and giving time to the people who value you. And if someone can’t give you the same time you give them, it’s time to bounce!
Enjoy Your Pandemic Friendships in the Moment
This is a weird time for everyone and you may find yourself making some friendships that are random and fleeting—but this doesn’t make them any less fulfilling. Enjoy these friendships, as they may be temporary, and try not to be hurt if you grow apart after things go back to normal.
If you want to make your new friendship last, don’t forget about your buddy once life returns to normal. If you both work to maintain the connection, this friendship could last a lifetime. And if it doesn’t that is okay too.
Remember, everything happens for a reason.
Respect Your Friend’s Opinions
I think we have all witnessed the division that COVID has caused among friends and family. Heck, I made a whole new Facebook account because I couldn’t stand seeing some people’s posts about COVID every day. This situation made me realize how little I have in common with the acquaintances in my life.
However, my close friendships have remained intact. I have friends who are medical practitioners and they have completely different views on the pandemic and I respect and accept both opinions. This is an example of how different people’s opinions can be, even when they are on the same team.
Remember that you won’t always agree with the people you care about, especially when it comes to controversial issues. If something is a “hot button” topic, I usually find it best to avoid it. When you disagree, remember why you became friends in the first place, and don’t let a difference of opinion get in the way of your friendship.
It’s hard to make friends or maintain healthy friendships if you don’t learn to accept other people’s opinions.
Maintain a Positive Outlook to Get Through This Difficult Time
If you want to understand how to make friends and improve your relationships, remember this: People want to be friends with someone who has a positive outlook on life.
It’s a fact. This has been a tough time for everyone and your outlook can determine rather you thrive or crash and burn during this time.
If you maintain a positive outlook, the people in your life will appreciate this, especially when they’re not feeling so positive themselves. In my experience, in the times I’m not feeling positive, my friends will remind me of gratitude, and vice versa.
It pays to be positive, even though I know it can be difficult. Feel the negative emotions, and don’t ignore them, but also, don’t forget to be grateful for what—and who you have in your life.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Jim Rohn:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”