How to make friends after 50
By Mary Rogers
You need to make friends. Somehow, it just happens. We look around and realize that our social circle has shrunk like comfy jeans in the dryer. Maybe our posse never was as big as we wanted but now, yes now, we see that this is a problem.
It shouldn’t be a crisis when you want to go see a movie and you will need some girls to have a girls weekend. Right?
Every Laverne needs a Shirley, Oprah needs Gayle. Even Oscar needed Felix. We are human.
I’m directing this to women because men are so damn simple. Choose an activity and ask a guy to go do that thing with you. That is all there is to it. If you have a good time, ask him to do it again. In three to five years you may find yourself sharing a feeling.
Back to the ladies….
Let’s not get all stuck in our stories of how we got where we are, but let me say that you would not be the first 50-something to find yourself a wee bit thin on friends.
In Episode 139 of my podcast, Finding New Friends, Pam Lamp shared her story of moving across the United States to a new city without a single friend to greet her. Pam’s experience is a splash of cold water after a warm bath. Most of us just sat in the tub while the water got cooler and cooler so we didn’t really notice.
So many of our friendships were based on our kids and their activities, a neighborhood we no longer live in, or a job we’ve moved on from. If you’ve gone through a divorce, well, POOF! went at least half of your good friends.
Not having a fairly deep bench of friends – from the casual coffee date acquaintance to the friend who checks your back moles – is a dangerous way to travel after 50. Who will take you to your colonoscopy?
Making new friends in midlife
If you are serious about making new friends, you’re going to need to do some things that I can absolutely guarantee are going to make you uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.
You are going to have to spend time and energy putting yourself in situations where you might make a friend. Might being the keyword. You will put a lot of effort into doing something in hopes of making friends and get squat. It will happen, you will come home empty-handed. This is the reality of fishing for friends and you need to be prepared for that. Accept it as part of the process.
This was easier at age 8 because we could just walk up to another 8-year-old and say “Wanna play?” and if they said “No”, we just looked around for another kid and asked them.
Now we feel like a loser before we even try. You’ll need to let that go, okay?
Quantity or quality friends
Honestly, some people will become quantity friends while others will be quality friends. You need both, but you will invest more time in those who could become quality friends, awesome people with whom you can share and connect deeply. It helps to know the difference but see the value in both.
The hunt for a quality friend
If you wanted to learn to hunt and you found an article titled How To Hunt Over 50, you would probably feel a bit let down if the only advice was to go to the woods.
I say this because most articles and books on making friends over 50 begin and end with telling you where to look as if you were having a geography problem. I will assume that you can rattle off about a hundred locations, activities and groups to join where you might meet a new friend who is interested in the same things as you. Right?
My top tip on where to meet potential friends is that you want to involve yourself in something that repeats or creates that “Haven’t I seen you here before?’ situation. So, think of a place that people come back to time and time again. Think meetings or classes at the gym or church or town hall.
What I imagine you want to know is what to do and what to say without coming across like a loser, or better yet – to not feel like a loser. Not gonna happen. We are all a little weird about this friend-making stuff.
You also want to know how to speed up the process of going from casual acquaintance to that comfy friendship with someone who also hates cilantro. Got it.
Know your friending strategy
I admit this may sound cold but you need a strategy. You can’t just ask somebody to be your friend and BAM you are friends. Furthermore, you won’t know if an acquaintance is even good friend material until you’ve spent some significant time together.
You are going to adopt a strategy of ruling people out, like an interview process. For your purposes, it would be nice if you could request a resume, but alas, such is not our way.
You will be one step ahead in this game if you meet somebody while in a bird watching or kayaking class because now you know that you both like being out in nature. If you meet while both volunteering on a political campaign, you know you will agree politically. Get it? So, these locations do count for something when it comes to strategy.
Three steps to your friending strategy:
- Meet as many people as you can in brief moments
- Identify prospects, be generous in your assessments of them
- Reveal enough about yourself that they can rule themselves out on their own
- Get contact info and secure next meeting
What do I do? What do I say?
Every friendship ever started with one person saying something to another person. Probably a single comment while in the ladies room or waiting in line to get coffee or waiting for… something. Lines and bathrooms – coupled with a repeating event -are your most fertile ground for friend hunting.
Keep it real and reveal!
The fastest way to make a new friend is to reveal that you need and want one.
Share why and how you feel about coming to Spanish lessons alone. “My husband would never do this, so I came by myself.’
“Now that I’m single again, I’m trying to get used to going to things alone.”
Reveal that you don’t have a lot of friends to do things with. Sound scary? Yep, like ripping off a Band-Aid.
“I hate coming to things alone”, is probably the best opening line for making friends.
Get comfortable being vulnerable and saying these things. It opens doors.
After revealing your solo spirit, reveal more about yourself in quick snippets that say a lot about you. Yep, more of that risky vulnerability. But remember, you want to find out if they are true friend material as quickly as possible.
If your politics are important to you, give a glimpse so that they know what they are getting into. They will either agree and jump on board that conversation or run for the exit. Perfect, you just saved yourself a lot of time.
This is not a job interview. If you try too hard to be likable to everyone, you won’t have any personality left for someone to find attractive as a real friend. Think about that.
Here is a tip that you’ve never heard: Reveal enough about yourself that the prospect can quickly reject you.
If you swear a lot, swear a little and see what happens. Get it?
Find your vice squad
Do they share your vices? I mean come on, this is usually the tie that binds. Will they support your bad habits because they share them? Laziness, day drinking, obsessive shopping, knowing the names of the McDonald’s drive-thru employees, spending a Sunday morning of worship at a slot machine? I tend to cut to the chase by letting one of these babies drop and then see what happens.
That being said, don’t scare people away with your really weird stuff. Moderate that, okay?
This is about you
Note to self: On the first sniff, nobody wants to learn about your children or grandchildren if they don’t like you already. Remember that. Please.
If you find that you have nothing to talk about other than your offspring, get busy figuring out who you are and what interests you.
Find one, get four
I’ll share some good news: For each new friend you find, you can reduce the time it takes to make the 2nd friend by 50% or more. If you find someone you like to hang out with, chances are good that you will like their friends.
The bottom line on making friends
- Attend repeating events
- Be prepared for coming home empty-handed
- Be vulnerable
- Reveal who you are
- Ask questions
- Don’t drone on about your children
- Be interesting and interested
- Don’t give up
This is a long game. Keep in mind that you deserve awesome friends and be willing to invest the time to find them. They are out there and are probably hoping to meet you.
Hang in there! You’ve got this.
Here is a great interview with a woman who moved to a new state and needed to start making friends to save her sanity!