I stumbled across a funny video the other day that had me rolling. It started with a young woman scrolling on her phone at a restaurant. She got up to get a drink and sat back down to eat, never taking her eyes off her screen. In the middle of a bite, she looked up to see that she was eating off her table neighbor’s plate. It’s hard to say who was more surprised: her or the other diner. She quickly relocated, and tucked into her own meal.
Technology is a gift and a curse. On the one hand, it allows us instant access to a world of information, but on the other, it can be all-consuming. Social media has changed interpersonal climates worldwide. Our social networks have a wider reach than ever, meaning that we can have connections with thousands of people. Unfortunately, more isn’t always better. Maintaining a huge bank of relationships online can leave us stretched thin. Truthfully, we are built for communion of a different sort.
If you find that you’re feeling unsatisfied with your relationships, it may be time to focus on creating a few meaningful friendships, rather than investing in a swath of shallow acquaintances. A few intimate friendships can help you navigate life’s mountains and valleys. Having people who care can improve your quality of life, combat loneliness, and promote overall satisfaction.
Read more: How to Find Catholic Friends
So how do you find real friends in a world of casual acquaintances? The old fashioned way, of course! Here are 5 tips – trust us, it’s worth the effort.
Practice the art of noticing
People love to be noticed. It feels good to see someone’s face light up with joy when you recognize their positive qualities! So speak up when you notice someone who excels at their job – whether it’s in your office building, on the city bus, or in the grocery store parking lot.
When things go wrong, lighten up the mood with a touch of gratitude. Instead of saying, “Sorry I’m late,” try, “Thank you so much for waiting!” You attract more flies with honey, after all.
Last but not least, hand out compliments like candy. If you’re anything like me, your stomach probably does a back-flip at the thought of speaking up in public. But it’s a piece of cake to notice something stellar about a person. Maybe you notice their shoes, their eyes, or their haircut. Make a comment and they’ll likely open up about where or how they acquired it. From there, you can chat about almost anything. Voila, you’ve made a new friend.
Spark a conversation
Speaking of conversation starters, there’s a million and one ways to get people talking. In the church pews, in line at the grocery store , just about anywhere. You never know when you’ll click with someone, so get talking!
If initiating conversation makes you shiver, start with something simple. Read up on the news in your local area and open with, “Hey, have you heard…?” It’s more engaging than the weather, and people love to talk about news that’s relevant to them.
In the beginning though, leave the politics at home. Everyone has their own opinions, and controversial topics are best saved for more relaxed settings.
Find activities and events you enjoy and strike up a conversation to meet people who share your interests. If you’re feeling bold, you can even search for a Speed-Friending event in your area. These fun mixers follow the model of speed dating and allow you take a lighting-quick trial run with a bunch of potential friends. If you find that you have something in common, you can swap numbers and plan to meet up at a later date.
Here’s more great friend-finding activities we love:
- Fitness classes
- Maker spaces and crafting meetups (check with your local library)
- Hiking, bicycling, and walking clubs
- Book Clubs
- Theology on Tap
- Frassati Society
Follow through and follow up
This is the most important piece of the puzzle. Once you’ve found someone you get along with, take time to nourish your friendship. Meet regularly to relax and chat. Celebrate your friend’s joys and be a shoulder to cry on in the midst of their struggles.
Recognize that many people have trouble asking for help, so check in from time to time and offer assistance in whatever ways they need most. Giving back to a friend fills your tank. There’s a good chance that you’ll feel like you receive more than you give.
Expect the unexpected
Friends often show up in unexpected places. Don’t write off a potential friendship because of an age difference or a difference in political leanings.
We all come from different backgrounds and we’re all at different places in our faith journeys. Who knows, God may send you someone very different from you to be a soundboard and a unique support where you need it most.