5 Tactics for Making Friends in a New Place
- Bekah DiFelice bekahdifelice.com
- 2017 7 Jul
I don’t know about you, but I always underestimate how much time it will take to transition to a new place. In my imagination, I’ll instantly make new friends who will share meaningful conversation and find all my jokes funny. But in reality, the excitement of a new place is often offset by the uncertainty of how to build new community.
My husband and I spent the better part of the last decade moving often as a part of the military lifestyle. Regularly, I have been challenged and compelled by the command given to the exiled Israelites, those living in a temporary place:
Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lordfor it, for its welfare will determine your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:5-7, NLT)
Even in a new place where you are not a native, Christ compels us to invest in the welfare of the city. And, in my experience, the best way to do this is through relationship, by building friendships wholeheartedly and intentionally, by looking at your new address as somewhere that is not only a residence, but a place to be a good neighbor.
So how does one begin making friends in a new place? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Be a front yard dweller.
Relationships are built on overlap in life, and where is there more overlap than in your neighborhood? While seeking relationship in a new place, put yourself in situations where you might interact with your neighbors: while getting the mail, walking your dog, mowing the yard. If you have young kids, make it a point to spend time at the closest neighborhood park. You could even take it a step further, like some of our friends did, and host a “Hi, we are new here” party for neighbors. Put lawn chairs in the driveway or make it an open house—it doesn’t have to be fancy or formal. But by thoughtfully engaging your neighbors, you might be surprised by the organic relationships that emerge.
2. Attend gatherings where you know what to talk about.
Isn’t the most intimidating part of making friends wondering, What will we even talk about? Do we have anything in common? One way to relieve some of that ambiguity is to start at social gatherings centered on a shared interest. For example, at dog parks, you can initiate conversation about dogs; at playgrounds, kids provide a shared topic; at group fitness classes, the unrelenting intensity of an instructor might provide a basis for camaraderie. Think about what interests you and what’s easy for you to talk about. Are there communities of people gathered around that subject? And is there a way for you to join in?
3. Follow up with social media.
It’s easy to knock the Internet as a mechanism that distances people from real-life connection, but when you’re working to build relationships in a new place, especially when you are learning new names at high volume, social media can be useful for face-to-name memorization. Sites like Facebook or Instagram also provide a small window into a new friend’s life, often illuminating a shared interest that you wouldn’t otherwise know about each other. Not only that, but commenting on or liking a new friend’s picture or post is an incredibly easy way to communicate to them “I am for you.” It’s a point of connection that requires minimal effort but allows you to interface with new acquaintances and build rapport easily.
4. Facilitate activities where everyone is partially distracted.
Of course, deep and meaningful conversation is the best way to get to know a new friend, but sometimes there needs to be a baby step or a “first date,” so to speak. If you worry about awkward silences with new acquaintances, facilitate a gathering where an activity is the centerpiece, rather than conversation itself. Host a board game night or invite people over to watch your local sports team. Have new friends over for dinner, but make the preparation collaborative—where everyone assembles their own mini pizzas or makes their own tacos from a taco bar. The diversity of how people choose and assemble their food is a topic of conversation in itself. In other words, think of creating spaces where the pressure to generate conversation is offset by an activity that provides its own banter.
5. Prove you were listening.
All the people I admire as pursuers of people and makers of friends have one thing in common: They prove they were listening. Sometimes this simply means asking good follow-up questions: “How was the family reunion you mentioned a week ago?” Other times, it involves a thoughtful gesture.
A couple of years ago, I decided to test this theory. The first time I met my neighbor, she mentioned that her husband would be returning from an overseas deployment for the military in a few days. Because this was an area of commonality for us, this milestone stuck in my brain, and on the day of the homecoming I left a celebration basket outside her front door: some chocolate, champagne, and a congratulations card. I worried this would be weird or intrusive, but instead this gesture proved to her that I was listening, that I cared. It ended up being the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Sometimes the biggest hurdle to making new friends is simply convincing yourself to be the pursuer. But in taking that first step, investing in your new town by introducing yourself to its people, you’re actually doing something quite extraordinary: fighting for its welfare while you fight for your own.
Bekah DiFelice is a writer, wife to a former Marine, and mom of two kids. In Almost There, Bekah’s new book, she shares her story of discovering pieces of home in the most unexpected places. With imaginative storytelling and witty, relatable prose, Bekah offers wisdom for those struggling to belong in a world where home is constantly shifting.
She loves strong coffee, her home state of Colorado, and turning strangers into friends. Her life is an open story at BekahDiFelice.com, where she writes about community, transience, and her faith in Jesus.
Recipient of Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review!
On the move . . . again? Wondering when you will “arrive”?
Sometimes God leads people out of familiar territory so he can tell them who they are. That moment you depart, you experience reinvention, renewal, and freedom. You get a redo on the adjectives associated with your name.
Almost There is for those on the move and those who feel restless right where they are. It’s for those who struggle with not belonging, with feeling unsettled, with believing that home is out of their reach, at least for the moment. And Almost There is for those who find themselves in a transient lifestyle they didn’t expect—say, moving across the country for a new job or the military or an opportunity to begin again.
With imaginative storytelling and witty, relatable prose, Bekah DiFelice offers wisdom for those struggling to belong in a world where home is constantly shifting. When our hope of home is rooted in an unchangeable God, we are not uprooted, lost, or made homeless by change. We become found ones on the move.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/monkeybusinessimages
Publication date: July 7, 2017