The Friend Recipe
I want to be clear with you right off the bat: I am in no way advocating for you putting your friends (or anyone for that matter) in a blender. That will make you absolutely NO friends and will most assuredly land you in trouble with the law.
There. Now that that is out of the way, I am happy to report that I have discovered the secret recipe for quickly making new friends. I've been so busy experimenting with it this last week that I haven't had much time for writing (much to the dismay of my mother....sorry, mom). The flipside to not writing, though, has been some much needed adventure, new friendships, and new opportunities. In the end, I have to say that the opportunity cost is well worth it.
Today, instead of the standard life story post that I normally write, I'm going with a how-to article. But trust me when I say that what I've written here actually works. I hate how-to articles written by people who have never done anything and are just regurgitating knowledge. In the coming days, I'll prove to you that the adventures are real.
So let's cut right to it.
The secret recipe to quickly making new friends in four easy steps:
Smile at strangers.
Ask to join them or vice versa.
Have an adventure on the spot.
Pretty dang simple. But, if you're asking, "How the heck do you do that?" or "How can I have a conversation with a stranger when I can barely hold a conversation with my cat," then fret not! With a little practice it gets easier. (And if you really are unable to hold a conversation with anyone, much less your cat, then I've got some cool resources that I'd love to share with you. Just click HERE to use the fancy-dancy contact form to ask for them).
Before I begin, though, know that I'm still in the experimental stages. Right alongside the successes I've had some pretty awkward failures. Much like in the movies where the protagonist slowly backs away from a slumbering, monstrous animal, I've had to politely bow out of situations that, in my taste, were just flat out flops. The joy of new friendships, though, far outweighs the few seconds of awkwardness that result from a botched attempt. Take the following with a grain of salt, always practice common sense, and be safe.
Step One: Smile at Strangers
This is where it starts. It's the litmus test for all future interactions. If you can do this, then you're halfway to making a new friend. Oversimplified? Maybe, but making eye contact and smiling is the gateway to meeting cool new people.
Walking down the street, maybe you've noticed that hardly anyone makes eye contact anymore. Sitting on a bus, it seems like people are more interested in their phones or the floor instead of in the person across from them. We hate being uncomfortable, and for many, eye contact and conversation with strangers gives a feeling of unease.
But here's the game-changer: everyone on the face of the entire planet wants to be acknowledged. Actually, we don't just want to be acknowledged, we need it. It's built into us as human beings. From babies crying for attention to murderers killing for it, we intrinsically want to be noticed.
For the purpose of making new friends, eye contact and smiling does three things: it makes a person feel noticed (which is just plain nice), it gives you an added sense of confidence and well-being, and it helps you gauge whether or not the person is open for an interruption to their day.
Trust me, most of the time people desperately want something or someone to shake them out of their day-to-day routine. We've all had those dull days of routine, and when a fun, friendly looking person makes eye contact and smiles, the world seems to get brighter and we find some extra pep in our step. If you do this for others, and you'll go far.
Step Two: Ask Questions
This step is harder than the first, but with some foresight and practice it gets easier. The best questions are usually either circumstantial or borderline ridiculous.
Circumstantial questions are standard small-talk ice breakers. The best thing you can do in small talk is find commonality within the first minute of conversation. Think of where you're at and ask a question that's geared towards your shared environment. If the spot is crowded, you might ask how someone goes about navigating the masses of people. If your standing in line waiting to order, you can ask what their favorite food or drink might be. Any question that doesn't get too deep too fast and gets people connected on the basis of a shared environment will work in this context.
Stick with circumstantial questions for the most part, but if you've got the confidence, you can jump up to the ridiculous style of question for extra effect. Ridiculous questions often reveal a person's awesome factor. "Would you rather fight a bear or a shark?"has a funnier, more engaging vibe to it and can lead to a more interesting conversation. Most people get tired of small-talk really fast, so this is a sure fire way of breaking the already broken ice.
Regardless of the question you ask, the key is to pay attention to the person. Don't just ask a question for question's sake; be present, laugh, make eye contact, and be human.
AND DON'T BE SCARED! Remember, there are a ton of amazing people out there who are dying to connect with others. Just by asking questions and being present with a person, you're making yourself that much more interesting. Stretch yourself. It's a win-win.
Step Three: Ask to Join Them or Vice Versa
Here's the leap portion of the formula: the ask.
I use to get hung up here. I thought that if I wanted to hang out with person or group I just met, I would have to exchange information and figure out a future date. But in reality, what's wrong with hanging out right now? Don't be scared of asking if you can join them or asking if they want to join you. If you've followed the steps so far, you've probably already succeeded in coming across as an engaging person who is fun to be around. Ride that wave and ask if you can join them (or vice versa).
If it doesn't work out right there, then you can exchange information and figure out a future time to hang out. In the moment, however, don't let an opportunity go to waste because you're afraid of asking a simple question. You've come too far to let an interesting person and good conversation dissipate because you're both going in different directions.
Step Four: Have an Adventure on the Spot
Up until this point, you've only been an interesting acquaintance. The fourth step is where you start becoming friends.
Shared experience is the key to friendship. Conversation will only take you so far before you run out of cordial material to talk about. The easiest way to avoid this is to find something that you can do together right then and there to fuel the interaction. This can range from the simple game (20 Questions, Never Have I Ever, getting more strangers to join you, etc), to the more adventurous outing (going somewhere new, jumping off the dock, last minute bonfire, etc).
I'm not advocating for going crazy here, but when there is a perceived risk or significant weight to an activity, there's a greater feeling of accomplishment and bonding during and after the experience. Take playing Uno at a friend's house vs a midnight beach dash, for example. I've played Uno hundreds of times and remember a handful of them, but I remember EVERY midnight ocean jump I've ever done with fellow crazies. The weight of the activities are significantly different, and I can tell more stories about beach jumps and bonfires than I can about playing card games.
Many of us sit back and wait for fun, serendipitous experiences to happen, but the truth is they're rare.
Fortunately, you can step in and expedite the process. When you go on an adventure, or do something weighty with a friend or group of friends, that experience will go much further in deepening relationships and creating memories that will last a lifetime.
So there you have it – The Friend Recipe.
Smile at strangers
Ask to join them, or vice versa
Have an adventure on the spot
Take it and use it, young grasshopper.
An untold number of new friendships, wild adventures, and timeless memories await you.
If you're feeling like you can't do it, just remember: everyone on the planet wants to get to the end of their life with tomes full of adventurous stories and fond memories, but most people just wait for these things to happen to them instead of going and making them happen. When you think of meeting new people and having adventures like this, then you realize that putting this formula into practice makes you a catalyst for adventure in someone's life.
Everyone wants that.
Now go make it happen.
And stay tuned for my personal stories of my own adventures!