[Advice] Forty & Friends

I’ve started answering questions…with questions. If you have a problem that might benefit from other angles of consideration, send it to donovanable [at] gmail [dot] com. 

Any advice on men pushing 40 to make new friends? I’m in a new city, living with my girlfriend, but she travels a lot for work and I work from home. I’ve gone for some of the low-hanging fruit. I took over a meet-up group when the leader stepped down, and the people who come to the meetups are nice but we’ve never exchanged numbers or become friends in any way. I tried volunteering, and that led to nothing. Anything obvious I’m missing?

Okay, LW, I will be honest with you; it is unusual for me to talk to forty-year old men, and I am not sure I have the best advice for you. But you did ask here, and there is only twenty-three year old me in the vicinity. So, here we go.

First of all, I don’t expect you’re missing things that are obvious; meetup.com was going to be the first thing out of my mouth. (I was just busy trying to formulate it into a question, Jeopardy-style.)

What things make you like people? What kinds of people are you interacting with in your current day-to-day? Do these two align? 
Worth taking hands to keyboard or pen to paper and making a list. People you should want to be friends with are notoriously less fun than people you want to be friends with.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 6.24.25 PM
A portrait of the author, post socializing.

How much energy do you have to spend on this? Are you introverted? Social?
Do you have the energy to invite someone to do a New Friendmaking Thing every week? Every two weeks? Every month?
Friendmaking is an activity, and it can be exhausting. If you’re anything like me, you might go through cycles of

a) scheduling or committing to ALL THE THINGS.
b) followed by deciding I’ve solved the question of friendship/am satisfied with my social life
c) followed by being tired from the aforementioned ALL THE THINGS and doing my best hermit impression. This results in…
d) failing to respond to any of the next invites or spend time with any of the new people I meet.

Picking a steady rate at which to plan or do social activities and then sticking to that, rather than switching between over-scheduled and a crushing sense of scarcity has counteracted this.

What have you told people about your interest in making friends with them?
You mentioned that your meetup (points for taking over a meetup group, by the way) wasn’t creating the connections you wanted.
Especially when new to an area, it’s usually normal (though not intuitive) to tell people something like “I’m new to the area, and you seem cool. [Coffee/drinks] sometime?”
Note: if they say yes, you are usually in the position of making specific plans, not them.

In your optimal friendship situation, what do you do with people?
In the vein of fake-it-until-something-works-maybe, do you have a list of things you wish you were doing with others?
On my list:
-Sitting in the same room on the internet, occasionally sending each other interesting articles and debating their merits. Sometimes sending each other cats.
-Trampoline gyms!
-Going on food adventures, like Kitchen Kibitz.
-Food festivals.
-Cool exhibits. see: Mapparium

Can you invite not-friends-but-currently-acquaintances on some of these things?
Maybe “sit silently in the same room on the internet” is hard to describe to an acquaintance—and a little awkward to initiate or bail on—but Do Fun Thing With Person Who Might Be Fun, Who Knows? is a grand tradition in new friendship making.
Benefits: For activities that are not conversation based, you can do fun things whether or not you end up enjoying conversation with them. Aaand, you have things to talk about!


Stuff I read when thinking about your question:
The Main Tasks For Creating A Social Life
Operation: How Do I People?
Photo credit: Arkomas on Flickr

4 thoughts on “[Advice] Forty & Friends

  1. Also consider: Where are the people who might be open to making new friends? It is my understanding that most 40ish people fall in one of two camps: there’s those who have some solid, old friendships and aren’t interested in more serious friends, and people whose friends have drifted away or who, like you, have moved away themselves and now have very few friendships. So: where are the latter people? What might they be doing?

    One strategy that I’ve seen work is to make a post to your town’s subreddit, if there is one, and just say you’re new in town and looking for friends, and talk a little about your interests.

    It can also work to find congregations of people developing a new hobby: these people will often want new friends with which they can engage in the hobby, or talk about the technical details or what they want to do with it. Sometimes meetup groups work for this but sometimes not; classes or workshops are sometimes better.

    If you have any interests or experiences that are generally “taboo” or deeply misunderstood by most people (examples: kink, LARP, addiction recovery, for some wildly different examples), you can often build particularly deep friendships on the basis of that shared interest/experience.

    In certain bars/coffee shops/other community spaces, sometimes if you become a regular and give it time, people will start to talk to you, or you’ll meet someone else you’d like to talk to. It’s natural to become curious about people you keep seeing. Consider whether the venue you’ve chosen attracts other people you’re interested in, and whether there’s any sense of “community” surrounding the space.

    As a really general principle, figure out where you can become ingroup. People want to be friends with other people in their ingroup – it’s awkward not to be.

  2. This is a problem I really need to solve for myself too. I tried a few therapist/counselor people (they never seemed to understand what the difficulty was). I think my problems include lack of places to meet anyone to begin with, and my “narrow” range of interest (well, excludes almost everything most people like to do, such as the items on your list there). But that’s just my best guess. No one has ever painted a clear enough picture of how they go from A to B to C for me to be really very sure. It kind of boggles my mind that you have the success cycle you describe there. Though there is a new art group I’ve gone to, and it’s my best bet right now, everyone does seem nice, and interesting. When I was at university the art club were very poorly run so we never got to meet much (though maybe I could have tried a bit more with the writing club).

    1. I should say, I haven’t actually *succeeded* much. I go to social things but have not formed many connections.

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