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Making new friends can be all sorts of awkward or all-round awesome. If you’re looking to expand your crew, but you’re not a super-confident person, there are steps you can take to make it happen. Brush up on your social skills so that you can get down to the business of finding your new BFF.

This can help if:

  • you want to meet new people and make new friends
  • you’re naturally shy and reserved
  • you want to improve your social skills.
3 girls in a row

Get in the friend-zone

Just because you find it hard to make friends, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. But there are a few things you can do to come across as a great potential friend and improve your chances of finding some new mates:

  • Work on your self-awareness. When you're looking to start a friendship with another person, it's important to be aware of who you are, your values and beliefs.
  • Be patient, instead of pushy. Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t make heaps of friends straight away. Creating a network of good friends can be a slow process, but if you’re patient, you’ll end up with a whole crew of people who are lucky to know you.
  • Try not to bitch. Whether you’re a guy or a girl, try to resist building friendships based on a shared dislike of someone else. Be aware that gossiping can make you seem like an untrustworthy friend, so it can backfire if you’re not careful.
  • Don’t forget who you are. Sometimes the urge to make friends can make us try to change who we are, but you shouldn’t feel that you have to give up a part of yourself to make friends with others. Not only will this mean that your friendships aren’t genuine, but you’ll be missing out on meeting people who think the real you is awesome.

Find a friend

Beyond the usual spots like school or uni, check out these places that you might not have thought of as potential sources of new friends:

  • Hobby and special interest groups. Chances are you’ll find people there whom you’ll get on with. After all, you already have at least one thing in common!
  • Volunteering. So many good things can come out of volunteering. Not only are you helping others, but there’s a good chance you’ll make friends while doing it.
  • Parties. Try not to turn down invitations to parties and social events. The more people you socialise with, the more people you’ll have an opportunity to talk with, and the more likely you are to make new friends!
  • Online. Don't knock building relationships online before you try it. Joining groups on MeetUp, Facebook and other social platforms can connect you with people who share similar interests. Take a look at the ReachOut Forums to anonymously connect with other young Australians discussing everyday issues as well as tough times.

Develop your social skills

Making friends can feel pretty tricky if you’re naturally shy, nervous or reserved. But developing some basic social skills can really help turn a first meeting from totes awkward to totally awesome. Try these strategies the next time you’re out and about:

  • Listen and ask questions. It shows that you care what the other person is saying and that you find them interesting. Make eye contact while they’re speaking and follow up with a couple of questions.
  • Give ’em a compliment. Have you ever received a compliment? Doesn’t it feel great? Complimenting someone is a great icebreaker and naturally gives the other person an ego boost. Follow up with some questions, and hey presto – you’re having a conversation with a stranger!
  • Detach yourself from technology. If you’re constantly on your phone or computer and distracted by emails and text messages, you may not notice when someone is interested in you. It also makes people think that you’re unavailable and not interested in chatting.

If you’re finding it really hard…

If these strategies don’t help, or you feel that your fear of socialising is affecting your life, you might be suffering from something called social anxiety. If it is affecting your life, it’s worth talking to someone who can help. Someone you trust, or an experienced expert such as a counsellor or psychologist, can help you come up with some strategies tailored to the particular challenges you face in making friends.

What can I do now?

  • Say ‘yes’ to invitations or situations where you’ll have a chance to meet new people.
  • Practise your social skills with family or existing friends.
  • Join a club, or volunteer your time to help a worthwhile cause.