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Seeking New Friendships?

Howard was a quiet man who had enjoyed gardening all his adult life. A few years after retiring, he convinced his wife, Betty, to move from their home in the Midwest to Florida. They had no children and Howard had no other relatives, but Betty would be leaving her hometown, four siblings and their families.

Wisely, Howard chose to rent a condo in Florida before deciding to remain and purchase a home. Less than a year later they returned to their house in the Midwest. Neither Howard nor Betty had enjoyed condo living, but sadder still, neither had succeeded in making friends.

Except for moving to a golfing or retirement community, relocating and finding friends can be difficult for older people. No longer having day-to-day access to others in the work place, and with children now grown, new friendships must be sought out. And wishing for someone else to make the first move could mean a long wait.

It’s no problem finding places to meet people—clubs, volunteering, social functions, plays, taking classes, community events. Putting oneself out there is not so easy for many folks.

Margaret Manning (columnist, Huffingtonpost.com) suggests that instead of focusing on finding people, develop your own interests– hobbies, skills, activities—and follow that.

Also, examine what it is that holds you back—insecurity about your social skills, education level, appearance? Fear of rejection?

Once you’ve zeroed in on the problem, spend time each day on physical or mental improvement to help you gain confidence. Do what it takes to feel better about yourself—expand your reading subjects, improve  your vocabulary, exercise, keep up with world news—whatever will help you feel more comfortable around others. Practice smiling and speaking to people in the grocery, the drugstore, the bank.

Relocating in her later years, Maggie reports that she joined an organization that interested her. Expecting to meet people after her first session, she was surprised when no one approached her afterwards, even though she had participated in the discussion.

She was tempted not to return. However, she finally took a moment to step outside herself and accept that people already have their own friends, their own families and lives, and that she needed to give them a chance to get to know her.

Summoning her courage, she put a smile on her face, and attended the next meeting, and the next, and the next, initiating light conversation with those sitting near her, and learning something about them. She also shared information about herself, her interests. Gradually she was accepted and began making friends.

Putting yourself out there can seem daunting, but it lets others know you’re friendly and open to engaging socially.

And as Maggie learned, don’t give up on your first attempt. Give people another chance to accept your invitation to friendship.

Article by Constance Watkins