Over 2000 years ago, Aristotle – one of the most revered and influential thinkers of the Western philosophical tradition – said that “without friends no one would choose to live,” even if he had all other aspects of his life sorted.
That’s a pretty big claim, right?
Luckily, it’s not necessary to study ancient Greek philosophy to unearth this truth.
As social creatures, we are only too well aware that having friends is absolutely necessary if we are to flourish as human beings.
We know that without friends we are unlikely to be happy.
And seeking happiness is a worthy pursuit indeed.
Therefore it’s important that we always have friends in our lives and that we do our best to make as many friends as we can.
But making new friends can often be a long and drawn out affair – especially those friendships that last over the long term.
However, it needn’t be.
Not at all.
There are some specific strategies and techniques you can use to help make friends faster.
And they really work.
Here are 5 such ways you can make friends a lot faster that are based on solid scientific research.
Put them into practice today and no doubt you’ll dramatically increase the size of your social circle and make a ton of real and long-lasting friends.
1. Self-disclosure is key to forming new relationships.
According to University of Winnipeg sociologist Beverley Fehr, “the transition from acquaintanceship to friendship is typically characterized by an increase in both the breadth and depth of self-disclosure.”
In her landmark study and book Friendship Processes, Fehr found that friendships were formed when individuals revealed deep and meaningful aspects of themselves to each other.
The message from her work is plain and simple: if you’re finding it difficult to form solid relationships with the people you meet, then think about how much you’re actually revealing about yourself.
Do you find yourself putting up a “wall” when meeting new people, constantly deflecting personal questions or answering them with simple, superficial answers?
Or do you hold back on telling people about your own experiences when the topic moves to an area that you know only too well?
You may think that revealing potentially embarrassing aspects of your life and history may actually hurt your chances of making friends. But according to Fehr, and many other social researches, the truth is actually the opposite.
Self-disclose and you’re actually much more likely to make new friends.
But how does self-disclosure help form new friendships?
Collins and Miller found that people who self-disclose are liked more by others. They also found that other people tend to self-disclose to people that they like, and that people prefer those to whom they have made personal disclosures.
In sum: friendships are based on likability, and it just so happens that revealing aspects of yourself makes people like you more. When people like you, they are more likely to self-disclose to you (which in turn will make you like them more). And finally, people tend to want to spend time with people they have made personal disclosures to.
Makes sense, huh?
It is only when we put ourselves out there and tell people about ourselves that we can actually connect with people.
Of course, in order for a friendship to form, both parties need to engage in self-disclosure.
It doesn’t work if only one person is revealing aspects of themselves.
But as the research suggests, you are much more likely to encourage the other person to share their personal history with you once you do so first.
However, just be careful: too much self-disclosure can actually be off putting and can even drive people away. You need to find the right balance between revealing too much and revealing too little.
So what kinds of things can we reveal of ourselves in order to make stronger connections with other people?
Let’s look at another important scientific finding to help us make friends faster.
2. 36 questions to form stronger bonds with others.
In April 1997, an interesting study was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by Arthur Aron and his team. The researchers found that it was possible to increase the intimacy between two complete strangers by asking 36 specific questions.
The questions were all geared towards soliciting revealing aspects about the participants in the study.
And as we have already found, self-disclosing is a vital part to forming new friendships.
You can check out the full list of questions in the link above, but here are 6 that you can easily remember and employ the next time you meet a new potential friend.
- What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
- Would you like to be famous? In what way?
- Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
- If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
- Ask your partner to tell you what they like about you; ask them to be very honest, saying things they might not say to someone they’ve only just met.
- Ask your partner to share with you an embarrassing moment in their life.
All these questions will go a long way towards forming strong relationships with others.
Just be sure you give your own answers to the questions.
As we already know, forming new relationships is a two-way street.
3. Music and what it says about personality.
From what we’ve discussed so far, you may be thinking that you need to get all deep and meaningful with the people you meet in order to start new friendships with them.
Well, you will certainly need to reveal personal and meaningful things about yourself at some stage if you want to make a new friend.
But you can also talk about more “trivial” things in the beginning stages of a friendship in order to get it moving along in the right direction.
In fact, a recent study found that talking about music was one of the most popular topics of conversation when same-sex and opposite-sex pairings were told to get to know each other over the course of 6 weeks.
In the study, 58 per cent of the pairs talked about music in the first week. Less popular topics of conversation – such as favorite books, movies, TV, football, and clothes – were only discussed by about 37 per cent of the pairs.
But why is it that music is such a popular topic of conversation for newly introduced parings?
The authors of the study posited that the kind of music someone likes says a lot about their personality. And that people talk about music in order to gauge whether they are similar or different to each other.
Interestingly, the findings of the study seem to support this hypothesis.
According to the research, an individual’s musical preferences were an accurate indication of their personality.
Specifically, the study found that those that liked vocally dominant music were generally extraverted in nature, that those who liked country were, for the most part, emotionally stable, and that those that listened to jazz were quite intellectual.
The key takeaway from this study is that we can know more about a person by finding out what kind of music they like.
So the next time you meet someone new, don’t be afraid to pull out the “what’s your favourite type of music?” card.
It’s not a boring topic at all, nor does it necessarily signify that you’ve run out of things to say.
Talking about music is a great topic of conversation when trying to make friends faster because you can learn about what kind of person someone is simply by asking them to name their favorite songs and music.
Or, in other words, musical preferences reveal aspects of an individual’s personality and allows you to get to know them better.
In turn, they’ll get to know you a little better, too.
You can then find out whether you guys are compatible or not.
And this will help you make friends faster.
4. Know where the other person is coming from.
Finally, another interesting finding that can help you make friends faster comes from social researchers Carolyn Weisz and Lisa F. Wood and their study on the effects of social identity support between individuals.
According to the results of the study, social identity support – the way someone supports another’s sense of self or identity in society or a group – is a key promoter of intimacy between two individuals.
A social identity can be many things, such as being a member of a particular religion, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, socio-economic class, etc.
In simple terms, the results of the findings suggest that being able to relate to an individual’s particular position in society can help them feel understood, and this can hasten feelings of intimacy between you and them.
They also found that social identity support between those individuals often led to them remaining friends over the long term.
So how can this finding help us make new friends faster?
It’s easy, really, and comes down to flexing your empathic muscle.
Whenever you meet someone new, try and put yourself in their shoes, and try to feel and understand what it must be like to move through their world as them – with their particular social identity.
Or in other words: in order to strengthen the bonds between you and the people you meet, you need to empathize with them and where they are coming from.
This means understanding their particular social position, and how they relate to the world.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
It’s hard to relate to someone’s particular social identity when we have no experience or knowledge of it.
But remember that earlier study by Aron and his colleagues and his list of 36 questions to help increase the intimacy between two complete strangers?
Asking a new potential friend some of these questions will better help you understand their particular social position, and consequently help quicken the bonds between both of you.
So are you ready to make a truck load of new friends?
Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ve learnt:
- You need to be comfortable self-disclosing with the people you meet.
- There are specific questions (36, in fact) you can ask that will help increase the intimacy with those you meet.
- Talking about musical preferences can help you see if you’re compatible with a new person.
- Empathizing with someone’s social identity can help deepen the connection between you and them.
Have you put any of the above findings into action?
What has your experience been like?
Let us know in the comments below and share on social media if you think others can derive some benefit from these findings.
Artwork by Rebecka Kloth. Artwork inquiries: [email protected]