“How do you make a social circle from nothing? I know someone with a large social circle and would love to know how they managed to build their network. How do you build a social life from scratch?”
At some point, you may need to rebuild your social life from the ground up. For example, when you graduate college and move to a new city or relocate to a new place for a job, you might not know anyone in your area. This guide will help you form a new network of friends, whether you’re working or in college.
Think about what kind of friendships you want. Then you can plan how to meet people who are likely to be compatible with you. Ask yourself:
- What activities would I like to do with my friends?
- Do I want to meet people who share any of my beliefs or political views?
- Do I want to meet people who are in a particular stage of life or dealing with a particular challenge?
When you’ve figured out what sort of people you want to be in your social circle, think of the places where they are likely to hang out.
For example, if you want friends who love talking about literature and philosophy in coffee shops, it would be a good idea to join a book club. Or, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur and want to meet other people who are running startups, search for your local chamber of commerce and find out whether they hold any events for those new to running their own business.
Try meetup.com and eventbrite.com to find people with similar interests. Look up Facebook groups for people who share your hobby. If you’re in college, look for on-campus meetups that appeal to you. Or check out local community centers or your nearest community college for classes and activities that grab your interest.
Try to find a group that meets regularly, ideally once or twice per week. This will give you the chance to speak to people every week and get to know them better.
Our guide on how to meet like-minded people who understand you has more tips on finding potential friends.
When you’ve met someone you like, get their contact information so you can ask to hang out again. This may feel awkward the first few times but gets easier with practice.
“I’ve enjoyed our conversation. We should do this again sometime! Let’s swap numbers so we can keep in touch.”
Another approach is to ask, “What’s the best way to keep in touch with you?” Some people are reluctant to give their phone number to someone they don’t know very well, so this question gives them an opportunity to share an email or the name of their social media profile instead.
When you’ve got someone’s contact details, follow up within a couple of days. Ask how they are, and then ask a question related to your shared interest.
For example, imagine you met someone at a cookery class and exchanged numbers. During the class, your new friend mentioned they were going to try out a new pie recipe that evening. You could follow up the next day by making reference to what they said:
You: Hi, how’re you? Did that fruit pie recipe turn out OK?
Them: It sure did! Although maybe I’ll make the crust a bit thinner next time around! It was a bit too chewy but pretty good anyway
You: Yeah, cooking’s always an experiment! Will you be in next week’s class?
If you find texting stressful, see our article on how to overcome texting anxiety. Our guide on how to make friends with someone over text has some tips you might find useful if you aren’t sure what to say.
After you’ve followed up with new friends, take the initiative and ask them to spend time with you.
Suggest a specific time, place, and activity.
Try asking people to hang out immediately after a meetup. Everyone is already in the same place, so you can offer a casual invitation to spend more time together. This is easier than trying to plan an event in advance that everyone can attend.
- [After an art class] “That was fun! Does anyone want to grab a quick drink?”
- [After a climbing session] “I’m so hungry! I’m going to the cafe around the corner if anyone wants to join me.”
See our article on how to ask people to hang out without being awkward for more advice.
Lots of people are lonely. Even if they don’t openly admit it, they will probably understand what it’s like to want more friends.
- [At a meetup] “I’ve recently moved to the area, and I’m trying to meet new people.”
- [At work] “I’ve only been living in [city name] for a few weeks and don’t have many friends yet, but meeting new people has been fun so far.”
- [At a local business networking event] “I’m new to [city name], so I’m looking to make some new contacts. Is there anyone you think I should meet?”
If you’re lucky, you might meet a highly social person who will be eager to help you make a new group of friends by putting you in touch with people they know.
Sharing about yourself while helping others open up too is key to forming healthy friendships. But asking personal questions too early can make you come across as intense or nosy. As you get to know someone better, you can begin opening up about more personal topics.
Our guide on how to connect with someone tells you how to open up to someone without oversharing while encouraging them to share things about themselves too. Our list of questions to get to know someone might also be helpful.
Meeting your friends’ friends can be an effective way to diversify your social network. For example, if you have three friends and they each know someone you click with, you can quickly double the size of your social circle.
- [When planning a trip to an art gallery] “If you have any other artistic friends, feel free to bring them along!”
- [When making plans for a cookout] “I plan on making loads of food, so if you want to bring a couple of guests, feel free.”
If your new friend is shy, they might be more likely to come to a meetup if they can bring someone they know.
However, don’t constantly ask your friends to bring other people when you hang out because they might think you are only interested in using them for their social connections.
If you’ve made several friends in different settings, introducing them to one another can build new connections that turn into a social network. When your friends know and like each other, it also becomes easier to maintain your friendships because you can invite multiple friends to hang out at the same time.
As a general rule, it’s best to avoid surprise introductions. If your friend thinks they are going to hang out with you one-on-one and you bring someone else along, they may feel uncomfortable or annoyed.
Check out our guide on how to introduce friends to each other for advice on making introductions.
When you hold regular events, people in your social circle will get to know each other. Not everyone will be able to attend every meetup, but people who are interested in building a friendship with you will make an effort to come at least occasionally.
It can help to organize a meeting that includes some kind of structured activity. This can make it easier for people to make conversation because they are sharing a common goal.
For example, you could:
- Host a movie night
- Host a games night
- Host a trivia night
- Host a karaoke night
- Ask everyone to meet up in the park for a game of frisbee
When you invite people out, it’s likely they will start asking you to hang out in return.
If it’s impossible for you to attend, say why you can’t come and suggest an alternative instead. Make it clear that you are genuinely interested in spending time with the other person.
If you say “No” repeatedly or turn down an invitation without offering an alternative, they may assume that you don’t want to see them.
- “I’m sorry I can’t come to the cookout. I’ve got to go to my brother’s graduation. Would you like to grab a drink next weekend?”
- “Unfortunately I can’t get to your party because I’m away on a work trip. But if you’re free on Friday night, I’d love to meet up if you’re around?”
You don’t have to pretend to be upbeat and happy all the time. However, people are more likely to want you in their social circle if you make them feel good while making their lives a little easier.
- Start a WhatsApp group and invite several members of your hobby group to join so that it’s easier for everyone to stay in touch.
- Offer to approach a guest speaker and ask them to give a talk or demonstration to your group.
- Let your sense of humor show; you don’t need to crack a lot of jokes, but humor is a good way to put other people at ease.
- Give sincere compliments. Show that you appreciate your friends’ abilities, personalities, and tastes.
- Take the initiative and suggest a new activity for your group to try and then organize it if others are interested.
Friendships require ongoing effort. You need to reach out, show interest in your friends’ lives, and take the initiative when it comes to making plans.
If you’re an introvert, reaching out might feel like a chore. Try to see it as a healthy habit, like going to the gym. Set aside half an hour every week to message or call people.
There is no universal rule for how often you should contact new friends, but our guide on how to keep in touch with friends has some tips you might find useful.
You only have a limited amount of time to devote to building a social life, so invest it in the right people. As you get to know people better, you may realize that they aren’t the right kind of friend for you. It’s OK to stop hanging out with them.
It’s especially important to be selective if you’re an introvert because you probably find social situations draining. Time spent on toxic friends could be better used meeting other people and growing your social circle.
If you aren’t sure whether someone is a good friend to you, check out our article on how to tell real friends from fake friends.
This works both ways: you may find that someone who at first seemed very enthusiastic about being your friend drifts away after a while.
Try not to take it personally. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done anything wrong. The other person may not have enough time to invest in new friendships, or something may have come up in their personal life that means socializing isn’t a priority for them at the moment.
We3 and UNBLND match you with two potential platonic friends of the same gender. The apps create group chats so the three of you can arrange to meet up. If the meetup goes well, it could be the start of a new friendship network.
Don’t write someone off as a potential friend for superficial reasons. For example, someone may be 15 years older than you, yet make a great friend because they share your interests and have a similar sense of humor. When you diversify your social circle, you’ll benefit from hearing new ideas and perspectives.
Living with other people can give you access to a readymade social circle. If you click with someone else who lives in the space, they might introduce you to their friends. You may build friendships with several other people you live with and form a new social circle.
If you’re self-employed or work remotely, you could rent a desk at a coworking space for a couple of days each week. You may find that you regularly see the same people who could become potential friends.
A new social circle can include old friends. If you’ve drifted apart from a friend, but they happen to live nearby, get back in touch and ask whether they’d like to meet up.
Friendships can ebb and flow over time. For example, in your thirties, it’s common to see your friends less often if they find a long-term partner or start a family. Even if they haven’t been available for months or even years, your friend might be happy to hear from you.
If you aren’t sure what to say, check out our guide on how to text someone you haven’t talked to in a long time.
If your colleagues are friendly, you may be able to build a social life at work. Try to bring people together by suggesting a monthly lunch or after-work drink. Bear in mind that some of your coworkers will want or need to go home straight after work, so try to invite people to socialize during working hours.
Check out our guide on how to make friends at work.
If you are self-employed, look for local networking events or meetups for entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers. Swap contact details with the people you click with and then suggest meeting up either one-on-one or in a small group.
The tips above assume that you have mastered essential social skills, including:
- Looking approachable
- Making small talk
- Having balanced conversations
- Active listening
- Using humor appropriately
- Reading and understanding social cues
If you’ve been trying to make friends and grow your social circle for a while, but no one wants to hang out with you, you might need to make sure you haven’t got any habits that could be driving people away.
The good news is that if you tend to make the same mistakes, you can fix the issue quickly with self-awareness and practice.