1. Kick that fear to the curb
When I 1st moved to Canada, I would always see this girl at work who I thought looked cool. I would smile awkwardly at her and walk past her every day on my way to my desk. I wanted to strike up a conversation so badly. I wanted to hang out with her and get to know her better. But it felt as nerve-wracking as asking someone out on a date!
One day, I finally summoned up the courage to start a conversation (she was Australian so we had recent immigration in common!) and eventually, I asked if she’d like to grab a coffee with me after work. She said yes and has quickly become one of my best friends since. She just flew into ON from BC to attend my bachelorette!
What’s my point? Well, the fear of rejection you are feeling is *real* but it doesn’t make ANY sense. That voice in your head that says, “oh, they will probably laugh at me and say no” is ridiculous because that will rarely happen. Even if it does, then I think it’s pretty clear you wouldn’t want to hang out with them anyway. So try not to self-sabotage and just go for it! You’ll never know if you don’t.
2. Find common ground
The best tip I’ve ever heard is to find common ground. I’m not talking about “things” in common to talk about. I’m talking about *physical* ground! Choose a local coffee shop, bar, library, gym, whatever floats your boat, and make it your new favourite place. Go there as much as you can and take notice of who else shows up regularly. Boom. You instantly know that you have something in common, a shared passion, and can slowly start to say hi, compliment their shoes, comment on the weather, whatever you’d like, to start a rapport. Eventually, go to Step 1 above and take the leap!
3. Ask for recommendations
OK, I understand that jumping into someone’s face and asking them to go for coffee might come across as a bit strong… Especially if there is a male-to-female dynamic, so please read the room and take it slow.
I love the idea of asking for recommendations because it opens up dialogue relatively easily AND you can even get that person’s contact to reach out to in the future! This is how it works:
Do you see someone on a laptop working remotely? Approach them and ask for any advice on how to get a remote job. Then, ask if they’d be open to connecting on LinkedIn to share your networks.
Catch someone reading a book that looks interesting? Ask them what they think of it or whether they’d recommend it. Tell them you’re interested in starting a book club, or ask if they know of any to join. Maybe you can connect on social media to swap book recommendations?
Spot somebody who has amazing style? Compliment them (but not in a creepy way! E.g. never about their body/face.) Say you’re in love with their shoes/necklace/jacket and ask where they bought it. Do they have Instagram because you’re seriously looking for some style inspo exactly like this and you’d love to follow them…
You get the idea!
4. Create opportunities that attract “your people”
If you’re not magically stumbling into anyone you jive with, it may be time to create those opportunities for yourself. The perfect example is when I started a local standup paddleboarding group for anyone wanting to come out on the lake with me. I was tired of not knowing anyone who lived local to me and I was looking for people who loved being out on the water as much as I did. The result? 150+ members in the Facebook group in the 1st week and a lot of new local friends.
Ask yourself: What group/club/event can you start that will attract people that enjoy the same things as you do?
5. Use the magic of the internet
Search for a Facebook group that aligns with your situation or hobby (e.g. Brits in Toronto, Port Perry Paddlers, etc.) Post a message asking if anyone would be interested in joining you for a picnic in the park or a group hangout at a local bar.
Check out meetup.com for local groups and events as well – I absolute love this app and have used it many times.
*As with everything on the internet, please exercise caution and listen to your gut. Try to bring someone with you. If not, choose meetups that are during the daytime and/or somewhere busy with lots of people around. Always have a plan for how to get home.*
6. Be patient!
Making friends takes TIME.
The biggest mistake I made was looking back at my old friendships in my home country and desperately trying to replicate them here.
This is setting you up for complete disappointment. Why? Because you are comparing friendships that took *years* to build, to brand-new connections abroad. It takes time to find new connections and then develop those strong relationships.
Accept that friends will come organically. Be patient and just be yourself. It will happen.
So there you have it! I hope this helped…
Here are 2 important reminders:
- The beauty of friendship is that once you have connected with just ONE person, you can ask to be introduced to their friends and take advantage of the domino effect!
- You won’t necessarily like or bond with every person you meet, so don’t put pressure on yourself to hang out with people you don’t feel comfortable with just for the sake of it. You’ll be wasting your time and theirs. Realise the value of your time, how awesome you are and before you know it you will have developed genuine friendships and feel that successful network start to build around you.