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Learn how to make and keep friends

These days, making friends online is easy with a “follow’ or ‘like’. But making friends in real life? Not so much…Learning how to socialise is a skill that most of us are not taught: and we’re expected to just kind-of figure it out as we go through life. It can be hard, especially when you’re in a brand new environment, like starting a new school, moving to a new town or leaving home and going to university.

Here are a few ways you can make new friends and sustain your current ones.

Show up

Ever noticed that the more you spend time with someone, the more you like them? This is called the exposure effect. Being repeatedly exposed to someone who you share common interests with means you’re more likely to like them and become friends. This means if you want to forge new relationships, you’ll have to show up, consistently. Stop by a new colleague’s desk often, visit your friends regularly or arrange meet-ups. Use social media to sustain your relationships too. Connect with your friends by texting, commenting on their posts and even better- with video and phone calls.

Set a goal

Setting a friendship goal sounds strange, but it could work. For example, if you’re going to an event or party, you could aim to make three new friends. With a target in mind, you won’t greet and move on from all the people at the gathering. Instead, you will consciously put in more of an effort to connect with others.

Join a group

One of the easiest ways to make friends is to surround yourself with like-minded people. For example, if you start an internship, you’ll relate to the other new interns and you’ll be more likely to befriend each other. The same goes for other situations, like taking a new class or moving to a new neighbourhood. Pursuing a hobby through a group is also a good option. It gives you the advantage of having something obvious in common with new acquaintances. For instance, if you love painting, joining an art group is the perfect way to make new friends.

How to be approachable

Smiling and being nice sounds superficial, but it has a large impact on how likely people are to want to befriend you. When you assign traits to people, they unconsciously assign the same traits to you. This is called spontaneous trait transference. So, if you tell someone that a mutual acquaintance is rude, then that person may unconsciously link that trait to you. The same goes if you say the person is funny or kind. Smiling plays a big factor too. Studies show that the number of times you smile during a conversation has a direct effect on how friendly you appear to others.

Strengthen your current friendships

Be a good listener

Listening to someone shows that you care about and support them. Don’t use any devices when you spend time with a loved one and give them your undivided attention.

Give them space when needed

Everyone needs space to be alone or to spend time with other people. Clinging to them could push them away.

Be the friend you’d like to have

Treat your friends the same way you’d want to be treated. Try your best to be thoughtful, kind, trustworthy and reliable.

Don’t pressure them with expectations and rules

The best relationships often develop naturally, with time. Don’t put pressure on them to spend all their spare time with you or to get comfortable quickly. Allow the friendship to grow stronger with time.

Make time

Seeing your friends often means you’ll bond more. Schedule regular hangouts that suit everyone. For example, an outing one weekend a month or coffee before or after work. Setting the next date after a get-together is a good way to ensure you’ll see each other regularly.