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5 Tips for Awkward People Looking to Make New Friends

Meeting new people sucks. Well, at least it does for people like us -- people who would rather eat a bar of soap than endure the awkward juggling of social rules and misreading of body language that comes with human contact. Confident, practiced people will tell you it's as easy as walking up to a stranger and saying hello, but it's not that simple for us. We don't have their charisma or their gift of being able to blow off the throbbing sting of rejection. For us, that throb is always there. And for once, I'm not talking about genitals. Mostly.

Unfortunately, we're programmed to be social creatures, and biology will eventually nag us until we break and fill the void with whatever poor bastard we trick into being our emotional caulk. The problem is: How? How the hell do you find them, let alone know what to say when you do? Well, there are a few basic things "normal" people know that we don't. For instance ...

#5. Know Your Settings

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This is going to sound like No Shit 101 to people who don't scream with unbridled terror when someone makes eye contact, but there are some places that just aren't meant for meeting people. You hear stories from time to time about "I met my wife (or best friend, or cuckold partner) at the grocery store. I bumped into her cart, and we've been together ever since!" Then we combine that story with Chad Suave's advice on just walking up and saying hi, and things get weird.

Because of our lack of experience, we don't recognize that those stories are the result of a social lottery -- as rare as being thanked for farting in an elevator. Everything has to line up perfectly for those types of encounters to happen because when you're pushing a cart full of ass wipes and home enema kits, the last thing you want to do is stop and talk to someone you've never met. But our untrained minds are telling us to go where the people are, and Walmart is just packed with mofos.

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"Start the car, I found one! Go, go, go!"

It's not that there's a defined list of off-limits establishments. You just have to use your judgment on why those people are there in the first place. People at the post office are running errands and need to get in and out as fast as possible. People at the doctor's office feel like shit and don't want to be bothered by other sick people. The stripper is nice to you because you give her dollars. Ask your mom, she'll tell you. OH, BAM, I JUST FUCKING WENT THERE!

That's not to say that there aren't exceptions to the rule. You just have to sharpen your observational skills to pull it off. Let's say that every Saturday, you do your laundry at the local Brown Streaks Laundromat, and you notice that one guy always shows up right when you do. To pass the time, he sorts his Magic: The Gathering cards -- hey, you love Magic! Yeah, normally the laundromat isn't exactly the mecca of social interaction, even if you count the prostitution ring run out of the bathroom. But sometimes opportunities present themselves in odd places.

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Hey, I noticed you're into both smoking and peeing. Me, too!

Which is why the best rule of thumb is ...

#4. Live Your Normal Life

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One of the most frequent suggestions I see people giving is "Go to a bar." There's nothing wrong with that by any means, but in my experience, they're basing that advice on what they like to do. Do you like going to bars? If not, are you into trying new things, bars being one of them? Then absolutely hit that shit up. Get ten kinds of sloppy and become a tornado of people-meeting fury.

But make sure that's something you'd enjoy doing, because the downside is that you're going to meet a different type of personality in an establishment that you've had no previous experience with. Obviously, I'm not talking exclusively about bars. It's the same with any social gathering you attempt. Bars are going to be filled with drinkers -- do you drink? Clubs will be filled with people dancing and looking for one-night stands -- do you like to twerk in public? Do you think you could be compatible with people who do? If so, have at it.

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"Glad I met ya, Tammy. Glad I met ya."

For most of us, however, the safest bet is less about finding out where people congregate and more about opening our eyes to the people who are already around us. You go to the comic shop once a week to feed your insatiable desire to read, but only in short, cartoony bursts. Oh, look, there are other people in there who do the same thing. Talk to them. You share a very obvious interest.

Personally, I don't like to go outside of my house unless it's on fire ... and even then, I weigh my motion versus the likelihood of my doom. I'm perfectly content to sit in front of the computer from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, working, watching TV shows, playing games. It's all done on my computer. Most of my friends are the same exact way, and that's why the majority of my friends are all online. The fact that we choose to communicate without physically being in the same room doesn't make our friendships any less real or powerful.

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Plus, talking sans pants is a whole lot less uncomfortable.

I realize that the examples I've given so far are pretty specific, but the core is the same in all of them: If you're living your life in a way that brings you the most happiness, you are going to find other people frequently crossing your path, and those are the ones most likely to share your interests. The key is recognizing them and then interacting in a way that doesn't make you look like a serial killer.

Speaking of which ...

#3. Conversation Isn't as Hard as You're Imagining (Except It Totally Is)

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Chad is an enormous douche for even suggesting the "just walk up and say hi" advice. Mostly because he's right. In a way. See, what he doesn't realize (because Chad is such a stupid twat) is that the whole conversation part of making friends is the most terrifying thing for the socially stunted. We just know for a fact that we're going to come across as dumb or creepy, or we're going to say something offensive without realizing it. Before we even take the first step toward the person we want to meet, our nerves ball up and send a nuclear blast of adrenaline, warning us, "This is unnatural. It's weird, and you're imposing. Just stop what you're doing and sit back down."

Even if we grit our teeth and muscle past the warnings, all we can do is hope that the conversation plays out the way we've rehearsed it in our heads for the last half hour. If that tanks, we're screwed, because the only backup plan is to turn and run -- which to be honest is pretty goddamn funny from a bystander's perspective.

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Especially if you steal their giant flag before taking off.

What we fail to realize is that even though planning a conversation (or the basic subject) is a good idea, we can't put that whole responsibility on our shoulders. Conversation is a 50-50 exchange, and that should come as an absolute relief to you, because knowing that fact instantly takes half of the pressure off of you. If they haven't given you the finger and walked away spouting racial slurs, they've pretty much invested in the exchange. They're giving you a chance.

Planning the whole talk in advance never works out the way you picture it, because while it's true that you can steer a conversation, the only way to control it is to not let the other person talk. In which case, maybe you actually should obey your brain and sit your punk ass back down. Work on that first, because that's probably a big reason you don't have friends.

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Yeah, you mull that over. We'll all be over here making fun of you. Dick.

What it boils down to is that your job isn't to entertain them with fantastic stories and overwhelming charm. You're inviting them to share something with you. You're making a connection. And that requires mutual input. "Hello" is just your way of saying, "I'm inviting you to talk with me and take a peek at each other's worlds. Here, put on this helmet. It's weird in mine."

But no matter what, please keep this in mind ...

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John Cheese

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