6 Steps to Meeting New People (For the Socially Intolerable)
I'm not going to ask why you need to meet new people. Maybe you transferred to a different school, or you took a job in a new town, or all of your old friends changed their phone numbers and names. Whatever the case, you now find yourself alone, lonely, and wanting to do something about it.
Something constructive, I should clarify.
As it happens, I've moved around a bit in my life, and I've also, if we're being honest here, had at least a few friends figure me out and stop taking my calls. A lifetime of bitter, tear-choked alone time -- aside from providing me with the necessary foundation to build a career in comedy -- has led me to develop a fairly comprehensive system for how to make new friends. I present this system to you below, illustrated with a few examples from my own experience, so that you can learn from the failure pile that is my life.
Reassess Your Social Skills
Before we get too deep into this, a question must be asked: Do you deserve to have friends? Because the success of the next few steps will hinge on your ability to handle yourself in social situations, and if you consistently find yourself, as they say, shitting society's bed, then maybe we shouldn't progress any further.
Never, ever, ever shine a UV light on society's bed.
This is a slightly tricky balancing act we're talking about here, and it doesn't always come naturally to everyone. In general, you're going to need to be outgoing, but at the same time very cautious, always alert to signs that someone isn't interested in talking to you. If you're trying to have a conversation with someone, and they're ...
- Barely replying to your questions.
- Looking away.
- Reading a challenging text.
- Sprinting away from you.
... then you may be talking to someone who doesn't like you. Picking up on these conversational cues is important, because you're going to be doing a lot of talking, and you don't want to piss anyone off.
Not before they get a chance to really know you, anyways.
Me: So how was your weekend?
Co-worker: Pretty good. Went up to the lake with some friends.
Me: -noticing he's engaged in the conversation; a good sign- Awesome. Awesome. I love lakes.
Co-worker: Yeah, it was fun.
Me: -noticing he didn't immediately invite me to the lake, wanting to back off, play it cool- Yeah, I'm kind of over lakes now.
Co-worker: You just said you loved lakes.
Me: -noticing that fucking Sherlock here is at least engaged in the conversation- Well, I mean, how are we defining love? Like would I marry a lake? No, of course not. Have I had an erection when inside a lake? Of course. So. You know. Catch-22.
Co-worker: -long open-mouthed stare- What was your name again?
Leverage Any Existing Connections You Have
Unless you're coming from hermit levels of isolation, you're probably not completely alone. If you have any casual acquaintances at all, that's the first place to start to make new friends. I used a workplace in my example above for a very good reason -- this is one of the most common places people begin building out their social circles.
What better place to make friends than a pit filled with bitterly unhappy people?
Every conversation with a co-worker is an opportunity to find a shared interest, hobby, pastime, or drug habit. And once you're talking about that shared interest, you're far more likely to stumble upon another one, and another one, and before you know it, you've made a friend, or failing that, a hook-up to get buddy prices on some real good shit. Also, the next time your new not-quite-friend has a party, your shared interests make it a lot more likely that you'll score an invitation.
Me: Me? Oh, I just furiously disagreed with people on the Internet all weekend.
Different Co-worker: Hah!
Me: Right? -excited we've found a shared interest in Internet misanthropy- Those stupid jerks had it coming.
Different Co-worker: Having different opinions than you. Who do they think they are?
Me: Exactly! See, you get it. Hey, you know something, I'm sorry about all that lake talk earlier.
Different Co-worker: What lake talk?
Different Co-worker: Are you confusing me with Ryan?
Me: It's just that, you know. You're both Asian.
Different Co-worker: But I'm a girl.
Me: Of course you are. Which means I didn't tell you about fucking a lake. Until now.
Different Co-worker: -long open-mouthed stare- What do you do here again?
The office is OK for meeting people, but it obviously has a few drawbacks. All that work, for one.
"OK guys, none of this grab-ass is helping us make our quarterly targets."
Extracurricular activities are the key. Along with providing quality socializing time away from distractions, they throw the door wide open for you to meet friends of friends. We're unlikely to bring our friends and partners and drug buddies around to the office, but all of those people tend to show up in the local pub after work on a Friday. You should leap at these opportunities when they present themselves, and when the situation warrants, even suggest them yourself. Don't be shy here -- it does very little harm to at least suggest that everyone go out for a drink after work, and you're probably not the only one with the same idea. You may be surprised at how popular this makes you.
Me: Anyone want to get a drink after work today?
Co-worker: I can't.
Different Co-worker: Me neither. I'm heading to the lake with Ryan. -they sprint off-
Me: Does anyone else want to go get a drink and talk behind those two assholes' backs?
Everyone Else: Holy shit, yes.
Be Up for Anything
Once you're out with your new not-quite-friends, discovering new shared interests and not-coincidentally drinking heavily, you'll want to keep the good times going. Every minute you spend with these people is precious, time to turn them into friends, or failing that, time to meet one of their friends. Also, as time passes and they're still around, that's an excellent sign that these people tolerate you.
Toleration: The bedrock of any friendship.
So be open, available, and eager. When someone suggests another round, buy it. When someone suggests getting pizza, cram that pizza in you as fast as humanly possible. When someone suggests going to another bar, fucking carry them there.
Me: -blinking- Hey, where did everyone else go?
Shifty Co-worker: They had to bail awhile ago.
Me: Man I'm drunk. How did I not notice that?
Shifty Co-worker: You've been having a lot of fun.
Me: I have, haven't I? This has been a wild night! I'm glad I came out with you tonight ... why are you wearing a diaper?
Shifty Co-worker: -wearing a diaper- This is a diaper club. How drunk are you?
Me: -sees everyone in club wearing diapers- Feeling less drunk quite rapidly now. Wait. -just now seeing the diaper I am myself wearing- I think I gotta go.
Shifty Co-worker: Yeah, you've made that joke several times now.
Me: That does sound like something I'd ... poo.
Shifty Co-worker: That one, too.
Me: How on Earth did you talk me into coming here?
Shifty Co-worker: You said you wanted to meet people.
Crazy Diaper Fetishist: Hey, how ya doin'?
Me: -remembering it's important to be up for anything- I did. And I guess this is better than sitting around reading things on the Internet.
Crazy Diaper Fetishist: Less weirdos here, for one.
Join a Social Group
Another good way to meet new people is to thrust yourself into a group of people who already have shared interests with you. Volunteering, playing recreational sports, joining a professional association, that kind of thing. Because you already have something in common, that initial conversation is always easy.
Also, many recreational sports teams are really just poorly disguised competitive drinking teams.
Me: OK, I think I get it. So you guys are just into the diapers. You don't all act like babies.
Shifty Co-worker: Adult babies and us have a lot of overlap. There are a few of those in a room in the back.
Me: Oh yeah. I found them. -eyes widen- I somehow suspect everyone's having a better time in there than all the crying would suggest.
Crazy Diaper Fetishist: Personally, I think those guys are freaks.
Me: Riiiiiiight. You just like shitting yourself.
Crazy Diaper Fetishist: I prefer the term "messer."
Me: I'm sure you do. But just to be clear, you are actively pooping yourself right now, while you're making eye contact with me, aren't you?
Crazy Diaper Fetishist: -licks his lips too-
Me: Well, at least I'm making friends.
Shifty Co-worker: Oh, we're not your friends.
Me: You're not?
Shifty Co-worker: No, this is just a sex thing.
Crazy Diaper Fetishist: So which one of you guys is changing me and which of you guys is going to beat me off?
Me: -starts running, never stops-
Finally, for the terminally lonely among you, you might be surprised to learn that traveling is often one of the easiest ways to meet new people. It turns out that when you're traveling, the people you find yourself hanging out with will be, as often as not, other travelers, just as eager to meet new people as you are. Also, because you're always on the move, you'll have the ability to walk away from any disastrous encounter. If you make an ass of yourself, that's OK, because you need never see this person again.
"So those aren't actually mirror pants? Right, that's me off then."
And of course, traveling is also useful when creating a new identity for yourself, far away from everyone who knows the things you've done.
Me: So what'd you get up to this weekend?
Backpacker: Was up in the Lake District.
Me: That's cool. I love lakes. Well. Just a normal, healthy level of interest in lakes.
Backpacker: Nice one. So what made you decide to go traveling?
Me: Ahh, you know. I had an opportunity to ... abruptly leave home without telling anyone, and kind of jumped on it.
Backpacker: What's that crinkling sound?
Me: That's me. I got excited thinking about the lakes.
Backpacker: Are you wearing a diaper?
Me: Turns out I couldn't run from everything.
Backpacker: -long open-mouthed stare-
Me: It's totally normal, though. We can still have shared interests, about diaper or non-diaper activities. I don't even need you to beat me off.
Backpacker: -long open-mouthed stare-
Me: You weren't about to offer to beat me off, were you? Before I shot that down?
Backpacker: -long open-mouthed stare- Where were you from again?