It can be hard to meet new people.
When my husband, daughter and I moved to California from Hawaii two years ago, the hardest thing was leaving our friends.
We were part of an amazing and very special community in our town. There were at least 15 couples we hung out with regularly, and us girls were especially close. We had baby showers together, celebrated birthdays, went on yoga retreats and had costume parties.
Many, many costume parties.
I felt very safe and protected. I knew if I had an emergency at 2:00am, someone would be there.
I left home at 18 to go to college at a school where I knew no one. I moved to Colorado when I was 21 to attend graduate school and I knew 1 person. I then moved to Hawaii with my husband and we knew 4 people.
Then we moved to our current home in San Diego and the only people I knew were my husband and daughter.
We visited Hawaii a few weeks ago and two of the most common questions I got were “Do you have a good group of friends?” and “How did you meet people?”
I’ve been thinking about those questions the last few days as I’ve gotten to reconnect with my Cali friends since being back from out of town. I figured there are probably many of you out there who are placed in similar situations. New town, new neighborhood, new job, new family members. I wanted to share my tips on how to meet new people and find connections when you might be feeling a little isolated.
How to Meet New People
1. Accept that you will have to step outside of your comfort zone
There will always be a little discomfort and work involved when you are meeting new people. I wish I could tell you that you could stay home in your yoga pants and your new best friend will magically ring your doorbell and ask you to cocktails.
It doesn’t work that way.
You have to be ready to put some effort into it. You’ll have to smile sometimes when you don’t want to. Laugh at jokes that you don’t think are funny. Go to BBQ’s that end up being boring.
If you accept that fact from the get go, it’s easier to laugh through the awkward conversations and know it’s just a part of the process. You have to go through a little discomfort to get to the good stuff.
2. For the first year, don’t say “no” to any invitation
We made this rule for ourselves when we moved to Hawaii. It worked so well I used it for my business as well, and then we kept it when we came to California.
Whatever invitations you get, say yes if you possibly can.
You might get invited to a Zumba class and you can’t dance. Go anyway.
You might get asked to a neighborhood cookie exchange and you can’t bake. Go anyway.
You might get a last minute text about a Mommy and Me music class and the last thing you want is babies drumming in your ears. Go anyway.
You might meet a friend of a friend who grew up in the same town you did and now lives down the block. Or you might discover the new perfect park to take your dogs or kids. Or you might discover you have something in common with someone’s sister and you get her number.
You will build your network exponentially faster when you just make yourself do these things.
If you constantly say no because you are uncomfortable, people will stop asking. They will just assume you can’t make the time. After a while of saying “yes”, you can start to be picky and chose the things that really resonate with you and focus on the things that are most important.
For the first year, though, you are a yes machine.
3. Make the first move
What’s the worst thing that can happen when you ask someone to hang out? They say no. If they have a reason, you reschedule. If they don’t have a reason, you can cross them off your list of potential friends. It’s kind of a win-win!
When we first decided to move to San Diego, I had just started reading the health and lifestyle blog The Fitnessista. Gina found out they were moving to San Diego at the exact same time we decided to move, and we literally moved here a week apart. I continued to read her blog as she talked about exploring parks and schools and fitness classes in my new home.
I decided to go to the barre class she was teaching because it was close to my house. I got past my shyness and thanked her afterwards and told her I had enjoyed her blog. She was lovely and gracious and we made a playdate for our daughters for the next week. She is now one of my very closest friends here in SD and we hang out as families quite often. I’m already dreading the day they move later this year. None of that would have happened if I had simply walked out of class that day, or never even gone.
If you meet someone you connect with, just ask for their number! It’s not a commitment and you don’t even have to do anything with it. I get numbers all the time from moms I talk to at the park if we end up with something in common. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we don’t, but it makes me feel better to know I’ve made the effort.
You never know if you don’t try.
4. Join a group
This one is definitely outside of my comfort zone. While I’m an extrovert in some ways, I’m also very introverted in other ways. I am fairly independent and like to do things on my own in my own way, and I need some quiet or alone time every day to “recharge”.
I can honestly say, though, that joining some kind of group is one of the best ways to meet people in a new community.
When I first opened my business in Hawaii, I immediately received an invitation to a networking group. The group met once a week for breakfast for an hour with the purpose of sharing contacts and talking about our own businesses. While there were some things I didn’t love about the group – taking up precious time in the morning, talking to people when I would rather be drinking coffee – this group set the tone for the next eight years of my business.
I met a chiropractor and developed an amazing cross-referral relationship. I met my insurance agent. I gained contacts for real estate, mortgage, law and accounting. While I quit the group a year later, I continue to keep in touch with many of these people and refer people to them as needed.
When we moved to San Diego, I wasn’t in need of a business group, but I desperately needed some activities to do with my then one year old daughter. I joined a music class not expecting to make any friends, and found the most amazing group of moms who helped me acclimate to and navigate through a new city. One mom offered a weekly playdate for our two kids with her recently hired baby-sitter. While we moved outside the city and can’t continue the playdate, that sitter has become our daughter’s favorite playmate! We continue to count on her for occasional date nights and she’s invaluable to our family. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t stepped outside my comfort zone and reached out to other moms in the group.
There are many groups you can look at joining! Exercise classes, business groups, social networking, recreational sport leagues, mommy groups and volunteer work all are amazing ways to get to know people and your new community.
You don’t have to be best friends or share your life story with everyone you meet! If you go into a new situation with the goal of smiling and simply starting a conversation with someone new, you make yourself more open to receiving a smile back. It might not lead to anything. Or you might find out about the best restaurant in town, a hair stylist down the street, the town fair next weekend or the best free outdoor concerts. You might even make some contacts and friends in the process.
It’s hard to be the new one on the block, but it can be a fun and exciting time if you simply believe in yourself. Remember what you have to give to the world, take a deep breath and start a conversation.
You’ll do great!