On Your Own? Who You Gonna Call?
For some people, the realization after they’ve retired from work and settled into their jobless routine, is that they are missing all the social camaraderie of the workplace. They ask themselves, “What can I do? Who can I call? How do I go about making new friends and develop some fun and interesting relationships?”
Making new friends isn’t always easy, and tends to become even more difficult as we get older, retire and lose the “work connection”.
All too often retirement brings with it a sea change in our lives. We leave our job. We may move away from our core group of friends. We miss our colleagues. The before work coffee shop gang is gone. The after work happy hour has come to an end.
What can accompany these changes are feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. And, it’s all up to you to make it not so. Take some time to really ask yourself some serious questions if you find you’re one of those people who is now struggling to make new friends.
5 Serious Questions to Ask and Answer
1. Am I Lonely?
Tough question. Answering this question honestly and admitting to oneself that one is lonely takes guts. No shame here. Everyone gets lonely. You need to pay attention to any signs of social disconnection — lack of interest, lethargy, avoidance of social situations. Self-awareness is the first step in identifying what you’re feeling.
2. What Kind of Friend Am I? What Would Make Me Be a Good One?
You are the most important ingredient you bring to any relationship. Ask yourself:
How much energy and commitment am I willing to put out there in my search for connections? Am I willing to make the effort?
After all, friendships do take hard work. They just don’t happen like they did when we were younger. Make a decision that you will be someone who is worth having as a friend.
3. What Qualities Do My New Friends Need to Have?
Even though you don’t have enough (any?) friends right now, this is no time to lower your standards. In fact, the more conscious you are about what kind of friends you want to have, the more likely you’ll find people who meet your needs.
Who are you looking for? Someone who, for example:
- Likes and participates in some of the same activities you do?
- Shares your political or religious beliefs and has the same values?
- Has something in common that you can both talk about or do together?
- Doesn’t complain or bore you with an endless list of their physical symptoms or family problems?
- Has a similar standard of living?
- Likes to share a conversation — who likes to listen as much as talk?
4. Am I a Joiner?
This is a tough question and one that you must ask yourself if you feel you can’t seem to meet new people. Joining in is imperative if you really do want to make a connection with others.
Let’s face it, many of us are just plain shy about joining groups. If you’ve always been less inclined to “join in”, you may need to push yourself out of your old comfort zone in order to make new friends. Somehow, friendships generated within the “work space” seemed easier to cultivate — well, it was probably because you all shared a common ground. And you spent a lot of time together working for a common cause.
So, when you do decide to join in, choose only those groups devoted to activities or causes that you are passionate about. Again, be very honest with yourself. Don’t get trapped into participating in activities that you really don’t enjoy, just for the sake of trying to make new friends.
5. What Can I Do?
Invite people over for dinner, or out to lunch. Or for cocktails or coffee.
When all else fails, eat.
Many of us are intimidated by the prospect of inviting people to our home; especially people we don’t know particularly well. Why not challenge yourself by hosting a dinner party at your place for a few people you’ve recently met?
Don’t want to cook? Make it a potluck dinner, or even a group dinner at a modestly priced restaurant. The important thing is to break out of your social shell and take those first steps towards forming new friendships.
Case in Point
I remember a friend who, on returning to a major city after living elsewhere for several years deciding he needed to meet people and make new friends. So, he and his wife decided to host a themed brunch every third Sunday of the month and invited a few old friends to come. They provided the main dish— a big turkey, or giant pots of chilli, Spanish paellas, Italian pastas and so on, while everyone else brought salads, side dishes, homemade breads, pastries or desserts that were related to the cuisine’s theme.
Price of Entry
The rule was that everyone had to bring a new friend plus some non-perishable food items to be donated to the local food bank. Over the six or seven years the brunch was in operation, participants probably donated close to twenty thousand pounds or more of food, all delivered to the fire station down the road, much to the astonishment of the firefighters themselves (nice people to meet too, by the way!). And everyone made some great new friendships – the group grew to be about a hundred strong.
Even the leftovers were taken to the local homeless shelter at the end of the day.
I must admit, these Sunday brunches enabled me to get out once a month and meet and connect with a ton of new and interesting people who shared similar interests— artists, musicians, lawyers, designers, young students, chefs, retirees, elderly activists, writers, film industry mavens — you name it, they were there. And seventeen years later, many of them remain friends and are still an important part of my daily life.