How to Make Friends? The Master Key to New Friendships
One of our younger readers, by the name of Jaden, asked over in the comments section of my article "Are You Smart? It Doesn't Much Matter Either Way" about high school popularity, asking:
“What would the process for becoming popular look like? I would say im on the edge of popularity, as the "cool" kids all talk to me and invite me to their lunch tables and stuff (hardcore, right?), yet they do not invite me to their houses and parties, which are actually quite fun. How can I develop an air of superiority, and is there anything in specific I can do to raise my status?”
If I had to redefine that question to really get to its gist, I'd say it's more, "How do I make friends with the other students I want to be friends with?" than it is, "How do I make everyone like me more?" What Jaden wants here is to see these classmates of his outside of school - he wants to make friends.
But he isn't the only one who wants to know how to do this better. There are plenty of people who struggle with making friends in high school and college - and even more once they're out of those places.
If you thought it was hard making friends in an environment where everyone is your own age and you all do the same things, just wait until you're out of that environment, and you're working in the professional world where people range from 22 to 62. High school and college end up looking like friendship bonanzas compared to the working world that follows them.
Making friends isn't actually that hard a process though - take it from me, a guy who spent his the entirety of his teenage years friendless, then reinvented himself and emerged as someone who made friends with jet-setters, entrepreneurs, seducers, celebrities, and millionaires. How'd I go from zero friends to friends with some of the most in-demand people you'll meet, whom everyone wants to be friends with?
The secret, I found, lies in just one master key - from which all the other paths to friendship flow out.
When I moved to Washington, D.C. after graduating from university, I didn't place much emphasis on making new friends. I was six months into a driven, renewed commitment to learning how to pick up girls, and my main focus was going out to bars and nightclubs 3 or 4 or 5 times a week and talking to 10 or 20 or 30 girls a night. Sometimes I'd go out with my wingman and only real friend in town, and sometimes a few of his friends who were into pickup would go with us, but mostly I'd just go out alone.
I had a few girls I was seeing, and very occasionally I'd go to a happy hour with people from work. But, most of my colleagues who were my age lived out in Fairfax, VA, or Alexandria, which I thought was insanity - why would you live so far from the big city, where everything is happening? Just to be closer to work? As it were, they mostly stayed out there, and I mostly stayed close to D.C.
So I didn't make making friends a priority. In fact, it wasn't on my list of things to do at all - getting good with girls was the only thing that was, outside of work. My life was work by day, game by night, and that was the way I liked it.
But when I moved to California that all changed, and, influenced by a friend out there who placed a great deal of emphasis on social circle, I decided to learn how to make friends and master the skill set once and for all.
After all, it'd be a useful skill to learn, right?
At first I wasn't good at it one bit - I was awkward, uncomfortable... try hard.
But I was a fast learner, and within about a year and a half of working on it consciously and consistently, I was very good at making new friends very quickly with pretty much anyone I wanted to make friends with.
It was then that I really started noticing how much trouble other people were having making friends.
Why's It So Hard to Make Friends?
As someone who didn't really have friends in middle school or high school, and whose university friends mostly consisted of first year floor mates he'd see once every month or two at the parties they threw, plus a couple of roommates thrown in for good measure, I didn't really start making friends until somewhat after my school years were already over.
And I am acutely aware that this is the opposite of the norm for most people.
Most normal, well-adjusted people complain about how hard it is to make friends after graduation, and talk about their friendship glory days back in high school and college, when they had their bands of good buddies and always had friends ready to ride out with them and do whatever any of them wanted to do.
After school ends though, this changes for most people.
The reason this is is that most people get their friends through:
- Their residence (especially in school)
- Their classes (in school)
- Their workplace (after school)
... but the workplace is a much less fertile ground for friendships than school is.
For one thing, you have a far smaller pool of people your age with your interests at your work than you did in even the smallest school, at most jobs.
For another thing, it's more difficult to make friends at work than it is in school - things are more formal, you're expected to keep more of a boundary between your personal life and your professional life, and there's a certain degree of competition between you and your workmates much of the time - only one of you is going to get the boss's job after he's promoted, after all.
It's common in the post-school world to hang out with someone as friends once or twice, then never see that person again (or see them only in passing at work, if they were a colleague). Further, most people get set fairly quickly in their friendships, which can make it hard to break in - they don't need new friends, and the work of trying to roll you into their existing circle if you meet them and they hit it off can seem almost impossible for them (and for you), and so you both don't much bother trying.
Both in school and after school, you'll see people follow this same pattern again and again:
The coolest, most sociable people form their initial friendships fast, as soon as they're introduced into a new environment
The somewhat less cool, less sociable people lag behind, slowly accumulating friendships
The outsiders and the socially less savvy hang around, not sure what to do, hoping to be swept up and included by some "cool person," and only striking out in search of friends often much later, or being frustrated in their efforts to make new friends early on
It's sort of like getting picked for the basketball team. The best players get picked right away, and the best players pick other best players to play with. The guys who can't shoot get left behind, and picked last, or not at all.
What that means is, when you're not a friend-making, socializing machine, you tend to end up fishing around for friends, wondering how everyone else made their friends, and finding that too often you're shut out of the show. How do you get inside?
But in addition to the difficulty of breaking into people's pre-existing friendship groups, there's another challenge as well: and that is that modern Western society is not set up in a way that makes it easy to build new friendships and affiliations.
A Friendship-Friendly Environment
If you want to build a friendship, what are the elements you most need?
Laughter? Conversation? Some form of mild intoxicant? Kismet and
If you look at the environments where people are most likely to make new friends, you'll see a number of common elements:
Exposure. People who go onto become friends usually have repeated exposure to one another in regular social environments. e.g., the other student you see and talk to again and again in class until you finally start hanging out outside of class, or the coworker you have to work with every day until eventually you start grabbing beers after work, too.
Interaction. No matter if someone else is three cubicles down from you every day, or is in all the same classes with you in school, or lives two doors down from you in your apartment building, you will never become friends with this person if you never interact with him or her. You must build a friendship through interpersonal interaction, otherwise you never breach the "familiarity wall."
Camaraderie. You'll notice that many of the people you've gone on to become friends with have been people you had some sort of "shared mission" with - be they people you worked with closely on a school or work project, or people you spent time complaining about how terrible your boss or instructor is with, or people you worked out at the gym with, or people you practiced martial arts with or learned to play tennis with. Regardless of what it is, there's some feeling of a "shared mission" there, as though you've done something together, and relied on each other somewhat, too.
Some of the strongest friendships you'll see will be between members of one branch or another of the military - there are few things that give you as high doses of exposure to the same people again and again, large amounts of interaction, and camaraderie virtually by default like the military. And, as a result, military personnel typically come to have strong bonds between each other, and a high affinity for their branch of the service overall (because so many of their close friends are in it).
I'd almost define the spirit and solidarity you see among military service members not as pure patriotism, per se, but more as a sense of strong brotherly duty and obligation - i.e., if all your friends are over there fighting, then by Jove you for sure want to support them.
The problem all this presents for the lay person though is this: how do you make friends with people you aren't repeatedly exposed to, won't interact a great deal with, or have any kind of special camaraderie with from the beginning?
Because if you can solve that problem, then you'll have unlocked the master key to making friends any time, anywhere, with well nigh anybody you want.
Early into my efforts to learn how to make friends and unlock a process and strategy I could use to good effect here, I struggled with the same thing I'd struggled with (and largely failed at) in high school and university: how do I make people invite me to hang out?
I was able to make myself a compelling, magnetic person enough that
I'd get asked out on dates by pretty girls or invited to parties by the
cool kids. But because I was best with social anxiety, I always turned
these down, and the offers stopped coming.
What was even worse was turning myself into someone who started bugging people to hang out with me or invite me to go to their parties.
I'd meet some cool guy out at a bar, and he'd tell me we should grab a drink sometime, we'd trade cells, and then I'd follow up and ask him about it a few times, but it'd never happen.
I'd meet some pretty girl somewhere, and she'd tell me about a party she was going to and invite me to come, so we'd trade contact info, but when I'd ask her about the party later it'd never go anywhere, or I'd get some terse reply with just the date and time and location and I knew I wasn't going to get any kind of warm reception there.
What was I doing wrong? I knew I was doing something wrong... it felt wrong, and I could tell from people's reactions it was wrong.
I just didn't know what else I could do differently, or how to achieve better results making friends.
Social Constraint's Part to Play
In the April 1989 volume of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers Christopher A. Langston and Nancy Cantor published a paper entitled "Social anxiety and social constraint: When making friends is hard." The paper looked at a little-discussed facet of sociology known as "social constraint" as it related to friend-making in individuals making the transition from high school to college, and has this to say in its abstract:
“Provides an analysis of social anxiety set within a longitudinal study of students in life-transition from high school to college. The typical first-year student expected social life tasks (e.g., making friends) to be rewarding and easy to accomplish, whereas a minority of students approached these tasks with anxiety. Second-year interviews served as the basis of observer–judges' Q-sort assessments of the students' strategies in social and achievement tasks. Students who reported the atypical pattern of anxiety about social tasks were observed to use an atypical social strategy of humility and otherdirected action (social constraint). Path analyses showed that differences in adjustment outcomes were not due to direct effects of initial social anxiety, but rather were mediated through the social constraint strategy. Students' perceptions of family life and prior experiences were used to suggest an explanation of use of this strategy.”
What the researchers found, then, was that one's friendship making ability has much to do with one's strategy concerning social constraint.
What is social constraint? It is, effectively, how limited one feels in one's ability to take action socially.
The more socially constrained you are, the more careful and conservatively you act socially.
The less socially constrained you are, the more carefree and risk-taking you act socially.
Now, there's perhaps a corollary to this: the better you know something (e.g., where the boundaries and limits are socially, what you can get away with, and what you can't), the less constrained you tend to behave, so I'd be inclined to say this one may show correlation, and not necessarily causation. Are these students better at socializing because they're less socially constrained, or are they less socially constrained because they're better at socializing?
In any event, the findings here are still relevant for us, because they tell us that the students who are NOT successful socially are the ones who are:
- Overly humble
- Overly socially constrained
That is to say, the students who do not succeed socially are the ones who don't put themselves out there and don't go after what they want.
Makes sense, right? You're not going to learn the trombone if you never play trombone. Likewise, you can't get good with people if you never put yourself out there and try to get good with people.
But how do you get yourself out there and get good with people if you don't know what to do? This is the one I always struggled with, and it was the one I eventually had to overcome to change my fate and start to make friends.
How to Make Friends: The Master Key
Humility, social constraint... these sound like the big thing I was doing for so many years that largely didn't work: waiting for the friends to come to ME.
Why didn't it work? Because that's not how friendships work! People don't chase you down to be friends with you... and the kind of people who DO are usually not the people you want to be friends with (in my experience).
Humbleness is good... in conversation. However, it's not so good as a friend-making strategy.
Be humble in your words, but bold in your actions. This is the way of a truly effective individual.
And, when it comes to making new friends, there is one powerful, compelling, enormously effective strategy to end all strategies, that blows them out of the water and gets you friends with little exposure, little interaction, and little camaraderie to speak of altogether...
... a strategy that works almost every time...
... and do you know what it is?
Front-load your value.
That is to say, be someone who is instantly a valuable addition to another individual's life, and then keep providing value until you start getting it in return.
How's this work? Well, you've always heard the clichéd advice that you should "give before you get." Personally, I can't stand clichés, and that phrase makes me feel a little nauseous just to say. I almost want to do the OPPOSITE, just to prove it wrong... it's so smarmy and saccharine.
But, the fact is, it hits on a very real and accurate phenomenon: that people respond far better to those who are constantly GIVING to them than those who are trying to GET.
And this was what I realized when I was in California. By checking and bugging people to hang out or send me the information about that party they told me about, I was doing it all wrong. Because while they might enjoy talking to you when you first meet, once you're hounding them later to give you something, all they see you as is a liability; here's someone who wants something from me.
At the same time, if you never follow up, you'll never get anything or anywhere, so that's no good too.
So I started doing something different; instead, when I'd meet someone cool, someone I'd like to be friends with and see again socially, someone who invited me to a party or an event, what I started doing was this:
I started finding ways to provide value to THEIR lives FIRST.
Becoming a Value-Giving,
One of the common mistakes you'll see socially uncertain individuals do is offer the wrong kinds of value; that is to say, they offer value that isn't that highly valued by the person they're offering it to.
For instance, if you want to hang out with a jock-type guy who plays football and picks up chicks, you don't invite him to come over and play video games, even if you know he plays them sometimes on his own. Because a jock-type guy who plays football and picks up chicks is probably very cautious about not having too many things that aren't cool, and too many people who like doing things that aren't cool, in his life, so that's actually a low-value offer to him - if he says yes, he takes a value hit. Not good.
On the other hand, if you want to get to know a software engineer who spends his weekends coding new web apps, you probably don't want to invite him to scrimmage with you sometime next week... that's going to make him turn and run in the other direction.
The value you offer needs to be targeted toward the individual, and it must be something he or she will genuinely value.
Let's have a look at the different kinds of value you can offer to potential friends, and how you can modify that value depending on the individual.
Conversational value. Conversational value is a lynchpin of value, and you want to train yourself to crank out value with every word out of your mouth if you want to have the maximum effect here (becoming very desirable as a friend). The kinds of value you can provide as a conversationalist include:
- Deep diving and connection-building
- Interest in strengths and calm admiration of them
- Advice and inspiration
These will differ depending on whom you're talking to; some people are very much in need of advice and inspiration, while others maintain a rock-solid exterior and are really looking for someone to get to know about their accomplishments and recognize their success (that doesn't mean being stunned or amazed - "Wow!" - but rather a calm recognition, i.e., "That's really impressive," followed by exploring those accomplishments more deeply and giving the speaker the chance to regale you with them). Women are more likely to need deep diving and connection-building.
Rule of thumb for men: if he's
confident, get him talking about his strengths and points of pride; if
he's less confident, look for opportunities to give advice and inspire.
Also bear in mind that this is all relative to how a man sees himself
in relation to you; even if he's confident, if he sees you as more
accomplished than he is, he'll want a mixture of guidance and
This is the value someone intuits he'd get out of having you in his
life as a friend. Too many people assume they should be able to just
have anyone they want as friends without giving much in return, but it
doesn't work this way; the reason you
want someone as a friend is because of the value you think they'll
bring into your life... and to have them as a friend, you should be
bringing equal or superior value to theirs in turn.
The more accomplished and in-demand the individual, the more value you must bring. e.g., if you want to be friends with some guy with no friends who's dying to be friends with ANYONE, all you've got to do is show up; but if you want to be friends with Bill Gates, who has tens of MILLIONS of people who'd like to be his friend and have him spend some of his time, wisdom, or money on them, it helps your cause if you're a scientist with a cure to malaria no one else has access to, or you've got a few hundred million to devote to his charity projects.
Generally speaking, for most people, if you are doing interesting things with
your life, this will be enough - because most people, even most cool people, are not doing
interesting things with their lives. Having a friend like you with an
interesting, inspiring life that they can learn from is an attractive
deal. Forms of implied value include:
- You're an entrepreneur and run your own successful business
- You're an artist and create cool and beautiful things
- You have access to lots of beautiful women through your work or hobbies
- You have a broad network with lots of valuable connections
- You attend a lot of events/parties and know where things are "happening"
- You have hobbies or skills this person has an interest in,
e.g., rock-climbing, traveling, skiing, etc., and you are better at
these than them or can be a companion for them while doing them
The question of, "Why would this person want to make friends with
me?" should, in other words, be fairly easy to answer: because you have a lot to offer as a friend
and he knows it!
Offered value is the value you actually offer to someone outright. What
are you giving to them? Much of the time, when you offer someone
something of value - and even better, when you actually deliver it - they will feel obliged
to reciprocate... and they will want
to reciprocate, and get pleasure out of doing it.
You don't want to go overboard doing this - offer too much value, and this seems
tryhard and the person feels like you're working too hard to try and lasso them in,
which is not the right way to go about making new friends. So instead,
you want to offer things that are thoughtful, tailored to the
individual person, and yet are relatively effortless for you to offer.
- Inviting someone to a party you're attending (or throwing)
- inviting someone to grab drinks with you with some friends
- Offering to introduce someone to someone else you think they'd like
- Offering to make a business connection or introduction to someone
- Offering to take a look at something free of charge in your area of expertise (e.g., "Send me your resume, I'll have a look at it and give you some feedback")
- Inviting someone to join you on a trip you're making ("I'm
going to Greece this summer; you should totally come too, it's going to
be a blast")
When you offer value like this, people very quickly see you as someone who's going to bring value into their lives - and then they, at least as it stands with the socially adroit individuals you meet, will offer you value in kind, in order to retain you as a friend.
Front-loading your value like this is how you make people want to have you in their lives as a friend. But it does something else for you, too:
It puts you in charge of taking initiative and creating those opportunities for exposure, interaction, and camaraderie required for friendships to build and grow.
Especially outside of the school environment, you won't make friendships out of thin air. But, just like taking leadership with women to get lovers and girlfriends, by taking the initiative and acting with the individuals you want as friends, you can create the opportunities and environments to build and establish friendships with most anyone you want.
All you need is the chance to talk to them, and a pulse on what they'll value and what they want (and that, if you don't have it, can simply be developed from talking to people and exploring their interests and inclinations and finding things that most appeal to them).
Parting Thoughts on Forming Friendships
Most people go about making friends all wrong, trying to get before they give, either waiting for someone to reach out and take the initiative, or hounding someone to hang out with them or get them to their party or something else along those lines. The only people you see routinely going about building new friends and connections by front-loading their value are the really cool, socially savvy people - and they're whom you want to emulate here.
You don't need to go through a military boot camp together to be
friends, or to live on the same floor freshman year of college. You can
absolutely form friendships outside of school, work, and the like - in
fact, most of the people I'm closest with now I've met on the street or
in a bar or at a party or through (believe it or not) Internet forums.
As I look through the ranks of people I'm still close with, I count one
(1) I met in school, and one (1) I met at work. Everyone else comes
from places most other people NEVER make friends.
You can make friends with nearly anyone you want to make friends with, so long as you work on yourself first, and turn yourself into a value-generating, value-giving machine (that gives appropriately measured and fitting forms of value, that is!).
Because it isn't that people don't want to make new friends - it's just that they only want to spend their time and energy on people they feel can bring a lot of strong value to their lives.
So, understand that, and know that it isn't just whom you want to be friends with that's important - it's how you're going to bring value to their lives in turn, and how you're going to communicate that to them, that's most important.
Now, go out there and make some friends.
Get Your FREE eBook on Texting Girls
Sign up for our email insights series and get a copy of our popular ebook “How to Text Girls” FREE. Learn more ...
Trying to piece together a seduction strategy bit-by-bit, article-by-article, question-by-question? Stop killing yourself doing it the slow and difficult way - and get it all spelled out for you instead, in detail, in exactly the order you need to learn it... with homework, too.
With our complete mastery pick up package, you'll get our 406-page how-to eBook How to Make Girls Chase, our 63-minute long video Spellbinding: Get Her Talking, and 3 hours of audio training - all for less than the price of the book and video alone.
Quit banging your head against the wall - get it now, to speed your learning curve up dramatically... and start really getting the women you want to want you too. You can go right here to get started and be downloading your programs in minutes: How to Be a Pick Up Artist.